W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 1.19 

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Selling Stuff

Using Ham Radio

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. Can I use my amateur station to sell stuff?

A. Yes, to the extent that Section 97.113(a)(3)(ii) says an amateur operator may notify other amateur operators of the availability for sale or trade of apparatus normally used in an amateur station, provided that such activity is not conducted on a regular basis.      

   Additionally, Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) authorizes a FCC-licensed amateur Section 97.103 station licensee or Section 97.105 control operator to participate on behalf of an employer in an emergency preparedness or disaster readiness test or drill, limited to the duration and scope of such test or drill, and operational testing immediately prior to such test or drill. Tests or drills that are not government-sponsored are limited to a total time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in any calendar year, they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours.

Q. So, whoever does our regulator think would want to buy or sell ham gear other than hams? And where is the best place to meet other hams? Over ham radio, of course!

A. Right. Hamfests are also good gathering events. The goal apparently is to minimize selling and trading over-the-air so as to help maintain the legitimacy of our amateur service - as it says in Section 97.3(a)(4) - A radio-communication 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.

Q. Can entrepreneurs advertise their offerings over amateur station transmissions?

A. It seems that could be accomplished as long as they only notify other amateur operators of the availability for trade of apparatus normally used in a Section 97.5 amateur station, provided that such activity is not conducted on a “regular” basis.

Q. What is the meaning of the term “regular” basis as far as alerting other hams by ham radio that we have some ham gear to sell or trade?

A. There is no unique definition for the word regular codified in Section 97.3(a), so we must rely upon the meanings listed in an ordinary dictionary. In this instance, we need a word meaning the exact opposite of: even, steady, unvarying, consistent, systematic, fixed, et al. 

   There does not, moreover, appear to be any generally accepted good amateur practice setting limits on how frequently does not constitute a regular basis as far as an amateur station transmitting notifications to other amateur operators of the availability for sale or trade of apparatus normally used in an amateur station.

Q. Please propose something that we can argue over and comment on.

A. For starters, let’s borrow from the standard in Section 97.3(a)(3)(i). It is proposed here that we adopt as a good amateur practice for any one amateur station to limit such activity to a total transmitting time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in any calendar year, such notifications may be transmitted for a period not to exceed 72 hours.

Q. Could I notify other hams of my services being available to find land and dwellings particularly amenable for siting a ham station?

A. No. Section 97.113(ii) only authorizes the notification of the availability for sale or trade of apparatus normally used in an amateur station. It does not similarly authorize the notification of the availability for sale or trade of real estate.

Q. How about conducting commercial amateur service communications with other countries?

ASection 97.117 still prohibits such in our international communications: Transmissions to a different country, where permitted, shall be limited to communications incidental to the purposes of the amateur service and to remarks of a personal character. 

Q. I am concerned with attempts by several amateur station owners and for-profit organizations who are selling tolled access time for use of amateur stations over the Internet.  This issue is fraught with several concerns related to Section 97.113(a)(2) and (a)(3). 

A. Heretofore, our Section 97.301 amateur service spectrum authorizations could be considered as a non-commerce preserve where only duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest could carry out self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations. They were protected by the prohibited transmissions proscribed by Section 97.113. When that safeguard was gutted by the exceptions codified under Section 97.113(a)(3)(i), (ii), (iii), and (iv), ham radio as we knew it was thrown under commercial and governmental busses.

Q. An interesting point would be to what extent the owners of the equipment are responsible for spurious emissions, should they occur? Suppose some failure in the system causes out of band operation? Suppose the gear is running multiple kilowatts without indicating same over the internet. Who’s responsible for that illegal operation?

A. In places where our regulator is the FCC, at least, the person accountable depends upon the arrangement between the parties involved. In one conceivable scenario, the owner/provider of Section 97.5 station apparatus would not even have to an amateur service licensee. In another scenario, the Internet link might qualify as a long microphone cord. The key to answering questions concerning accountability is to be found in the call sign transmitted in the Section 97.119 station identification announcement.

   Section 97.213 seems to state our regulators’ concerns clear enough: An amateur station on or within 50 km of the Earth's surface may be under tele-command where:

  (a) There is a radio or wire line control link between the control point and the station sufficient for the control operator to perform his/her duties. If radio, the control link must use an auxiliary station. A control link using a fiber optic cable or another telecommunication service is considered wire line.

   (b) Provisions are incorporated to limit transmission by the station to a period of no more than 3 minutes in the event of malfunction in the control link.

   (c) The station is protected against making, willfully or negligently, unauthorized transmissions.

   (d) 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.

Q. Technology has changed such as to make remote control of an amateur station possible in ways probably never envisioned. Why this matter has become controversial is because of the awards programs that are the competitive part of ham radio. This matter is not one for the FCC to untangle for us. Our awards sponsors should deal with that. 

A. Let’s go with that sage advice.  

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March 3, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions