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Spectrum Defense: "More Work to Do"


Defending and enhancing access to the Amateur Radio spectrum is the primary mission of the ARRL. According to ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, the League has not only protected the bands, but has also added several new ones, despite exponential growth in the variety and number of radio frequency devices in the hands of consumers and businesses. "Even our most disappointing defeat -- the loss of the bottom 40 percent of the 220 MHz band some two decades ago -- gave us upgraded status, from shared to exclusive, in the remaining 60 percent of the band," he said.

Sumner said that amateurs will soon have cause to celebrate: March 29, 2009 marks the date that high-powered international broadcasting stations will be removed from the heart of the 40 meter band. "We are working with the broadcasters to make sure the change takes place as agreed at the 2003 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC)," Sumner said. "While it's probably too much to expect 100 percent instant compliance, we know that the responsible broadcasters are preparing to move out of the 7100-7200 kHz segment -- doubling the size of the worldwide 40 meter band and making this popular band more useful than it's been in 70 years."

At the WRC in 2007, the Amateur Radio Service earned its first low-frequency (LF) allocation, 135.7-137.8 kHz; however, here in the United States, amateurs will not gain access to this new band automatically when the Final Acts of the conference take effect on January 1, 2009. "We must petition the FCC to implement the allocation, and we know the petition will not be granted without an argument -- because we've been down this road before," Sumner explained. "Twice in the past, the ARRL has sought an LF allocation. Both times our request was opposed by the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) -- the same organization that has opposed our efforts to protect radio services from Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) interference."

Sumner recounted that the ARRL's fight against BPL interference has been going on for six years. "Last year, in the wake of Federal Communications Commission decisions that did not adequately protect licensed radiocommunication services from interference from BPL systems, the ARRL even went to court to challenge the FCC and won!" he said. "On April 25, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit confirmed what the ARRL has been saying for years about how the FCC was handling the BPL interference issue: FCC prejudice tainted the rulemaking process."

On July 9, the Court went one step further, ordering the FCC to pay the ARRL more than $6000 toward the League's costs in pursuing the appeal. "While this is a tiny fraction of our total investment," Sumner said, "the award affirmed that -- contrary to the 'spin' the FCC had been trying to give to the Court's decision -- the ARRL substantially prevailed in its appeal."

Calling the Court's decision "a tremendous victory for radio amateurs and other licensed users of the radio spectrum -- indeed, for anyone who cares about the federal administrative process," Sumner said that the remand does not guarantee that the FCC will correct its errors. "We face another round of technical arguments," he said. "No doubt the FCC's technical staff, many of whom want to do the right thing, will remain under heavy pressure to ignore the laws of physics and give preference to wishful thinking once again. When the FCC reopens the BPL proceeding as the Court has ordered, we must leave no room for these technical issues to be settled on anything other than technical grounds. There's more work to do. It is only through the support of thousands of ARRL members and friends that we have managed to come this far. But it took great effort, including our frontal assault on the flawed FCC proceedings, to get their attention. Together we can celebrate all that we have accomplished on the BPL front over the past six years!"

BPL is not the only challenge facing the League, Sumner said, pointing out that preparations for the upcoming WRC in 2011 are already underway. The key WRC-11 issues for Amateur Radio are:

  • A possible allocation near 500 kHz. This would provide amateur's first access to the lower part of the medium frequency (MF) band. Sumner said a "600 meter" band offers exciting possibilities for reliable groundwave communication through the application of digital signal processing techniques to a portion of the spectrum that is as old as radio itself.

  • Defense against a push to allocate spectrum between 3 and 50 MHz for oceanographic radar applications.

  • Support of an initiative to provide better protection for radio services against interference from short-range radio devices.

  • Consideration of regulatory measures for software-defined radio and cognitive radio systems, which offer both opportunities and threats to existing radio services.

  • Selection of agenda items for the WRC to follow (tentatively planned for 2015).


"ARRL staff and volunteers are hard at work on your behalf, teaming up with International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) volunteers from around the globe to build the strongest possible case for Amateur Radio at WRC-11," he said, calling on all amateurs to help protect Amateur Radio's precious spectrum. "Once again, your financial commitment to spectrum defense is vital to our ability to protect your access to radio spectrum. Your contribution to the 2009 Spectrum Defense Fund will provide the financial resources required for us to represent you at WRC-11, and to respond when the FCC reacts to the BPL remand decision."

To help in the ARRL's ongoing mission to protect our valuable spectrum, please visit the ARRL Office of Development's Web page. You can also reach ARRL Chief Development Office Mary Hobart, K1MMH at 860-594-0397 or via e-mail. New special gifts are being offered for contributions, including a new 2009 mug and pin. More details on thank you gifts can be found on the donation form for the Spectrum Defense Fund.



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