W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 1.8.3

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More Q/A About

Reciprocal Privileged Stations

In Places Where the FCC Regulates Our Amateur Service

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. When I first obtained my FCC license and every time I upgraded my operator class, changed my mailing address, and renewed my license, I had to sign a statement certifying that:

   I waive any claim to the use of any particular frequency regardless of prior use by license or otherwise;

   All statements and attachments are true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief and are made in good faith;

   I am not a representative of a foreign government;

   I am not subject to a denial of Federal benefits pursuant to Section 5301 of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, 21 U.S.C § 862;

   The construction of my station will NOT be an action which is likely to have a significant environmental effect (See 47 CFR Sections 1.1301-1.319 and Section 97.13(a);

   I have read and WILL COMPLY with Section 97.13(c) of the Commission’s Rules regarding RADIOFREQUENCY (RF) RADIATION SAFETY and the amateur service section of OST/OET Bulletin Number 65

   On the other hand, foreigners who operate amateur stations just like mine here in the United States under their Section 97.107 reciprocal privileges do not have to sign that or any other certification. That is discrimination against American hams.

A. Those non-U.S. citizens may have been required to sign a similar certification when they obtained their license from their government. Presumably, such inconsistencies are taken into account when the reciprocal arrangements are finalized.

Q. How does the FCC justify allowing foreigners to operate amateur stations in the U.S. without a FCC license?

A. Congress has authorized such to our regulator, by Sec. 303(l)(3) of the Communications Act. It seems to work well, at least for short-term visitors. The FCC, however, encourages alien amateur operators who will be in the U.S. for extended periods of time to obtain a Section 97.5(b)(1) amateur operator/primary station license grant.  

Q. But the foreign hams probably only know the rules and practices in their home countries. They are unlikely to know the requirements of the FCC rules.

A. You are most likely accurate. That, obviously, is the price that must be paid for their home countries allowing our U.S. hams to operate their amateur stations in places where the reciprocal country regulates the amateur service.   

   There should be, furthermore, some degree of similarity in the license requirements for the various countries. International radio regulation RR No. 25.6 says that administrations shall verify the operational and technical qualifications of any person wishing to operate an amateur station. Guidance for standards of competence may be found in the most recent version of Recommendation ITU-R M.1544.  It recommends that any person seeking a license to operate an amateur station should demonstrate theoretical (i.e., hypothetical, academic, notional, imaginary, conjectural, speculative, abstract) knowledge of:

Radio Regulations - international and domestic

Methods of radio communication – radiotelephony, radio telegraphy, data and image

Radio system theory – transmitters, receivers, antennas and propagation, measurements

Radio emission safety

Electromagnetic compatibility

Avoidance and resolution of radio frequency interference

Q. I am Amateur Extra Class operator, K5**. When my ham lady friend G3*** visits from Great Britain, can she operate reciprocally my station using my FCC-assigned call sign?

A. Yes, Great Britain is one of our Section 97.107 reciprocal countries. But, there are two inconsistencies you should understand. Firstly, where SEC. 303(l)(3) of the Communications Act gives the FCC the power to issue authorizations to permit an alien licensed by his government as an amateur radio operator to operate his amateur station licensed by his government in the U.S. (more text), you must assume that statement is simply worded in passé language not intended to exclude anyone because of gender. 

   Secondly, as to the statute’s limitation on operating his amateur station licensed by his government, you should assume that Section 97.107 otherwise allows you to designate your alien visitor as the control operator of your station. It says in pertinent part: 

   A non-citizen of the United States (“alien”) holding an amateur service authorization granted by the alien's government is authorized to be the control operator of an amateur station located at places where the amateur service is regulated by the FCC.  

   Read Section 97.7(b) and Section 97.103(b).        

Q. Can she be the control operator of my station even while she is located in Great Britain?

A. Yes, there may be a way to do that under the postulation that the Section 97.109(c) control point of an FCC-licensed amateur station does not have to be at a place where the FCC regulates our amateur service. The Internet enables us to have worldwide wireline tele-command links. As the Section 97.7 control operator, she would have to be at the Section 97.109(c) control point of your station.

   The Section 97.213 wireline control link between that Section 97.109(c) control point and the remainder of your station must be sufficient for her to perform her duties; provisions must be incorporated to limit transmission by your station to a period of no more than 3 minutes in the event of malfunction in the control link; your station must be protected against making, willfully or negligently, unauthorized transmissions; and a photocopy of your station license and a label with the name, address, and telephone number of the station licensee and at least one designated control operator must be posted in a conspicuous place at the station location.

Q. How can she have physical control of the station apparatus while she is an ocean away?

A. One method might be to engage someone’s protective services – most likely yours – to look after the apparatus.

Q. Is there anything unique about the rules in the U.S. that alien operators should be aware?

A. Yes. Firstly, in order to make the FCC rules meaningful, they should be familiar with the technical terms used in rule Part 97.

   Secondly, within certain areas at places where the FCC regulates our amateur service, radiation should to be restricted so as to minimize possible impact on the operations of radio astronomy or other facilities that are highly sensitive to interference.

   Thirdly, they should be familiar with the restrictions on the location of their station. Section 97.13 says that before placing an amateur station on land of environmental importance or that is significant in American history, architecture or culture, the licensee may be required to take certain actions. Also, a station located within 1600 m of an FCC monitoring facility must protect that facility from harmful interference. Additionally, before causing or allowing an amateur station to transmit with a power exceeding 50 W PEP (1.25 m, 2 m, 6 m, and 10 m); 70 W PEP (70 cm); 75 W PEP (12 m); etc., from any place where the operation of the station could cause human exposure to RF electromagnetic field levels in excess of those allowed, the licensee is required to perform the routine RF environmental evaluation prescribed by Section 1.1307(b).  Should the evaluation indicate that the RF electromagnetic fields could exceed the limits contained in Section 1.1310 in accessible areas, the licensee must take action to prevent human exposure thereto.

   Finally, they should be aware that certain professional communicators now have access to our amateur service spectrum in places where our amateur service is regulated by the FCC. In some instances, their communications have priority over our amateur service communications.

Q. FCC call signs should go to U.S. citizens only. It is unfair to hand out our good call signs to Section 97.107 reciprocal-eligible aliens who could simply cause or allow amateur stations to transmit here under their reciprocal arrangement authority. It is a misuse of taxpayer money and it shrinks the number of good call signs available to our U.S. citizen hams.

A. Neither our amateur service community organizers nor our regulator seem to share any of your concerns. The FCC, rather, encourages alien amateur operators who will be in the United States for extended periods of time to obtain FCC call signs. When that takes place, their FCC license grants appear on the ULS together with their Section 97.23 mailing addresses.

   Our volunteer examiners reportedly take the matter even further with non-U.S. citizen VE teams active in numerous countries recruiting foreign nationals to obtain free (to them – not to our U.S. taxpayers) FCC call signs even when those foreign nationals have no specific plans for U.S. travel.

Q. THAT IS FLAT OUT WRONG! A recip has to pass a test just like we do.

A. Conceptually, at least. The content of the foreign examination, however, is something that is decided by the alien’s home regulator. Hopefully those regulators’ examinations are consistent with our Section 97.507 preparing VEs, and follow Recommendation ITU-R M.1544. It says that any person seeking a license to operate an amateur station should demonstrate theoretical knowledge of: radio regulations - international and domestic; methods of radiocommunication; radio system theory; radio emission safety; electromagnetic compatibility; and avoidance and resolution of radio frequency interference.

   In the United States, we must rely upon our VEs to establish the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee in places where the FCC is our regulator. Performing properly such duties properly in other countries is not in our VEs’ job description – even for any Section 97.507 preparing VEs who reside in the other country.

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January 22, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions