Hurricane Watch Net Sets New Activation Record during Dorian

Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) volunteers set a new record for total hours activated during a single storm. The net was active for 157 hours — 139 hours of which were continuous. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said the continuous activation record stands at 151 hours for Hurricane Matthew in 2018.

“During this marathon activation, members of the Hurricane Watch Net collected and forwarded countless surface reports to the National Hurricane Center in Miami,” Graves noted.

After devastating Abaco and Grand Bahama islands with winds clocked at 200 MPH or more, Dorian made its way slowly toward Florida, before sliding up the southeastern US coast and making a second landfall on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It wasn’t over, however. Dorian veered out into the Atlantic, affecting New England before hitting Maritime Canada, where it knocked out power and downed trees.

During its lengthy initial activation, the HWN attempted on numerous occasions to raise stations in the Bahamas but was unable to contact anyone in the most-affected area.

The HWN activated for the last time during Hurricane Dorian last Saturday, as the storm was, by then, speeding up the east coast of the US as a Category 1 storm. Poor propagation plagued net operations throughout the activation, even right up to the end. At one point, propagation was lost between net members and Nova Scotia on 40 meters, although the net continued for a while longer on 20 meters.

Early on, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers went on alert along the US east coast, preparing for the worst. The major problem was storm surge-related flooding. Evacuations were ordered ahead of the storm.

The ARRL Headquarters Emergency Response Team convened early on to monitor the situation closely. ARRL officials were in regular communication with partner agencies, particularly FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. W1AW, which had already planned to be in operation for the Hiram Percy Maxim 150th birthday special event, remained ready to assist with emergency communications.

The VoIP Hurricane Net activated over the weekend in conjunction with WX4NHC at the National Hurricane Center to keep on top of ground-truth weather information.

 

ARRL Renews Request for FCC to Replace Symbol Rate with Bandwidth Limit

In ex parte comments filed on September 17 in WT Docket 16-239, ARRL renewed its request that the FCC delete symbol-rate limits for data transmissions in the Amateur Service rules. As it did in its initial filing, ARRL asked the FCC to couple the removal of the symbol rate limits with the adoption of a 2.8 kHz bandwidth limit. In response to a 2013 ARRL Petition for Rulemaking (RM-11708), the FCC proposed deleting the symbol-rate limits but declined to replace them with the 2.8 kHz bandwidth that ARRL wanted.

“This proceeding addresses an update to the Commission’s rules that is needed because a limitation in the rules unintentionally is inhibiting US amateurs from employing the latest improvements to some of the digital modes,” ARRL said in its remarks. “Data signals commonly used for daily communications as well as in disaster situations have bandwidths in the range of 2.5 kHz and must co-exist with other modes that use bandwidths as narrow as 50 Hz.”

ARRL said the 1980s-era symbol-rate limits now inhibit the use of some efficient data modes. “The symbol rate limit uniquely prevents radio Amateurs in the United States from experimenting and innovating with a class of modern digital communication techniques that already are widely used in other countries,” ARRL told the FCC. “The limit also impairs the ability of Amateurs to improve support that they offer in times of disaster.”

Repealing the symbol-rate limit would “allow shortened transmission times for the same amount of data without increasing the bandwidth occupied by the signal,” ARRL contended. “Other Amateurs would benefit by the resulting reduction in potential interference.”

ARRL’s remarks also addressed issues raised by other parties. “Discussion by commenters in this proceeding delve into subjects well beyond its scope,” ARRL said, noting that it had attempted to broker consensus among “some of the most active commenters” with an eye toward exploring possible areas of agreement for the FCC’s consideration. ARRL noted that the parties to the ARRL-arranged talks declined to forward to the FCC “joint recommendations on which conditional agreement had been reached.”

“The issues discussed with the parties are outside the scope of this Docket and would require a further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking before final consideration,” ARRL observed. “Some of the same issues also are raised in petitions for rulemaking on which the Commission has sought comment. Given the policy as well as factual disagreements evidenced in the record, we understand that the Commission may decide to consider some of these issues.”

One of those issues involves automatically controlled digital stations (ACDS). Commenters’ concerns focused on interference that could occur with a move away from symbol-rate criteria. ACDS with signals wider than 500 Hz and below 29.7 MHz are confined to specific subbands. ARRL recommended that the FCC consider rule changes that would have all ACDS stations and digital stations with bandwidths greater than 500 Hz share identified subbands.

ARRL said if additional signals are added to the ACDS subbands, as recommended, that it would strongly support expanding the HF ACDS subbands. But, ARRL added, “changing the subband boundaries requires study and careful consideration of trade-offs, because any changes will affect multiple user interests.” ARRL referred subband reformulation issues to its HF Band Planning Committee for study and recommendations.

Some commenters also raised the issue of obscure and encrypted messages. ARRL pointed out in its ex parte remarks that it remains opposed to encryption in the amateur bands, but disagreed “with commenters who argue that the digital modes being used by radio amateurs around the world are per se ‘obscured’ or ‘encrypted.’”

ARRL noted that FCC rules permit the use of “new and innovative digital modes” without prior approval, if specified conditions are met. Digital techniques must use approved codes with publicly documented technical characteristics, and their purpose must be to facilitate communication and not to obscure content.

“Some commenters allege that specific messages violate the Commission’s rules governing encryption, third-party messages, pecuniary interests, objectionable language, or commercial carriage,” ARRL noted, and they have called for open-source decoding software to aid in enforcing the applicable rules. “We observe that recently there have been laudable efforts at self-policing,” ARRL said. “Unresolved complaints are appropriately handled as enforcement matters rather than as rulemaking matters.”

ARRL concluded, “It is vital that the rules governing the Amateur Radio Service facilitate continuation of its experimental traditions and purposes. Using the Amateur spectrum ‘sandbox’ for innovation and development of new ideas and technologies is of significant public benefit.”

Unraveling the Mystery of 1 × 1 Call Signs

The 1 × 1 Special Event Call Signs system offers a way for clubs, groups, or even individuals to use a short call sign of special significance to the amateur community. These 1 × 1 call signs are reserved in advance for use in conjunction with short-term special events and commemorative operations. The FCC does not assign 1 × 1 call signs, so they are not “official.”

On the matter of special event call signs, the FCC says, in Section 97.3(a)(11)(iii) of the Amateur Service rules: “The call sign is selected by the station licensee from a list of call signs shown on a common database coordinated, maintained and disseminated by the amateur station special event call sign data base coordinators. The call sign must have the single letter prefix K, N, or W, followed by a single numeral 0 through 9, followed by a single letter A through W or Y or Z (for example K1A). The special event call sign is substituted for the call sign shown on the station license grant while the station is transmitting.”

The FCC also says in Section 97.119 (d): “Additionally, the station must transmit its assigned call sign at least once per hour during such transmissions.” This requirement tends to be widely flouted, however.

A 1 × 1 Special Event Call Sign aids other radio amateurs by calling attention to the special event or other occasion. 1 × 1 call signs may be used for a variety of purposes, such as conventions, festivals, dedications, anniversaries, commemorations, and ARRL Field Day. Even local events qualify.

There are 750 1 × 1 Special Event Call Sign possibilities, and radio amateurs of any license class may reserve one as far as a year in advance to use for up to 15 days. Of course, 1 × 1 Special Event Call Signs are recycled. It’s first come, first served. See the Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

The FCC has selected coordinators to approve and post 1 × 1 Special Event Call Sign reservations to a searchable database. — Thanks to The Radiogram (Portage County Amateur Radio Society newsletter)

Hamvention to Stay in Xenia for at Least 5 More Years

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association says it has signed an agreement to keep the Dayton Hamvention® at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center for at least the next five years.

Hamvention General Chairman Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT, said the agreement will allow DARA and the Expo Center to “move forward with additional enhancements to the facilities.” That would most likely include a new building to replace the two large tents that continue to house several commercial exhibitors. The timetable for constructing that new building was reportedly a sticking point in the negotiations, according to CQ sources.

Hamvention moved to the Greene County Fairgrounds three years ago, after the closure of its longtime home at Hara Arena.

FCC Proposes Phasing Out Paper Applications

The FCC has proposed requiring electronic submissions for all filings to the Universal Licensing System (ULS), including amateur radio license applications, modifications, etc.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in early September is part of a broader plan to eliminate paper filings and correspondence of all types that involve ULS, according to the ARRL. Many types of filings are already required to be done electroni- cally, but hams have been exempted until now.

The FCC says it currently receives some 5000 manually-filed ULS applications each year out of a total of approximately 425,000 (1.2%). The Commission said it doubted that anyone still lacks access to a computer or the internet, and was seeking comments on its proposal to mandate all-electronic filing.

Nine Schools and Organizations Make the Cut for Ham Contacts with ISS Crew

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) has announced that nine schools and organizations have been selected to host Amateur Radio contacts with International Space Station crew members during the first half of 2020. The selected host organizations must now complete equipment plans that demonstrate their ability to execute the ham radio contact. Once a plan is approved, the final selected schools/organizations will have contacts scheduled as their availability matches up with the opportunities offered by NASA.The schools and host organizations are: Celia Hays Elementary School, Rockwall, Texas; Golden Gate Middle School, Naples, Florida; J.P. McConnell Middle School, Loganville, Georgia; Kittredge Magnet School, Atlanta, Georgia; Maple Dale Elementary School, Cincinnati, Ohio; Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee; Oakwood School, Morgan Hill, California; Ramona Lutheran School, Ramona, California, and River Ridge High School, New Port Richey Florida.

The primary goal of the ARISS program is to engage young people in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) activities and raise their awareness of space communication, radio communication, space exploration, and related areas of study and career possibilities.

France Backs Down on 2-Meter Proposal

When the World Radiocommuni- cation Conference (WRC-19) convenes in Egypt in late October, France’s proposal to study additional spectrum space for the Aeronautical Mobile Service will not include 144-146 MHz. The 2-meter amateur band segment had been part of the original French proposal, but it was removed under intense pressure from the International Amateur Radio Union and national amateur radio societies around the world, according to the ARRL. In addition, the 47-47.2 GHz amateur band has been removed from a study proposal for additional spectrum needs for 5G wireless.

WRC-19 will consider a proposal to permit amateurs in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to operate on 50-52 MHz on a secondary basis.

FCC Seeks to Streamline its Hearings Process

The FCC is asking for public comments on procedural changes that, if adopted, would streamline many administrative hearings under the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.“Currently, these hearings typically are conducted like trials in civil litigation and include, among other things, live testimony before an administrative law judge, cross-examination of witnesses, and an initial decision by the administrative law judge that is subject to review by the Commission,” the FCC said in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in EB Docket 19-214. The FCC said its proposals “are designed to supplement the Commission’s current administrative law judge referral process and promote more efficient resolution of hearings.”

If adopted, the proposals would:

  • Codify and expand the use of a process that would rely on written testimony and documentary evidence in lieu of live testimony and cross-examination.
  • Enable Commission staff to act as a case manager that would supervise development of the written hearing record when the Commission designates itself as the presiding officer at a hearing.
  • Dispense with the preparation of an intermediate opinion, whenever the record of a proceeding can be certified to the Commission for final decision.

According to the FCC, the proposed procedures would expedite its hearing processes, consistent with the requirements of the Communications Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) while ensuring transparency and procedural fairness.

The FCC’s current hearing rules provide that “any hearing upon an application shall be a full hearing in which the applicant and all other parties in interest shall be permitted to participate.” The FCC noted that it has, on numerous occasions, curtailed the use of oral testimony and cross-examination in particular proceedings, in order to expedite the hearing process.

“In our experience, disputes in Commission proceedings typically involve criticisms by one party of the evidence proffered by another party or the legal significance of that evidence, not actual conflicts in testimony between two witnesses concerning outcome-determinative facts,” the FCC said.

“We contemplate codifying and expanding the use of a written hearing process that can be used in most adjudicative proceedings, including those conducted by an administrative law judge. In particular, we propose to authorize the presiding officer to conduct a written hearing whenever factual disputes can be adequately resolved on a written record.”

Among other proposed changes, the FCC would prohibit staff members who have taken an active part in investigating, prosecuting, or advocating in a case from serving as a case manager and from advising or assisting the case manager in the same case.

John Stratton N5AUS visit and September Club Meeting next Monday 16 Sept

This is an invitation to the Midland Amateur Radio Club’s September Club Meeting and visit by John Stratton N5AUS, acting Director of the West Gulf Division of the ARRL on 16 September.  The doors will open at 7:00 pm and the meeting will start at 7:30 pm.  There will be several door prizes, including a Baofeng UV-9R, the higher power version of the UV-5R.  A 2500mAh battery, speaker mic,  and software interface with cable are included.

I know that for many of you this is a long trip; however, I want to extend the invitation as it is a great opportunity.

Mr. Stratton will give us a first person update on the ARRL Board of Directors focus on topics facing modern Amateur Radio.  It will be a good opportunity to put him on the hot seat with your concerns and questions.  John has been a regular attendee of the St Patrick’s Day Hamfest and gives an informative presentation during the Section/Division Forum. If possible make plans to attend and bring a fellow ham with you. 73 and have fun,

David KF5WDJ

 

Eddie De Young, AE7AA, Named CQ Awards Editor

Eddie De Young, AE7AA, of Clearwater, Florida, has been named Awards Editor of CQ Amateur Radio magazine. His first Awards column appears in the September 2019 issue. De Young succeeds Ted Melinosky, K1BV, who served both as Awards Editor and USA-Counties Award Custodian for more than 20 years. Brian Bird, NX0X, now is USA-CA custodian.

Licensed since 1954, De Young has held more than two dozen call signs in 11 different countries over the years. While living in Australia, he served as Awards Manager for the Wireless Institute of Australia.