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ARRL Board May Seek Member Input on 15 Meter Novice/Tech Digital Privileges


A proposal aired at the July ARRL Board of Directors meeting endorsing additional HF digital privileges for Technicians and referred to the ARRL Executive Committee (EC) for study came in for considerable discussion when the EC met on October 4 in Memphis. The original motion by ARRL Southeastern Division Director Doug Rehman, K4AC, had called for a Petition for Rule Making to the FCC seeking digital privileges for Techs on narrow segments of 80, 40, and 15 meters. Rehman’s motion had noted that Technicians already enjoy digital privileges on 10 meters, a band with highly variable propagation that will diminish as the sunspot cycle declines.

After discussing the proposal’s pros and cons, the EC put the ball back into the Board’s court in a modified form: The EC recommended that the Board consider soliciting input from the membership on adding Novice/Technician data privileges within their existing 15 meter subband. In his original proposal, Rehman had pointed out that text messaging, a medium preferred by today’s youth, bears “great similarity with amateur digital communications.”

“This is not a proposal that the Board adopt data privileges for Techs and Novices on 15 meters as an objective, and it is most definitely not an ARRL proposal to the FCC,” stressed ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, a non-voting member of the EC. “That would come later, if at all, after the Board has had an opportunity to weigh membership input.”

In other matters, ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, told the EC to expect an FCC Notice of Proposed Rule Making “sometime in the next few months” that will propose the elimination of the existing symbol rate limit on HF data communication. The NPRM, in response to an ARRL Petition for Rule Making filed last November, is expected to leave open for comment the specific bandwidth limitation that should replace it, and it may address additional topics.

Imlay also briefed the committee on recent discussions with US House Telecommunications Subcommittee staff regarding “The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014.” The bill, H.R. 4969, had attracted 47 co-sponsors by the time Congress recessed. Another 10 representatives have committed to signing on when Congress returns next month after the elections.

Imlay noted there has been no action on the League’s 2012 Petition for Rule Making to create an MF Amateur Service allocation at 472-479 kHz, nor on ET Docket 12-338, regarding implementation of the Final Acts of World Radiocommunication Conference 2007. There also was nothing new to report regarding other allocation issues, including an Amateur Service allocation at 135.7-137.8 kHz and upgrading 1900-2000 kHz to primary.

Imlay observed there had been a recent uptick in enforcement activity by the FCC. The EC also discussed the status of the 1984 agreement between the FCC and the ARRL that established the Amateur Auxiliary to the FCC Field Operations Bureau — as a part of the Official Observer program — and the desirability of revitalizing this relationship with the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. Imlay further reported that a review of power line interference case files is underway to identify serious cases still in need of attention.

The panel also discussed Amateur Radio’s role in a “model city” that would provide a real-world test stand for the evaluation of new wireless technology and spectrum-sharing strategies. In its comments in the model city proceeding, ET Docket 14-99, the ARRL called the Model City concept “a welcome development in proving sharing concepts in the real world.” The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) had conceived the creation of an urban test city as a public-private partnership. ARRL has urged significant Amateur Radio involvement in the concept and stressed that the chosen test bed be free of public, private, or environmental antenna regulations that could preclude establishment of a representative environment.

In other matters, the EC approved a draft letter from the League to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that lent support to efforts to postpone the dismantling of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) facility in Alaska. The ARRL urged Hagel to maintain HAARP “in its current condition” until the National Science Foundation completes its review of a proposal by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks to take over the site from the US Navy Research Lab. The League took no position on whether future operation of HAARP is the best way to pursue ionospheric research.

“However,” the letter concluded, “as it is an existing facility with impressive capabilities that was constructed at considerable expense, it is only reasonable to preserve these capabilities until that question can be answered definitively.”





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