"The Big Tent of Amateur Radio - Let's find a better way!"

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by W5DNT, May 15, 2018.

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  1. W5DNT

    W5DNT Ham Member QRZ Page

    QST All Amateurs!!!

    This document was recently published by Dr. Ted Rappaport, N9NB, for whom I have the highest respect. Ted raises several alarming issues with regard to ARRL's recent proposals to the FCC, that if enacted, would radically change the entire nature of the amateur radio hobby.

    Please take time to look at the document below. Hopefully some folks will have the opportunity to provide feedback at Dayton to ARRL leadership.


    The Big Tent of Amateur Radio – Let’s find a better way!

    Theodore S. Rappaport, Ph.D., PE, N9NB

    I've been reflecting on our amazing hobby, and how it led many of us to our professions or to lifelong friendships. I’m looking forward to connecting with many friends from around the world at the Dayton Hamvention this week. Most of us were, and still are, captivated by the "magic" of wireless, and the fraternity of ham radio. We want this hobby to be fun, and to continue to be there for youth, for new hams, for ourselves, and all those ahead of us.

    "Pay it forward", if you will.

    Recently, ARRL has written the FCC asking for a new rule making to instantly upgrade the HF privileges of half of the 750,000 US hams, overnight, to address the lack of growth in our hobby.


    In the petition to the FCC, ARRL has asked for expanded HF Data and Voice privileges for the 370,000+ technician class licensees. ARRL chides the FCC for not going far enough when it enacted the no-code licensing, and pins the anemic 1% annual licensing growth on lack of HF operating opportunities. In asking for the expanded technician privileges, ARRL promises to tap into STEM and the Maker community to attract youth.

    http://www.arrl.org/files/media/News/2018 Entry Level License PRM FINAL.pdf

    Who can deny the magic of HF? The “HF experience” could help excite and retain new hams and boost sales of HF amateur gear. But why has the ARRL asked the FCC to provide the 370,000+ technicians instant access to the **entire** CW/RTTY/DATA HF sub bands, and a **major chunk** of the Phone/Image HF sub bands when they have no experience working on HF? Why didn’t the League ask for a smaller “starter kit” of say 25 or 50 kHz on each band, like the old novice bands of the 1970’s? Giving a small 25 kHz subband for the technicians would provide the desired exposure to HF operations, teach them about the realities of interference, and provide tremendous experience with an incentive to upgrade to gain more HF spectrum.

    The ARRL’s proposal would double the number of US hams on the vast majority of US HF amateur frequencies, overnight, adding 378,000 potential new operators to HF. I am dumbfounded by ARRL’s claim that this request is a “very nominal” change! This is like throwing a non-swimmer into the deep end of the pool, and expecting them to swim. Why not let them learn to practice first in the safer, shallow end of the pool? Why does ARRL want to give unfettered HF access to so many new hams, overnight? Could it stem from its continual wideband HF data ambitions?

    Where is the incentive for new amateur operators (entry level technicians) to continue learning and earning new privileges under the ARRL’s proposal? Where is the consideration of wideband interference that currently exists, and why isn’t there first an effort by ARRL to cure the numerous Part 97 violations of wideband data? Why is ARRL seeking to double, overnight, the number of HF data users without dealing with well documented violations and perils listed in public comments filed against ARRL’s unpopular RM-11708 proposal and FCC’s proposed rulemaking WT16-239 that seek to remove the 300 baud rate limit on all HF data transmissions?


    The FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking, WT16-239 , which resulted from ARRL’s petition RM-11708, would make major changes to our hobby by unleashing compressed wideband data throughout HF that cannot be intercepted by third parties, and it currently hangs over the hobby’s head, despite more than 90% of public commenters urging the FCC to dismiss it.


    In WT16-239, the FCC proposes to remove the 300 baud limit for HF data and allow unlimited wideband data on any HF band, without providing any cure for the daily Part 97 violations. This is a national security concern that the League willfully continues to ignore in its lobbying efforts before the Commission, even as recently in its FCC 17-344 filing regarding Puerto Rico and the “force of 50.” If the Commission enacts WT16-239, and if it grants, as well, the ARRL’s request for new technician privileges, problems and violations will ramp exponentially, and the wideband, compressed nature of digital HF traffic that cannot be monitored over the air by others will be especially appealing for those wishing to foster terrorist communications, commercial email bypass, criminal activity, and other unseemly activities across borders. As was pointed out by the ham community when ARRL tried to push wideband data into the phone bands with RM-11306, we must continue to ensure all amateur radio communications are in the open, and able to be intercepted by others.




    Without such vigilance, headlines like these may unfortunately result,


    leading to potential extinction of the hobby on national security grounds. To me, it seems very dangerous for ARRL to continue to push for more wideband traffic, and now 378,000+ more operators, without first admitting to and dealing with the wideband data problems that currently endanger our hobby’s fabric, and worse yet, our nation’s security. Winlink and the SCS modem used for Pactor are made for non-amateur HF commercial communications, and are built specifically to provide secure messaging



    Already, Winlink enthusiasts are notifying their user base that the expansion of technician privileges would pave the way for a vastly wider network of HF email stations that could be operated by technician licensees. The ARRL’s recent proposal that seeks expanded technician privileges could instantly flood the HF bands with operators wishing to use wideband data for email, messages that cannot be deciphered, business use, and other nefarious activities that cannot be detected by official observers or other hams. Time and time again, the ARRL has ignored the public opinion and technical expertise of vast numbers of rank and file hams, as evidenced in its FCC RM-11306, RM-11708, FCC’s WT16-239, and in the League’s 17-344 filing which sought instant wideband data privileges in the Commission’s Puerto Rico proceeding


    The ARRL has now gone ahead with this most recent proposal for expanded technician licensing. Is ARRL representing the best interests of the future of our hobby, the STEM community, or our nation? Are we on the path to reducing HF amateur radio to an ionospheric “access point” for HF email service, or “internet CB radio” that crosses international boundaries?

    If the FCC should chose to grant the ARRL’s request and make a notice of proposed rulemaking for expanded technician privileges, the entire hobby will need to be ready to voice their opinions to the FCC, loud and clear, to support and protect our hobby and its future. ARRL’s petition curries favor with half of the US amateur operators—who wouldn’t want to sign up for free HF access with the stroke of a pen? For our hobby to survive and thrive, though, we must mentor and engage newly licensed technicians, and help them understand and repel the unintended consequences of the League’s latest proposal, while sharing our knowledge that enables them to learn the proper operating and technical skills while continuing to upgrade their license. If hams remain silent when the FCC seeks public comment, we are in real danger of having the hobby become a mosh pit of untrained operators or wideband automated bulletin board transmitters carrying commercial and other illegal traffic that cannot be monitored. Current sentiment appears to be very much against the ARRL proposal,


    but we must make sure newly licensed hams do not feel rejected. Rather, all of us must nurture and support newly licensed technicians, help them upgrade and enlist their help to preserve and protect our spectrum and to keep the hobby open, free for all to eavesdrop, and to remain free from commercial business or bypass of commercial communication means in accordance with Part 97 regulations. Our displeasure cannot be aimed at the new hams – they are our future and need our utmost support.

    Unfortunately, the ARRL seems willing to continue to make unpopular proposals that divide our hobby in front of the FCC, without first building grass roots support, and this hurts our hobby, and hurts the credibility of the League and those who run it and claim to represent the broad interests of the hobby. This lack of grass-roots consensus-building creates a mean spirit within our hobby, and we must work to fix this culture. It is the newly licensed amateurs that we need most to succeed and to carry on our hobby with virtue -- we must engage them, and mentor them with our values. The ARRL doesn’t need more expanded privileges for technicians to build our hobby, it just needs to engage and listen to and represent the hobby better.

    America, more than ever, needs a new generation of technically minded engineers and scientists to compete with emerging nations who have a great hunger for technical leadership. To help the hobby and remove the frequent dissension caused by ARRL policy, why doesn't the League restructure itself to be a member-driven organization that allows parallel areas of the hobby to thrive, and to attract and engage volunteers, the way it is done in IEEE and ACM, large professional technical organizations? Instead of a few people in Newington making top-down decisions for the entire organization, IEEE has dozens of parallel societies, each with vast numbers of volunteer members who all share a common particular interest of engineering. Some IEEE societies are interested in computers, others in vehicles, and others in education. Each society comprises its own large community of volunteers who share a particular passion, but who all are also part of the bigger IEEE organization. Many IEEE members belong to several societies at one time. IEEE provides the structure for hundreds of thousands of volunteers to interact and provide vision to the engineering profession, and, remarkably, the IEEE board of directors are virtually invisible to the entire membership—they work behind the scenes to ensure the member’s needs and the member’s societies are run smoothly to benefit and grow the membership. Everything bubbles up from volunteers, and through the multiple parallel societies that are mutually respected and interlinked through the massive volunteer efforts of IEEE members. Even public policy and lobbying efforts are bubbled up by a large army of volunteer members in IEEE USA https://ieeeusa.org/. IEEE policy requests before government officials are never a surprise to membership.

    Perhaps a more member-centric approach to the ham community would help the hobby’s growth, and help ARRL with its policy making efforts, while creating a more collaborative and engaged community that taps into STEM activities. I believe this is a "big tent" hobby, and we need to tap into the grass roots, so that major policy initiatives like spectrum allocations (RM-11306, RM-11708, RM -11759) or the expanded technician license proposal do not just “suddenly appear” as a surprise at the FCC and ARRL websites, but instead bubble up from the vast membership and all of Hamdom, with a built-in consensus-building mechanism.

    We enjoy so many communication modes on HF. FT-8 uses much less than 100 Hz of spectrum and is a wonderful example of the ingenuity of hams. WSRP-X is another example of modern experimentation with less than 10Hz of spectrum! SSB, CW, RTTY, and AM are popular modes. There are wider band digital modes like Winmor, Pactor, and ARDOP. These modern machine-to-machine modes can be used with Winlink, and have effective encryption when operated in automated-repeat request (ARQ) mode (no "man in the middle" can intercept), but when run in "open" mode, it legally helps those in Emcomm and in boating situations using no more than 2.2 kHz bandwidth, and amazing capabilities have been built to use it for bulletin boards and messaging, email. Those hams have great ingenuity, and have accomplished a lot, a wide network of bulletin boards, with a community that develops and tests technical innovations. But that community also has a problem (ignored by the ARRL and FCC to date), as some use these modes in violation of Part 97, and often the traffic cannot be listened to over the air, leading to national security concerns. A fundamental question remains open at the FCC, and is at the heart of what the future of our hobby will become: Should amateur bands be allowed to carry wideband email or internet traffic that can otherwise be carried over commercial internet providers? It is up to us, and especially all the newly licensed amateurs, to answer that question when the FCC asks for our opinion.

    Riley Hollingsworth, a new ARRL vice director, is getting involved with FCC's Laura Smith on enforcement and a new OO program, per recent ARRL minutes.

    http://www.arrl.org/files/file/2018 Board of Directors/Minutes April 2018 FINAL 5-4-18.pdf

    Will these OO’s be able to intercept compressed ARQ wideband data on HF? Will Part 97 violations and out-of-band ACDS transmissions be stopped? Will they turn a blind eye to commercial/business use?

    Our hobby has amazing talent and technical ingenuity, and we need to tap our great grass roots capabilities to hold up the big tent of ham radio. Writing to ARRL directors immediately is worthwhile, since some of the directors have shown they care and they might listen when rank and file hams organize and write constructively. Maybe we can encourage them to seek out models like IEEE, to organize the League in a way that taps into the grass-roots level, and becomes more focused on member interests and member satisfaction, rather than speaking for the vast hobby from a relative vacuum. This is our hobby to enjoy and to pass on to future hams, we must work to preserve the basic tenets of Part 97. The price of liberty is vigilance.

    A smaller spectrum allowance, just like the 1970’s novice bands, would seem to incentivize the technicians in a much more responsible way than what ARRL has proposed to the FCC, and would also provide a safe way for the hobby to grow. If the League was organized such that it fostered a member-based, grass-roots, respectful approach that honors and recognizes the value of all modes and capabilities, then a more sensible, consensus-based policy could have been formed before ARRL submitted its proposal. It is well known that narrowband modes and wideband modes don't mix, and the narrowband modes get killed when they are pooled together. FT8 or CW or RTTY cannot work over SSB or wideband data, especially ARQ data that uses greedy algorithms to provide zero packet errors.


    It's a shame that the League’s wideband data ambitions and now the expanded technician privileges couldn't be built up and grown in a grass roots consensus manner, the way IEEE, ACM, and other member-based organizations work. Tell the new hams you know that we need a new way forward, and be prepared to file comments with them at the FCC to protect the future of the hobby.

    In summary, two big actions have been initiated by ARRL in front of the FCC that could change the face of our hobby forever. One is the request for wideband data anywhere in HF (RM 11708 and FCC WT 16-239) that hangs over our head. The ARRL leadership intentionally ignored past and consistent major member disagreement, voiced loudly and in public to the FCC over the past 14 years in RM-11306, RM-11708, and WT16-239. We have to hope that FCC does not act on WT16-239, because if it does, it would authorize high speed HF data without any bandwidth limit throughout all HF bands. What makes matters much worse is that ARRL has recently asked the FCC to double, overnight, the number of HF hams in the data bands without requiring any further learning or examinations, and without first solving or admitting to any of the Part 97 violations of ACDS wideband bulletin boards or emerging new proprietary wideband modes being developed for the hobby today.

    I love the ARRL and am a life member. I want it to succeed. As someone once told me, however, if you have a crazy uncle, you sometimes have to call him out, for your own protection and for protection of the family..

    I hope we think about the future of our hobby, how we got here, and engage in constructive dialogue with the ARRL leaders and FCC. I hope the entire ham radio community, and government officials, will pay close attention, to make sure that the compression/”effective encryption” problem and wideband "all over the band" problems are solved/eliminated, so that the big tent of ham radio can ensure that some HF band segments provide a bandwidth upper limit of 200 Hz and 500 Hz, so narrowband modes are kept safe and protected from the potential pending wideband data transmissions, and that all data, no matter what its bandwidth, is transmitted openly and intercepted freely by anyone listening on the airwaves. I hope we see resurgence in mentoring of new hams, and an inculcation of the values that we developed through the hobby. These are fundamental tenets of our hobby. We must be willing to publicly discuss and defend these beliefs to ARRL leaders and the FCC.

    Without protected HF subbands for CW/RTTY/FT8 and other narrowband transmissions, and without FCC clarification and ARRL admission and support for emphatic enforcement that all transmissions, of any type, be open and freely listened to over the air, our entire hobby could face extinction. My hope is that our big tent will rise up and protect our hobby, and will encourage more engagement with newly licensed hams at the local club level, and that the ARRL will immediately begin more consensus-building for the future of amateur radio, so that it engages and listens to, rather than disenfranchises, its members and all of Hamdom.

    Ted Rappaport
    NL7W and WE4B like this.
  2. KS2G

    KS2G Subscriber QRZ Page

    Oh, please!
    Not this AGAIN!
    This subject has already been beaten to death in numerous previous threads/posts both here on The Zed and numerous other amateur radio web sites, e-mail groups, etc.
    NE1U, WG7X and NK2U like this.
  3. W7UUU

    W7UUU QRZ Lifetime Member #133 Volunteer Moderator Life Member Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Last edited: May 15, 2018
    KA4DPO and WA7PRC like this.
  4. K8ERV

    K8ERV Ham Member QRZ Page

    That was more than 10 lines long----

    TOM K8ERV Montrose Colo
    WA7PRC, NK2U and K1OIK like this.
  5. W7UUU

    W7UUU QRZ Lifetime Member #133 Volunteer Moderator Life Member Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Last edited: May 15, 2018
    WA7PRC likes this.
  6. K0IDT

    K0IDT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Simple, don't read it and don't comment if it bothers you that much. Nothing wrong with another approach and the horse ain't quite dead yet. I assume you will provide comments to the FCC and ARRL when it comes down to that,
    or do you just vent on the Zed?
  7. W5TTW

    W5TTW Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    KS2G and NK2U like this.
  8. K3XR

    K3XR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Mr. Rappaport agree with him or not gave a very good presentation mine won't be as long. It's rather apparent this is the ARRL attempt at a membership drive. For those who may have been around the hobby long enough it calls to mind Incentive Licensing .
    WE4B and ND6M like this.
  9. W2AI

    W2AI QRZ Lifetime Member #240 Life Member Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    WA7PRC, N2EY and NK2U like this.
  10. KK5JY

    KK5JY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Lions and tigers and bears... oh wait... :rolleyes:
    K9ASE, N2EY, W7UUU and 1 other person like this.

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