W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 10.4

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New Era Q/A

Providing a Net Social Benefit

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. I have read and reread the preliminary rough draft of a barebones set of rules that would reduce the Part 97 rules by 75%. It would certainly do that. It would also cut a lot of tradition baggage. It looks promising, but I have a question. What is a “smart radio?”

A. It is a future generation of transceivers that would hopefully relieve amateurs from much of the burden of having to possess all of the knowhow - and willingness - to perform properly the duties of operators.

Q. Such as what?

A. Such as making the station identification announcements less onerous, for one. But the major goal should be in achieving significant gains in better amateur radio services spectrum management.

Q. I would like to view information of the backgrounds and interests of hams who are on the air seeking a contact. Information on the type of communication desired would also be helpful, as would a photo.

A. Put those on your wish list for the capabilities of your smart radio.

Q. What is “good spectrum management practice?”

A. In the preliminary rough draft set of rules, it is defined as making efficient use of the radio spectrum for social benefit. It should be the underlying design objective for the providers of our future smart radios. It could encompass band-planning, channel selection protocols, choice of emission type, etc.

Q. If the FCC discontinues issuing call signs, where would we get them?

A. There are already several private entities that maintain ULS lookalike call sign databases. Those and other entrepreneurs might provide us with a data base of call signs. Hopefully, they would allow those of us already having call signs to keep them. Maybe they could even offer an all-vanity call sign system.

Q. Would there still be exams?

A. That would be among many concerns for our amateur service community organizers to address. Maybe the new smart radios will diminish any need for examinations. Or possibly a record of GOTA-type hands-on experience would be preferable to pencil-on-paper examinations. In either instance, we should listen carefully to the advice of our VEs and Maintenance Monitors on this issue. They are our four-decade-long seasoned experts on preparing and administering written examinations and the contribution of the exams to the wellbeing of our amateur radio services. 

Q. What would happen to the 12,000 or so Novices?

A. All license classes would disappear. As with anyone not subject to FCC sanctions, the station manager and operator privileges would be those duties the person can perform properly.

Q. To what extent would commercial and government communications be allowed?

A. To the extent that individuals representing such users would deem it to be appropriate for carrying out their assignments and making efficient use of the radio spectrum for social benefit.

Q. What if I didn’t concur?

A. You could make your views known to those users.

Q. To what extent would automatic control be allowed?

A. To the extent that the station manager would deem it to be appropriate to making efficient use of the radio spectrum for social benefit. He/she would be the person supervising the station apparatus and making such determinations.

Q. Would we be allowed to append DX prefixes to our call signs even if we’re not DX?

A. The current text prohibiting false and deceptive identification is absent in the preliminary rough draft set of rules. It would fall to the station manager to determine the appropriateness of any such appendage for the purpose of clearly making the identity of the station manager known to those receiving the transmissions. The smart radios might even facilitate the transmission of the information now sometimes contained in the call sign appendage.

Q. There should be a limit to the amount of time each day that any one amateur station could broadcast entertainment and commentary to the public.

A. The text in the preliminary rough draft set of rules is already slightly above the 4,887 ceiling. So, to retain the prohibition against broadcasting on our amateur frequency bands, something else would have to go. An alternative would be for our amateur service community self-regulating initiatives to declare that good spectrum management calls for certain management strategies for amateur service broadcasting, i.e., designating channels for broadcasting, time-sharing the channels, etc.

Q. I think the current restrictions against obscene or indecent words or language should be removed rather than allow broadcasting.

A. It is already absent in the preliminary rough draft set of rules. Hopefully, our amateur service community, however, would cut-back on its transmissions of potty-mouth talk out of respect for listeners who might consider coarse words and language offensive. It might also hamper the involvement in amateur radio of minors whose parents/guardian do not wish to have them subjected to such language. It even might, moreover, be interpreted by our regulator that transmitting offensive messages as being our amateur service community’s warped notion of providing a net social benefit.

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February 8, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions