W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 1.17

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Let’s face it Hams

It’s All About $pectrum

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. Our amateur service community is taking our radio spectrum allocations far too much for granted. In 1941, amateur radio was shut down for some four years during World War II and our ham spectrum was reallocated for military radio apparatus. That came about obviously because the war effort was deemed more important to the public interest, convenience, and necessity than was self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations carried out by amateurs. In recent years, our very own amateur service community has brought about a reallocation of its own making. Our radio spectrum has been self-repurposed into a social media for as many citizens as possible to openly chitchat about nothing of importance.

A. That may be today’s reality. But, in addition to the Section 97.407 Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service, our regulator expects our amateur radio service spectrum to be used to an even greater extent during emergencies. It has even notified Congress that our amateur service resources can serve as an alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by an emergency.

Q. No one but a carrier has that kind of capability! The government has put the spotlight on our spectrum as being highly important to the public during emergencies. When a big one hits and we can’t deliver, they will have their good reason to reallocate our spectrum away from our social media to more serious expert emergency responders. We have set up ourselves for a downfall.   

A. Not entirely. There is still Section 97.3(a)(4) going for us. It defines our amateur service as: A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. Similar definitions are also in SEC. 3. [47 USC 153](2) of the Communications Act as well as international Radio Regulations (RR) No. 1.56 and United States Code of Federal Regulations Title 47 Section 2.1(c).

Q. Doesn’t our excellent rule compliance record stand as proof that our amateur service is fulfilling its purpose?

A. That could be one powerful argument. Hopefully, our Maintenance Monitors can produce the supporting statistics.

Q. So what? We have over a hundred-year record of value to the public. They wouldn’t dare take away our frequencies.

A. Caution! Things change. Whenever one party is authorized to use such a highly valuable public resource, it can be expected that sooner or later other parties are going to claim they can make better use of it. Which party is it that can present the most persuasive argument for its making use of our spectrum consistent with the public interest, convenience, and necessity? Let’s face it hams: It’s all about $pectrum.

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April 26, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions