Tag Archives: Federal Communications Commission

Radio Waves: Ajit Pai to Resign, Hams Need to Embrace Hacker Community, Coast Guard Might Abandon HF Voice Watchkeeping, and FCC Action Against Unauthorized Transceivers

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!


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to leave agency on Inauguration Day (PBS News Hour)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, says he is leaving the telecommunications regulator on Inauguration Day.

President-elect Joe Biden will choose a new Democratic head for the agency. A new administration typically picks a new chairman.

Pai has presided over a contentious FCC over the last four years. He undid net neutrality rules that barred internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T from favoring some types of online traffic over others in 2017 and championed other deregulatory efforts. He has also worked to free up spectrum for cellphone companies so they can roll out 5G, the next-generation wireless standard that promises faster speeds, and cracked down on Chinese telecom companies as national security threats.

The incoming FCC is likely to try to reinstate net neutrality rules and focus on closing the “digital divide,” getting internet service to Americans who don’t have it because it’s not available or they can’t afford it.[]

Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever (Hackaday)

As many a radio amateur will tell you, ham radio is a hobby with as many facets as there are radio amateurs. It should be an exciting and dynamic place to be, but as those who venture forth into it sometimes sadly find out, it can be anything but. Tightly-knit communities whose interests lie in using $1,000 stations to chase DX (long-distance contacts), an advancing age profile, and a curious fascination of many amateurs with disaster communications. It’s something [Robert V. Bolton, KJ7NZL] has sounded off about in an open letter to the amateur radio community entitled “Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever“.

In it he laments that the influx in particular of those for whom disaster preparedness is the reason for getting a licence is to blame for amateur radio losing its spark, and he proposes that the hobby should respond by broadening its appeal in the direction of the hacker community. The emphasis should move from emergency communications, he says, and instead topics such as software defined radio and digital modes should be brought to the fore. Finally he talks about setting up hacker specific amateur radio discussion channels, to provide a space in which the talk is tailored to our community.[]

Coast Guard Proposes to Discontinue HF Voice Watchkeeping (ARRL News)

The US Coast Guard has invited comments by January 21, 2021, on a proposal to discontinue HF voice watchkeeping. The proposal [PDF] appeared on November 20 in the Federal Register. The USCG proposes to cease monitoring 4125, 6215, 8291, and 12,290 kHz, in the contiguous US and Hawaii, due to a lack of activity.

“We believe this change would have a low impact on the maritime public, as commercial satellite radios and Digital Selective Calling (DSC) marine-SSB HF radios have become more prevalent onboard vessels,” the Coast Guard said. “However, we would like your comments on how you would be affected if we terminated monitoring HF voice-only distress frequencies within the contiguous US and Hawaii, particularly if you use HF, but do not currently have a commercial satellite radio or an HF DSC-capable radio aboard your vessel.”[]

FCC takes action against marketing of unauthorized transceivers (Southgate ARC)

On November 24 FCC Enforcement Bureau (EB) issued a citation and order concerning the illegal marketing of unauthorized radio frequency devices

The citation says:

This CITATION AND ORDER (Citation), notifies Rugged Race Products, Inc. d/b/a
Rugged Radios (Rugged Radios or Company) that it unlawfully marketed six models of radio frequency devices that (a) operated outside the scope of their respective equipment authorization, or without any equipment authorization; (b) permitted any operator to program and transmit on new frequencies using the device’s external operation controls; and (c) lacked the appropriate labeling. Specifically, Rugged Radios marketed models RH5R-V2, RM25R, RM25R-WP, RM50R, RM60-V, and RM100 in violation of section 302(b) of the Communications Act, as amended (Act), and sections 2.803(b), 2.925(a)(1), 80.203(a), 90.203(a), 90.203(e), 95.361(a), and 95.391 of the Commission’s rules.

Read the Citation and Order at
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-1395A1.pdf

Source FCC Enforcement Bureau
https://www.fcc.gov/enforcement


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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.

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FCC proposes $50 fee for new ham radio licenses, upgrades and vanity applications

Many thanks to Paul Evans (W4/VP9KF) who notes that FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking–MD Docket no. 20-270–outlines a new fee structure for several radio services including the amateur radio service.

If I understand correctly, a fee would be collected when an FCC employee would need hands-on time to process an application. This would include all new amateur radio applications, license upgrades, and vanity call sign applications.

It appears many routine licence services that could be handled entirely through the FCC ULS system/website without human intervention might remain no-cost.

At least, this is the way I read the information from this FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Click here to download the PDF version of Docket No. 20-270. 

Most of the amateur radio changes are outlined under “personal licenses” staring at section 24.

To be clear, this is a proposal open for comment. These fees have not yet been adopted. I expect the ARRL will have a response.

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FCC hope to hire Pirate Radio hunters

Photo by Ben Koorengevel

(Source: Inside Radio)

Broadcasters would likely call it money well-spent, but it’s still cash coming from the federal government’s hands. The Federal Communications Commission estimates it will cost the agency at least $11 million to enforce the newly-adopted law that requires it to step up pirate radio enforcement. “Specifically, in order to combat the problem of illegal radio operations, the statute requires a sweeping process that will require new equipment and a substantial number of additional field agents to implement fully,” FCC Chair Ajit Pai told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee during a hearing on Tuesday. Pai said he hoped congressional budget writers would determine a “reasonable funding level” for the FCC that reflects that added cost, suggesting the agency’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year should be raised to $354 million.

