W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 5.1

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The VPoD Protocols

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. What are the VPoD Protocols?

A. VPoD is an acronym for verbalizing person or device. Under a VPoD Protocol scheme, a non-VE-certified surrogate or device performs some or all of the operational and technical duties of the designated Section 97.105 control operator of an amateur station transmitting on our amateur service radio frequencies. VE examinations are unnecessary.

Q. Heretofore, initiating transmissions on our amateur radio spectrum was the exclusive entitlement of exam-proven hams. How in blue blazes could any ham swallow such a preposterous notion that destroys our exclusivity?

A. Its apparent hypothesis is that a surrogate or a device - at the discretion of the designated Section 97.105 control operator - can compliantly originate the speech transmitted by an amateur station as well as formulate and act upon judgments that are otherwise the responsibility of, and are normally carried out by, that designated Section 97.105 control operator.    

Q. That humbug is downright inconsistent with the international recommendations. Those persons should be of a mindset of not wishing to operate any amateur station because ITU-R M.1544 minimum qualifications of radio amateurs recommends 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.

A. A standard resting upon whether someone is or is not wishing to do something, obviously, is fantasy. In places where the FCC is our regulator, our Section 97.507 preparing VEs are supposed to determine a license applicant’s operational and technical qualifications. Whether or not to act upon any recommendation is their decision to make. They are supposed to prepare and administer examinations consistent with Section 97.503: A written examination must be such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee.

   Under IPoD Protocol schemes, VE examining disappears. The designated Section 97.105 control operator simply makes an on-the-spot judgement whether or not a surrogates possess the Section 97.503 operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee.

Q. Why is all this nonsense taking place?

A. Our amateur service community has changed dramatically in recent years. It has morphed into a social media for intercommunication by persons who have nothing of importance to say to each other and don’t care who knows it.

   Back in the day, ham radio began as a do-it-yourself hobby. Now, our mostly imported radios are ready-to-go right out of the box. Yet, old school thinking is firmly entrenched. For example, Section 97.117 specifically limits amateur station transmissions to a foreign country to communications incidental to the purposes of the amateur service and to remarks of a personal character. Half of our U.S. amateur service community is now comprised of Technician Class operators. They are, nonetheless, denied phone privileges on most of our “shortwave” HF bands, in effect almost completely shutting them out from intercommunication by voice radio with amateur operators located in foreign countries. Section 97.307(f)(9) says to do that, they must use only the International Morse code. Check it out.

   Not only is it illogical today to believe that entry-level operators are qualified to conduct their HF intercommunications by telegraphy and not by voice, but the whole notion is in itself completely at odds with our regulators’ very own Section 97.1(e) principle. It says their rules are designed for continuation and extension of the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

   This seems to give rise to the thinking that the rules are so far behind reality they must be stretched to accommodate today’s Technician Class operators and non-VE-certified persons while awaiting our regulators’ acknowledgement of this fundamental change in our constituency’s interests.

Q. I hear a lot of chatter on simplex channels these days with but few call sign announcements being transmitted. I am not in favor of stretching the rules to accommodate more of this. Our amateur service seems to be morphing into another social media like CB did. Let’s maintain a higher standard of technical requirements.

A. Intercommunication between examination-proven, technically-inclined operators has always been a mainstay of our amateur service. Section 97.3(a)(4) already provides the deterrent to a quick switchover to a completely citizens’ social media. Our amateur radio service is still supposed to provide 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.

   Our regulator, however, has reported to Congress that amateur radio emergency communications require not only stations in a position to originate the emergency message, but also (serve as) an alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by the emergency. That is a tall expectation indeed. Our amateur service community at present does not have the wherewithal to provide more than a tiny fraction of such an ambitious communications load. Massive numbers of available extraordinary capacity stations and highly trained operators as well as strong management at the ready is essential.

Q. For Field Day, with yours truly as control operator, my three grandchildren, my son and his XYL called CQ. We were often referred to as a GOTA station. What is a GOTA station?

A. GOTA is the acronym for Get-On-The-Air. It is reportedly for attracting new people into the hobby, encouraging upgrading, and developing support for the hobby among the non-ham population. It seem to come from a circular-logic reading of Section 97.115 (b) Third party communications. It seems to qualify as a VPoD Protocol.

Q. I understood that the purpose of a Field Day Control Operator was so that Technicians could operate on HF without upgrading. Now I’m getting the picture that they can only operate with their own limited Technician privileges. What, then, is the purpose of the Field Day Control Operator?

A.Field Day Control Operator” is not a term codified in the rules. As on every day of every year, however, the purpose of the designated Section 97.105 control operator is to be responsible for the transmissions from that station to assure compliance with the FCC Rules.

 Q. How do “devices” fit into all of this?

A. One such usage is a device to automatically perform a station’s Section 97.119(a) station identification announcements, be they by a CW, phone, RTTY, or image emission type. Where it is by a CW emission, the speed must not exceed 20 wpm.

   Another application is for Section 97.3(a)(6) automatic control: The use of devices and procedures for control of a station when it is transmitting so that compliance with the FCC Rules is achieved without the control operator being present at a control point. 

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April 6, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions