Tag Archives: ARRL

ARRL Urges Members to “Strongly” Oppose FCC Application Fees Proposal

Icom IC-756 Pro Transceiver Dial

(Source: ARRL Newlsetter)

ARRL Urges Members to Join in Strongly Opposing FCC’s Application Fees Proposal

ARRL will file comments in firm opposition to an FCC proposal to impose a $50 fee on amateur radio license and application fees. With the November 16 comment deadline fast approaching, ARRL urges members to add their voices to ARRL’s by filing opposition comments of their own. The FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) MD Docket 20-270 appeared in the October 15 edition of The Federal Register and sets deadlines of November 16 to comment and November 30 to post reply comments, which are comments on comments already filed. ARRL has prepared a Guide to Filing Comments with the FCC which includes tips for preparing comments and step-by-step filing instructions. File comments on MD Docket 20-270 using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).

Under the proposal, amateur radio licensees would pay a $50 fee for each amateur radio application for new licenses, license renewals, upgrades to existing licenses, and vanity call sign requests. The FCC also has proposed a $50 fee to obtain a printed copy of a license. Excluded are applications for administrative updates, such as changes of address, and annual regulatory fees. Amateur Service licensees have been exempt from application fees for several years.

The FCC proposal is contained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in MD Docket 20-270, which was adopted to implement portions of the “Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act” of 2018 — the so-called “Ray Baum’s Act.” The Act requires that the FCC switch from a Congressionally-mandated fee structure to a cost-based system of assessment. In its NPRM, the FCC proposed application fees for a broad range of services that use the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS), including the Amateur Radio Service. The 2018 statute excludes the Amateur Service from annual regulatory fees, but not from application fees. The FCC proposal affects all FCC services and does not single out amateur radio.

ARRL is encouraging members to file comments that stress amateur radio’s contributions to the country and communities. ARRL’s Guide to Filing Comments includes “talking points” that may be helpful in preparing comments. These stress amateur radio’s role in volunteering communication support during disasters and emergencies, and inspiring students to pursue education and careers in engineering, radio technology, and communications.

As the FCC explained in its NPRM, Congress, through the Ray Baum’s Act, is compelling regulatory agencies such as the FCC to recover from applicants the costs involved in filing and handling applications.

In its NPRM the FCC encouraged licensees to update their own information online without charge. Many, if not most, Amateur Service applications may be handled via the largely automated Universal License Service (ULS). The Ray Baum’s Act does not exempt filing fees in the Amateur Radio Service, and the FCC stopped assessing fees for vanity call signs several years ago.

See also “FCC Proposes to Reinstate Amateur Radio Service Fees,” reported by ARRL in August, and a summary page of the proceeding at www.arrl.org/FCC-Fees-Proposal.

Spread the radio love

Hurricane Watch Net Activated September 13, 2020

(Source: Brad Panovich) “Smoke, Fires, a Tropical Storm, and a Hurricane all in one satellite image today.”

(Source: ARRL via RTC)

Hurricane Watch Net to Activate as Paulette Bears Down on Bermuda

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has announced plans to activate today (Sunday, September 13) at 2100 UTC on both 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz as Hurricane Paulette is predicted to make landfall on Bermuda early on September 14 as a Category 2 storm. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, noted that activation plans are subject to change as weather forecasts unfold.

As of 1500 UTC on Sunday, Hurricane Paulette was moving to the northwest toward Bermuda at about 14 MPH, with strong winds, storm surge, and heavy rain expected to begin there by evening, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported. A hurricane warning is in effect for Bermuda. Paulette was some 240 miles southeast of Bermuda, with maximum sustained winds of 80 MPH.

“Monday morning, after landfall, we will do what we can to gather weather data and damage reports while operating on both 20 and 40 meters,” Graves said. “Once we’ve completed operations for Paulette, we will switch gears and begin operations for Sally immediately.

The HWN will be on 20 meters during daylight hours, switching to 40 meters in the evening, although propagation could dictate going to 40 meters during daylight as well.

Tropical Storm Sally is forecast to become a Category 1 Hurricane on September 14, with landfall expected on the evening of September 15, somewhere along the coast of Mississippi.

“Of course, should the forecast track be adjusted to the left or right of the current track, landfall timing and location will change,” Graves noted. “Everyone in the forecast path of Sally should follow the directions of local emergency management.

[…]WX4NHC at the NHC will also activate on Sunday, September 13, at 2100 UTC for Paulette and Sally and will remain activated until 1900 on Tuesday, September 15, monitoring and gathering reports from the HWN on 14.325 and 7.268 MHz and via the VoIP-WX Net on Echolink WXtalk 7203 Conference and IRLP 9219.

Click here to read the full article at the ARRL News.

Spread the radio love

New Technician HF Privileges Defined: ARRL board accepts final recommendations of the Band Planning Committee

(Source: ARRL News)

During this session, the [ARRL] Board took the following actions:

Accepted the final recommendations of the Band Planning Committee. Committee chair and ARRL First Vice President Mike Raisbeck, K1TWF, introduced the motion to adopt the plan. An earlier draft of the plan was introduced at the Board’s in-person January meeting. After the January Board meeting, the Committee received and considered hundreds of comments from interested amateurs. The final band plan can be viewed on the ARRL website.

The new plan only applies to the HF band and makes no changes to 160 and 60 meters. A couple other notes from the accepted plan:

  • No changes to CW allocations throughout all amateur bands
  • RTTY and all other narrowband, non-ACDS modes permitted wherever data
    modes are allowed

As you read through the changes, keep in mind that the new plan addresses expanded Technician HF privileges and also re-defines ACDS (Automatically Controlled Digital Stations) allocations among other modifications.

Technicians will be happy to note they’ll have new phone and image privileges on 80 meters (3,900 – 4,000 kHz), 40 meters (7,225 – 7,300), and 15 meters (21,350 – 21,450 kHz).

Click here to download a PDF of the accepted (final) proposed plan.

Spread the radio love

Radio Waves: Maritime Mobile Net Assists, Voice of Ambiguity, Promising Solar Cycle 25 Prediction, and the Future of Ham Radio

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Rich Smith, Kim Elliott, and Pete Eaton for the following tips:


Maritime Mobile Service Network Comes to the Aid of Vessel in Distress (ARRL News)

The Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) on 14.300 MHz came to the assistance of a sailing vessel on June 25. MMSN control operator Steven Carpenter, K9UA, took a call on 20 meters from Ian Cummings, KB4SG, the skipper of the Mystic Lady, then some 40 miles east of Florida. Cummings reported that his engine had failed as he was attempting to return to his home port of Stuart, Florida. He not only had insufficient wind, but a strong current was carrying the vessel out to sea.

Cummings had been unable to reach any station via his VHF marine radio, since he was too far from the coast. Assisting in the call was Robert Wynhoff, K5HUT, also an MMSN net control operator. Cummings said his vessel, with one passenger on board, was drifting northwest toward the South Carolina coast.

“A major concern was that the vessel was heading directly towards a lee shore,” the MMSN reported. “Lee shores are shallow, dangerous areas which are a hazard to watercraft. Vessels could be pushed into the shallow area by the wind, possibly running aground and breaking up.”

Carpenter contacted Cummings’ family, who had already called the Sea Tow marine towing service. Sea Tow advised Carpenter to tell the captain to head closer to shore by sailing west, if possible. Carpenter told Cummings that if he was unable to get nearer to shore, he would notify the US Coast Guard, which was already monitoring the situation.

As the MMSN reported, “The Mystic Lady was able to make some headway, but it was very slow. Members of the MMSN made additional calls via landline to the captain’s family as to the ongoing status of those on board. The family was concerned but relieved that communication was established and that all were well.”

Several hours later, the captain advised that the wind had picked up, allowing him to head close enough to shore for Sea Tow to reach the vessel and take it back to port.

The Pacific Seafarers’ Net, which monitors 14.300 MHz from the West Coast after the MMSN secures at 0200 UTC, kept in touch with the Mystic Lady into the night while it was under tow.

The tired, grateful captain later messaged the net, “A million thanks to everyone last night who helped rescue us on 14.300. Everyone chipped in as we drifted north in the Gulf Stream 60 miles headed to a lee shore. The MMSN net control and several others stayed with us for hours, phoned people, and were immensely helpful. The situation on board was dangerous. We are now safely under tow home. You folks are amazing!”

In operation since 1968, the MMSN monitors 14.300 MHz 70 hours a week to assist vessels and others in need of assistance. — Thanks to MMSN Net Manager Jeff Savasta, KB4JKL[]

VOA: Voice of ambiguity (The Hill)

From 1985 to 2017, I was an audience research analyst at the Voice of America. During that time I was preoccupied by the fact that the BBC World Service had a larger audience than VOA. VOA had a larger budget, so money was not the issue.

In audience surveys, I inserted a question asking those who listened to BBC more often than VOA: “why?” The answer provided most often was trustworthiness of the news.

I asked a listener from Burma (now known as Myanmar) why he thought BBC is considered more trustworthy than VOA. He replied that VOA is more closely connected to the U.S. government than BBC is to the U.K. government. I asked how he knows this. He responded that it’s because VOA says so every day.

He was referring to the “disclaimer” at the beginning of the editorials that, by the 1980s, were heard daily on VOA’s English broadcasts: “Next, an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.”

The daily editorial was a requirement handed down by VOA’s parent U.S. Information Agency. The editorials are drafted by the VOA’s policy staff, sent to the State Department for approval and finally broadcast after a sometimes lengthy back and forth.

Michael Pack, the new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, VOA’s present parent agency, is restoring the editorials to their previous prominence on VOA. In recent years, with diminished radio output, editorials were relegated to VOA’s little-viewed satellite television service and to a website separate from the main voanews.com. The revival of the editorials is a step in the repoliticization of VOA.[]

Newer Solar Cycle 25 Forecast Runs Counter to Consensus (ARRL Newsletter)

Scientists associated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Maryland, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and other institutions are offering a “bold prediction” on how Solar Cycle 25 will play out. In a paper, “Overlapping Magnetic Activity Cycles and the Sunspot Number: Forecasting Sunspot Cycle 25 Amplitude,” they assert that the next sunspot cycle will be of major proportions. The forecast stands in stark contrast to the consensus of forecasters who predict that the magnitude of the nascent Cycle 25 may not be much different from the current unremarkable solar cycle, which appears to have reach its low point.

“From the dawn of modern observational astronomy, sunspots have presented a challenge to understanding — their quasi-periodic variation in number, first noted 160 years ago, stimulates community-wide interest to this day,” the abstract points out. “A large number of techniques are able to explain the temporal landmarks, (geometric) shape, and amplitude of sunspot ‘cycles,’ however, forecasting these features accurately in advance remains elusive.”

Monthly sunspot numbers since 1749. The data values are represented by dots, and the 12-month running average values are illustrated as a red shaded area. Vertical blue dashed lines signify the magnetic activity cycle termination times that trigger the rapid growth of sunspot activity.

The paper notes that recent studies have illustrated a relationship between the sun’s 22-year Hale magnetic cycle and the production of sunspot cycle landmarks and patterns, but not the amplitude of the cycle.

“Using discrete Hilbert transforms on 270 years of monthly sunspot numbers to robustly identify the so-called ‘termination’ events — landmarks marking the start and end of sunspot and magnetic activity cycles — we extract a relationship between the temporal spacing of terminators and the magnitude of sunspot cycles,” the abstract explains. “Given this relationship and our prediction of a terminator event in 2020, we deduce that Sunspot Cycle 25 will have a magnitude that rivals the top few since records began. This outcome would be in stark contrast to the community consensus estimate of Sunspot Cycle 25 magnitude.”[]

The Uncertain Future of Ham Radio (IEEE Spectrum)

Software-defined radio and cheap hardware are shaking up a hobby long associated with engineering

Will the amateur airwaves fall silent? Since the dawn of radio, amateur operators—hams—have transmitted on tenaciously guarded slices of spectrum. Electronic engineering has benefited tremendously from their activity, from the level of the individual engineer to the entire field. But the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, with its ability to easily connect billions of people, captured the attention of many potential hams. Now, with time taking its toll on the ranks of operators, new technologies offer opportunities to revitalize amateur radio, even if in a form that previous generations might not recognize.

The number of U.S. amateur licenses has held at an anemic 1 percent annual growth for the past few years, with about 7,000 new licensees added every year for a total of 755,430 in 2018. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission doesn’t track demographic data of operators, but anecdotally, white men in their 60s and 70s make up much of the population. As these baby boomers age out, the fear is that there are too few young people to sustain the hobby.

“It’s the $60,000 question: How do we get the kids involved?” says Howard Michel, former CEO of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). (Since speaking with IEEE Spectrum, Michel has left the ARRL. A permanent replacement has not yet been appointed.)

