W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 5.0

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Our TPMSP Class


Why Bother with Those VE Exams?

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. A young non-ham recently checked into our 2-Meter training net. He was a Scout working toward the Radio Merit Badge. His father is K4***, the call sign the young man used. He was present, monitoring his son’s activity and insuring that proper procedure was used. I am being informed that the father - as the control operator - was supposed to both open and close the transmission using his own voice to state his call sign. True? Who has to identify the station? Is it the control operator or is it the third party?  

A. Not necessarily either person. There is no “how-to” rule for this. The responsibility for a Section 97.5 station transmitting the Section 97.119(a) station identification ends up with the Section 97.103 station licensee: each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions.

Q. What about the propriety of the non-ham son being the de facto control operator?

A. The father should be able to determine whether his son’s participation – as a Section 97.115(b) third party message speaking participant (TPMSP) is appropriate:

   Firstly, he should know whether his son’s TPMSP participation is being continuously monitored and supervised by the Section 97.105 control operator whose presence is at the Section 97.3(a)(14) control point. Read Section 97.115(b)(1).

   Secondly, he should know whether his son is not a prior amateur service licensee whose license was revoked or not renewed after hearing and re-licensing has not taken place; suspended for less than the balance of the license term and the suspension is still in effect; suspended for the balance of the license term and re-licensing has not taken place; or surrendered for cancellation following notice of revocation, suspension or monetary forfeiture proceedings. Read Section 97.115(b)(2).

   Thirdly, he should know whether his son is not the subject of a cease and desist order which relates to amateur service operation and which is still in effect. Read Section 97.115(b)(2).

   Fourthly, he should know whether his son does not wish to operate the amateur station. ITU-R M. 1544 contains recommendations for the minimum qualifications of radio amateurs. First on the list is: That administrations take such measures as they judge necessary to verify the operational and technical qualifications of any person wishing to operate an amateur station. If the son wishes to operate the station, therefore, he should obtain a Section 97.5(b)(1) operator/primary station license grant.

   Additionally, there is the unlikelihood that his son's Section 97.115(b) third party message speaking participant communications - being transmitted on the 2-meter VHF band - will encounter any station within the jurisdiction of any foreign government whose administration has not made arrangements with the United States to allow amateur stations to be used for transmitting international communications on behalf of third parties. Read Section 97.115(a)(2).

   Finally, there is the issue of the salty language sometimes encountered on our ham bands. Most notorious for this disparaging behavior are our R-rated 75, 40, and 20 meter bands. Whether a minor should be introduced into such social conduct is something for only the parents to decide. Here, it was the father doing the facilitating.

Q. Where did that TSPMS operator initiative come from? I worked hard to get my license.

A. There is obviously a movement underway within at least a segment of our amateur service community that is changing dramatically our operator class structure. This movement is evidenced by at least two developments that have taken place. First, there was the rejection by the FCC of pleadings from our National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (RM-10870) to make our amateur service accessible to as many citizens as possible.” Heretofore, our amateur radio services have been 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. The petition seemingly seeks a redirection more toward becoming a social media outlet.

   The second development is the fading appreciation for spectrum-based incentive licensing which denies certain HF privileges to all but those who pass additional written examinations. Read What Was Incentive Licensing? BE Informed No. 1.10. Many seem to consider this controversial requirement to be unfair to Technician, General and Advanced Class operators because it places these lower-qualifying operators at a disadvantage during HF operating contests. 

   It appears, moreover, that Section 97.115 Third party communications, is being used to negate the FCC rejection: “The third party may participate in stating the message where the control operator is present at the control point and is continuously monitoring and supervising the third party's participation.” A circular-logic reading of this provision leads to the claim that non-FCC-licensed and under-licensed TPMSPs also have privileges and access rights to spectrum which, heretofore, has been the exclusive domain of FCC-licensed amateur operators. Under this state of affairs, the result is a new unofficial class of hams: TPMSP Citizen Class operators authorized informally by FCC-licensed operators.

   Obviously, widespread tolerance of this emerging TPMSP Class operator is fraught with disturbingly complex compliance challenges. For instance, there is no procedural means to inform our volunteer maintenance monitors, independent monitors or even the Section 97.105 control operator of the station with which the Section 97.115(b) third-party participation is taking place, whether or not the Section 97.105 control operator is actually continuously monitoring and supervising the third party's participation in stating the third party message.

   In fact, there is no protocol for confirming to those receiving the transmission that the control operator is actually present at the Section 97.109(a) control point, or even to alert anyone that a Section 97.115(b) third-party participation message is being transmitted. This raises serious issues for international agreement protocol related to alien reciprocal operation and international third party communications.       

  This development, moreover, could steer the amateur service away from serving its intended 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. It threatens to undermine the very legitimacy of the amateur radio service.

Q. That “anything goes" mindset is destructive, as is that "everyone gets Amateur Extra Class privileges" and the other nonsense that goes with Field Day. Should our once-valued protection against encroachment by unqualified communicators become routinely compromised, there may be no U-turn on the superhighway to our amateur radio morphing into CB on steroids. 

A. Quite predictably likely. Competitive scoring inducements, nevertheless, are tacked on for those stations that facilitate unqualified communicators causing and allowing stations to transmit on our amateur service frequencies.

Q. I disagree. The radios currently imported from Asia do not need technically knowledgeable operators. They are highly reliable and have the most important rule limitations (power, channels, emission types) built in. The VEs’ exams are unnecessary and that father and the contest hams know it.

A. For Q/A on this topic, read GOTA Experience as Our License Qualifier BE Informed No. 2.8.

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March 30, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions