BE Informed No. 8.4
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John B. Johnston, W3BE
Q. There are some very divergent
ideas going around about automatic control. For one, just exactly what is automatic control?
A. Section 97.3(a)(6) says automatic control is the use of devices and procedures for controlling an amateur station when it is transmitting
such that compliance with the FCC rules is achieved without the control operator being present at the control point.
Q. Is automatic control authorized for every type
of station operation; yes or no?
Only certain special operation stations sanctioned in Part 97 may utilize Section 97.109(d) automatic control. Even then, the authorization is conditioned. The station is supposed to cease transmitting upon failure to achieve full
rule compliance or upon notification by a FCC District Director that it is transmitting improperly or causing harmful interference
to other stations.
Q. Where automatic
control is disallowed, what other methods for station control are authorized?
A. There is Section 97.109(b) local control and there is Section 97.109(c) remote control. Any station may utilize either of these methods. Not so for Section 97.109(d) automatic control.
Q. A directory claims that unattended
operation was authorized for repeaters by the FCC in the 1970s. True or false?
A. Some book may say that, but neither the rules or simple logic
bear it out. Section 97.205(d) says A repeater may be automatically controlled. Whatever unattended operation is,
it is obviously unsuitable for amateur stations in places where the FCC regulates our amateur service. Unattended usually means the opposite of attended, i.e., no one is paying any attention.
That would be inconsistent with our fundamental hear-and-be-heard-now amateur service spectrum management protocol.
Repeaters captured the attention of our amateur
service community in the 1970s. Pioneering hams assembled stations, developed band-plans for channelization, named frequency
coordinators, petitioned for rule amendments, and did just about everything possible to adapt structured networks to our heretofore
unstructured VHF and UHF bands. They were so successful that they made automatic control practical for most repeaters. But
never was unattended operation of amateur repeater stations authorized on our amateur service frequencies.
Q. What are the types of operation where an amateur
station may be automatically controlled?
are five types of special operations authorized for automatic control:
1. A Section 97.201 auxiliary station may be automatically controlled.
2. A Section 97.203 beacon station may be automatically controlled while it is transmitting on the 28.20-28.30 MHz, 50.06-50-08 MHz, 144.275-144.300 MHz,
222.05-222.06 MHz or 432.300-432.400 MHz segments, or on the 33 cm and shorter wavelength bands.
3. A Section 97.205 repeater station may be automatically controlled.
4. An amateur station may be automatically controlled while transmitting a RTTY or data emission on the
6 meters or shorter wavelength bands, and on the 28.120-28.189 MHz; 24.925-24.930 MHz, 21.090-21.100 MHz, 18.105-18.110 MHz,
14.0950-14.0095 MHz, 10.140-10.150 MHz, 7.100-7.105 MHz, or 3.620-3.635 MHz segments. Read Section 97.221(b).
5. An amateur station may
be automatically controlled while transmitting a RTTY or data emission on any other frequency authorized
for such emission types provided the station is responding to interrogation by a station under local or remote control and
no transmission from the automatically controlled station occupies a bandwidth of more than 500 Hz. Read Section 97.221(c).
Note that Section 97.109(e) says that no station, except a station transmitting a RTTY or data emission, may be automatically controlled
while transmitting third party communications. Even then, every message that is retransmitted must originate at
a station that is utilizing local or remote control.
Also note that auxiliary stations as well as repeater stations enjoy Section 97.3(a)(22) frequency coordination recognition.
Q. Hams around
here don’t take the notion very seriously of there always being a control operator.
A. That is most unfortunate. Our amateur service community is
supposed to rely upon a VE-certified control operator being on duty for each and every amateur station whenever it is transmitting. The proper decisions and timely actions
by our on-duty control operators are the very foundation of our amateur radio service. Section 97.101(b) says Each station licensee and each control operator must cooperate in selecting transmitting channels and in
making the most effective use of the amateur service frequencies. No frequency will be assigned for the exclusive use of any
station. In most of our amateur service intercommunications, that cooperation is accomplished by the direct and
timely decisions and actions of the VE-certified control operators of the participating stations.
Where can I obtain a listing of VE-certified control operators?
A. Each VE-certified control operator is shown on the ULS as holding a Section 97.17(a) amateur operator/station license grant. The FCC will presume that the Section 97.103 station licensee is also the VE-certified control operator unless documentation to the contrary is in the station records. It is the station licensee who is supposed to designate the control operator. The person so designated is supposed to be a VE-certified control operator or be authorized for Section 97.107 alien reciprocal operation.
Q. What are the specifics of
what the control operator is supposed to do?
A. For the duties of an amateur service licensee as delineated in our volunteer examiners’ Section 97.503 standards of proof of operation and technical qualifications, read the current Element 2 question pool.
For any unique duties established
by designating station licensee, consult with that person.
We had difficulty in tracking down the licensee of a rogue station under automatic control that was disrupting our repeater
system. Some form of ID posted the station would have helped us resolve the interference issue more expeditiously and amicably.
Isn’t there a rule requiring one?
specifically. Section 97.213(d), however, says that an amateur station on or within 50 km of the Earth's surface may be under tele-command where a photocopy
of the station license and a label with the name, address, and telephone number of the station licensee and at least one designated
control operator is posted in a conspicuous place at the station location. That requirement, unfortunately, only provides
you with the wherewithal for those automatically controlled stations that are also sometimes under tele-command. Similar posting
should be a good amateur practice at all stations under automatic control.
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July 29, 2017
Supersedes all prior editions