This question of how to attract younger operators also reveals deep divides in the ham community about the future of amateur radio. Like any large population, ham enthusiasts are no monolith; their opinions and outlooks on the decades to come vary widely. And emerging digital technologies are exacerbating these divides: Some hams see them as the future of amateur radio, while others grouse that they are eviscerating some of the best things about it.[]


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

Radio Waves: Libre Space Foundation Reviews SDRs, ARRL VEC Statement, Pandemic Pastime, and Former CEO of RadioShack Now C-19 ER doctor

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Ron, Paul, Marco Zennaro, and Richard Langley for the following tips:


The Libre Space Foundation reviews software defined radios (Hackaday)

If you want to go to the next level with software defined radio (SDR), there are a lot of choices. The RTL-SDR dongles are fine, but if you get serious you’ll probably want something else. How do you choose? Well, your friends at the European Space Agency Libre Space Foundation have published a paper comparing many common options. True, they are mostly looking at how the receivers work with CubeSats, but it is still a good comparison.

The devices they examine are:

  • RTS-SDR v3
  • Airspy Mini
  • SDRPlay RSPduo
  • LimeSDR Mini
  • BladeRF 2.0 Micro
  • Ettus USRP B210
  • Pluto SDR

They looked at several bands of interest, but not the HF bands — not surprising considering that some of the devices can’t even operate on HF. They did examine VHF, UHF, L band, S band, and C band performance. Some of the SDRs have transmit capabilities, and for those devices, they tested the transmit function as well as receive.

The review isn’t just subjective. They calculate noise figures and dynamic range, along with other technical parameters. They also include GNURadio flowgraphs for their test setups, which would be a great place to start if you wanted to do these kinds of measurements yourself.[]

ARRL VEC Issues Statement on Video-Supervised Online Exam Sessions (ARRL News)

Very few ARRL Volunteer Examiner teams have successfully conducted in-person exam sessions (following social distancing guidelines) and video-supervised exam sessions using fillable PDF exams and documents. So far, we have found that both types of sessions take volunteer teams two to three times longer to conduct and accommodate fewer candidates than sessions conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the video sessions have included only one examinee per session.

We ask the community to be patient with our volunteer teams as they navigate uncharted territory. Please remember with the introduction of significant new processes such as these, that there should be proof of concept, establishment of protocols and procedures, and beta testing before expanding to a larger audience. Video-supervised exam sessions require a different skillset than in-person exam administration. Not all teams will be equipped to deliver video exams right away.

The ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) has been investigating options for an online examination system.

Fillable PDFs are cumbersome within a video-supervised exam session process. We recognize that online testing would represent a large-scale solution for our thousands of VEs and would make session procedures easier for our teams, but this will not happen overnight.

The ARRL VEC will continue to adapt and respond to the evolving crisis as we search for viable and easy-to-use online examination system solutions and conduct exam sessions in innovative ways.[]

Pandemic Pastime – Shortwave Radio (KFGO)

Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated that at night you could listen to radio stations from all over the country. My little Heathkit radio, which I built myself, could pick up stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Little Rock, Pittsburgh to name a few. West coast stations were rare because it was tough getting a signal over the Rocky Mountains.

Then there was shortwave radio. A buddy of mine had one and he showed me a list of all the countries he was picking up. England, France, Germany, Latin American countries, numerous stations on the shortwave bands in America. Even Radio Havana coming out of Cuba. Anything from religion to hard edge rock and roll. He also noted he picked up Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.

Well years later I would stop by my local Radio Shack and decided it was my turn to take up this hobby of monitoring shortwave radio. This particular radio also had a built in cassette player so you could record your found stations as well. It was really interesting to hear the news from other countries and get their take on what was happening in America.

One of the first frequencies I tuned in was WWV a shortwave radio station out of Fort Collins Colorado, that broadcasts the time via the atomic clock. The seconds tick off until the top of the hour when you hear a voice announce the time, followed by a tone that hits the top of the minute exactly on the nose. Great way to set the clock.

Now I know you can probably find all these shortwave stations on the internet, but what fun is that right?

With the covid-19 pandemic, this is a little something different than binge watching television, or building that 10th jigsaw puzzle or cleaning out that closet again and again.

