ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB046 (1997)

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ARLB046 ARRL studies new eavesdropping bill

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ARRL Bulletin 46  ARLB046
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT  August 8, 1997
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB046
ARLB046 ARRL studies new eavesdropping bill

The ARRL is closely studying another bill introduced in Congress to
beef up prohibitions against electronic eavesdropping. The bill, HR
2369, was introduced by Rep Billy Tauzin of Louisiana. Dubbed the
Wireless Privacy Enhancement Act of 1997, it has scanner enthusiasts
and equipment makers worried and could affect some Amateur Radio
equipment. If passed, it would--among other things--amend the
Communications Act of 1934 to ban the sale of scanning receivers
capable of receiving transmissions on any frequency allocated to any
Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS). The CMRS is a relatively new
umbrella designation of subscriber-based radio services that act like
telephone services. In addition to cellular telephone, such services
include commercial paging services, commercial air-to-ground
services, offshore radiotelephone, personal communication services,
and specialized mobile radio services.

HR 2369 would prohibit receiving, divulging, publishing or using any
intercepted transmission, and subject violators to substantial fines
or prison terms. It also would make it illegal to modify equipment so
that it may be used to unlawfully intercept or divulge radio
communications. The FCC would be charged with investigating
complaints and enforcing the stiffer regulations.

As currently drafted, the bill appears to affect equipment available
to scanner enthusiasts, hams who use scanning transceivers to receive
out-of-band, and hams who use out-of-band capability for volunteer
work. It would not affect ham frequencies, per se. The League's
Legislative and Public Relations Manager, Steve Mansfield, N1MZA,
says the ARRL is studying the bill to determine its long term
implications for ham radio and ham gear. The ARRL has contacted
Tauzin's office to express its concerns, and Mansfield says the
League ''will continue to work with members of Congress to have the
bill modified to reflect the needs of the Amateur Radio community.''

The Tauzin bill comes fast on the heels of very similar, but
less-stringent, legislation proposed by Rep Edward Markey of
Massachusetts (see The ARRL Letter, Vol 16, No 29). The ARRL has met
with Markey's staff to discuss the negative implications of HR 1964
for Amateur Radio. That bill was not given much chance of passage.

An incident last year in which House Speaker Newt Gingrich's cellular
telephone conversation was illegally intercepted, taped and published
by the media prompted calls in Congress for stronger
anti-eavesdropping legislation.
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