Have a chair on the patio, a glass of your favorite beverage, extend the antenna, and start turning up and down the dial and see what you can find. I had a little notebook that I kept track of my searches. Don’t have it now though…lost it.

I’ll start a new one.

Stay safe everyone![]

Former CEO of RadioShack now an ER doctor (National Post)

‘I am just one of those people who was very fortunate, where things worked out, and where I could do not just do one thing I really enjoyed in life, but two’

Brian Levy loved science as a kid. He had a microscope, read up on stuff in the encyclopedia and messed around with home experiment kits. During his high school years, he took every science credit possible. By his own admission, he was a “geek,” one with an equally strong passion, alongside science, for electronics.

Levy knew how to operate a shortwave radio. Weekend teenage heaven, in his mind, was hanging around the local RadioShack store, a warehouse of gizmos where he scored his first part-time job in 1974, earning US$1.40 an hour at a shop in downtown Atlanta. He was 15, which, alas, was too young to be working for the company, according to the folks at corporate headquarters in Texas, who fired him upon receiving his paperwork.

The dismissal didn’t sit well with Levy.

“I actually called the vice president of human resources in Texas,” he says. The executive was impressed by the moxie of the kid. On the day he turned 16, Levy was hired back.

[…]Levy did not foresee the premature end to his business career. When it came, rather than being crestfallen, he felt liberated, and free to pursue an “itch” that he had always felt the need to scratch. So he applied to medical school at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON. (Levy came to Canada in the first place after relocating RadioShack HQ north of the border as CEO. He is now a dual citizen, although his soft, buttery accent betrays his roots in the American south.)[]


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

ARRL: “Remotely Administered Amateur Exam Systems Showing Promise”

(Source: ARRL News)

Facing a growing demand for amateur radio exam sessions in a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, sponsors of some Volunteer Examiner (VE) teams have risen to the challenge and are developing systems to remotely proctor test sessions.

“Many of our VEs and VE Teams have been working on remotely proctored exam session ideas, employing both video and in-person components — following social distancing protocols,” ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said. “We have been receiving interesting and innovative suggestions, and we appreciate the dedication and ingenuity our examiners have shown.”

The Spalding County Amateur Radio Club in Georgia is among those that have come up with plans to remotely administer amateur exams while complying with ARRL VEC testing standards during COVID-19 stay-home mandates and social distancing guidelines. Current systems leverage Zoom video-teleconferencing technology, the “Fill & Sign” feature of Adobe PDFs, reliable email, appropriate computer equipment and internet connection, and no volunteer examiners (VEs) present at individual remote test sites. The Georgia club collaborated and shared ideas with the Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC) in Hawaii, which has successfully conducted sessions since 2011 with its own remote testing system, initially with paper exams with a proctor on site and now with fillable PDFs, with no on-site proctor.

The Georgia club obtained ARRL VEC approval to administer video-supervised exams. The club’s David Robinson, K4WVZ, said the first exam session took place this week, with another set for next week, and “many more in the pipeline” going forward.

“We have started with testing just one candidate at a time but are planning to ramp up to multiple candidates — probably two or three — simultaneously,” Robinson told ARRL. “Before we do that, we want a few more single sessions under our belt and a few more Video VEs trained. It also gives us an opportunity to garner lessons learned from each test session and upgrade our procedures accordingly.” Robinson said this week’s session went “exceedingly well,” and the candidate passed the test.

The club’s procedures entail a pre-exam video interview with candidates to ensure they understand all the requirements and procedures. “This also allows us to test the candidate’s ability to work with the video and computer technology before the actual exam,” Robinson explained. “Training sessions were conducted for VEs to make sure they understood their role and how to use the technology.”

Following the exam, the VEs score the test and sign off on the paperwork, with the VE Team Leader submitting the application online and by mail, per ARRL VEC instructions. Application and successful exam are first accepted and then submitted to the FCC for processing.

New England Amateur Radio Inc (NE1AR), an affiliate of New England Sci-Tech, (NESciTech), has taken it one step further, Somma said. It got the approval of ARRL VEC to begin trials of what it describes as “completely online testing with strict rules and protocols for maintaining the integrity of the testing environment.” NE1AR is limiting candidates to one exam per candidate, due to the current candidate backlog and the “difficulty of administering exams online.” Candidates must agree to a list of protocols, which include no visitors (or pets) in the exam room and a cell-phone camera scan of the entire room and exam area “to show that there are no materials or people [in the room] that could aid in taking the exam.” If the VE team suspects the possibility of cheating, the exam may be terminated and the candidate barred from future online exam sessions.

“We began a series of trials on April 1 under ARRL VEC review and have now been asked to help train more VE Teams on the process,” NE1AR President Bob Phinney, K5TEC, told ARRL. “We have now tested 12 applicants and are still working on streamlining the process. We are working with the software developer of the exam delivery system to help them adapt the system for video-supervised testing.” At present, Phinney said, only one person at a time can be tested. Another time-related issue is how long it takes a candidate to go through the NE1AR security protocol. “Sometimes, the setup and follow-up for an exam take far longer than the exam itself, in order that we provide complete integrity of the exam session,” he said.

With pressure continuing to build to provide testing compatible with COVID-19 guidelines and stay-home orders, ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, has asked the amateur radio community to be patient. “Please remember that with the introduction of significant new processes such as these, that there should be proof of concept, establishment of protocols and procedures, and beta testing, before expanding to a larger audience,” she said this week. Somma said video-supervised exam sessions require a different skillset than in-person exam administration, and not all teams will be equipped to deliver video exams right away.

“ARRL is pleased to be one of the leaders in providing an opportunity, although limited initially, for video-supervised exams in this time of social distancing and isolation required by the current health situation,” Somma said.

Click here to read the full article at the ARRL News.

Spread the radio love

On The Air: ARRL’s excellent magazine for newcomers…only available behind their paywall

Cover of the new “On The Air” e-magazine from the ARRL

Today, the ARRL released their new electronic magazine for ham radio newcomers: On The Air.

The ARRL describes On The Air‘s mission:

“On the Air magazine is the newest ARRL member benefit to help new licensees and beginner-to-intermediate radio communicators navigate the world of amateur radio. Delivered six times a year, the magazine will present articles, how-to’s, and tips for selecting equipment, building projects, getting involved in emergency communication as well as spotlighting the experiences of people using radio to serve their communities, and those using it for enjoyment.”

I checked out On The Air and was quite pleased with the scope of the magazine. The first issue covers topics such as: understanding the ionosphere, choosing your first radio, building simple antennas, and much more. I love the fact that the articles are written with newcomers in mind, too; less technical jargon and more explanations.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been teaching a ham radio class to a group of high school students. Most of the students have now acquired their Technician licenses, and we’re even plotting a General class course for the fall.

Last month, I shared some copies of QST (the ARRL monthly member magazine) with my students. While they enjoyed looking through the pages of QST, many told me they simply didn’t understand the articles yet…There’s just not a lot inside a QST issue to grab the attention of a fifteen or sixteen year old who’s just gotten her ticket. Understandable.

Then, I learned about On The Air from a friend with the ARRL.  I was so glad to hear that the League was finally making a bi-monthly magazine aimed squarely at newcomers! I was also pleased it was an e-publication, because it will be that much easier to share with my class and propagate to prospective students.

But today, I discovered, to my dismay, that other than the premier issue, On The Air is for ARRL members only. Here’s a screen grab from the website:

But…”for members only”––?

Alas, in limiting access, the ARRL has essentially insured that most of their target audience won’t ever have the opportunity to read On The Air, and thus they’ve crippled the best ARRL recruitment tool I’ve ever seen. 

What a shame.

I’ve contacted my ARRL representative and asked that they reconsider the decision to hide this brilliant magazine behind a membership paywall. I’m pretty sure that ad revenue and membership fees could readily cover the cost of publishing this electronic edition. After all, On The Air could lead to a lot more ARRL members! And, indeed, I hope it will.

If you feel as I do, please contact your ARRL Section manager. It may be that those making the decisions are, in this case, a little out of touch with the future of amateur radio.

Update – To be clear about this post: I’m not implying anything bad about the ARRL here, I just think it’s a lost opportunity if they keep future editions of On The Air behind the member pay wall. I imagine that ad revenue alone could more than support this niche publication if they simply release it as a free PDF. The real benefit, though, could be an increase in ARRL membership as On The Air readers get a taste of what the League could offer! In other words: this is an opportunity!

What do you think? Should On The Air be free to anyone interested in amateur radio, or for members only? Please comment!

Spread the radio love