Signed into law by President Trump last month, the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act, or “PIRATE” Act (S.1228) was unanimously approved by both the Senate and House. The new law raises fines on unlicensed station operators to $100,000 per day per violation, up to a maximum of $2 million. In addition to tougher fines on violators, the FCC would also be required to conduct sweeps in the five cities where pirate radio is the biggest problem—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas—at least once a year. And then, within six months, field agents would be mandated to return to those markets to conduct “monitoring sweeps” to determine whether the unlicensed operators simply powered back up or changed frequencies. The agency would also be required to issue a report to Congress on an annual basis about its pirate-fighting efforts.

Pai told the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee that the FCC is already gearing up for implementing the new law. “We are submitting a formal amendment to the Office of Management and Budget concerning costs associated with the full implementation of the PIRATE Act,” said Pai.[…]

Continue reading the full article at Inside Radio.

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FCC enforcement update: Boston, Brooklyn, Miami, Newark and Fayetteville

Many thanks to an SWLing Post contributor who shares the following FCC enforcement items:

RADIO EQUIPMENT SEIZED FROM TWO ILLEGAL RADIO STATIONS IN BOSTON

https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2018/db0328/DOC-349973A1.pdf

STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER MICHAEL O’RIELLY ON ACTION AGAINST TWO BOSTON PIRATE RADIO “STATIONS”

https://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2018/db0328/DOC-349972A1.pdf

Notes:

These news releases do not indicate whether the U.S. Marshals Service and FCC agents personally interacted with the alleged operators of these stations.

The FCC stated that the items were seized from the stations’ “antenna location,” which suggests that transmission equipment, but not studio equipment or persons, were taken into custody. For those details we will have to await official legal texts and not news pieces from the FCC media office.

Only a small minority of unlicensed stations ever have their equipment seized. Increasingly the FCC sends enforcement notices to the landlords of these stations, in the expectation that they will act against broadcasting tenants.

Additional enforcement actions against unlicensed stations were released today:

JEROME MOULTRIE; MIAMI, FLORIDA. Notice of Unlicensed Operation issued for radio signals on frequency 90.1 MHz in Miami, Florida. Action by: Regional Director, Region Two, Enforcement Bureau. Adopted: 03/28/2018 by Notice. EB DOC-349981A1.docx  DOC-349981A1.pdf

JEAN CLAUDE MICHEL; BROOKLYN, NEW YORK. Notice of Unlicensed Operation issued for radio signals on frequency 90.9 MHz in Brooklyn, New York. Action by: Regional Director, Region One, Enforcement Bureau. Adopted: 03/28/2018 by Notice. EB DOC-349979A1.docx  DOC-349979A1.pdf

ANGEL RIGOBERTO PINZON; OSSINING, NEW YORK. Notice of Unlicensed Operation issued for radio signals on frequency 90.5 MHz in Newark, New Jersey. Action by: Regional Director, Region One, Enforcement Bureau. Adopted: 03/28/2018 by Notice. EB DOC-349978A1.docx  DOC-349978A1.pdf

FREDDIE RODRIGUEZ; FAYETTEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA. Notice of Unlicensed Operation issued for radio signals on frequency 87.9 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Action by: Regional Director, Region Two, Enforcement Bureau. Adopted: 03/28/2018 by Notice. EB DOC-349980A1.docx  DOC-349980A1.pdf

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Ajit Pai designated as chairman of the FCC

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai (R)

(Source: Forbes)

In one of his first official acts, President Trump designated Commissioner Ajit Pai as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He is the first newly appointed Republican chairman since Kevin Martin nearly 12 years ago. Many have asked: how will the FCC change under Chairman Pai?

Until recent years, the FCC was not a partisan agency. Having served with commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly, Chairman Pai is not expected to be particularly partisan.

Chairman Pai has served as a commissioner for nearly 5 years, and his views on a wide range of topics are publicly available on his FCC website that highlights his many Commission opinions, Congressional testimonies, speeches, publications, and blogs.

It is impossible to predict exactly where Chairman Pai will go with specific future policies such as network neutrality, particular mergers, and the aftermath of the disappointing and flawed broadcaster spectrum auction. But it is easy to describe broad themes of a Chairman Pai: follow the law, less regulation, and a folksy approach to government. […]

Continue reading at Forbes.com.

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O’Rielly proposes a new way to fight pirate radio

fcc_logo

Many thanks to an SWLing Post reader who shares this blog post by FCC Commissioner, Michael O’Rielly. In his post, Commissioner O’Rielly expresses his hatred of pirate radio stations and how he believes action should be taken against pirate stations. Worth reading, especially in light of potential FCC Enforcement Bureau Field Office closure plans.

(Source: FCC Blog)

Consider a New Way to Combat Pirate Radio Stations

Everyone should agree that pirate radio stations – by any definition – are completely illegal. Given other responsibilities and obligations, however, the Commission’s resources are stretched, and it seems that stopping pirate radio is not at the top of the priority list. While this reality is not surprising, we need to consider other ways to remove the scourge that is pirate radio. One approach would be to give broadcasters a new right to use the legal process to go after such stations, letting loose broadcasters’ legal bloodhounds to root out the violators. This isn’t a new idea as it has been done in other circumstances outside of spectrum policy, such as to combat email spam, and we should consider it here, too.

It is important to start by recognizing the truth about pirate radio stations. They are not cute; they are not filling a niche; they are not innovation test beds; and they are not training grounds for future broadcasters. If broadcasting were a garden, pirate radio would be poisonous crabgrass. Put another way, pirate radio participants are similar to outlaws who rob a retail store and then sell the stolen inventory online. In practice, pirate radio causes unacceptable economic harm to legitimate and licensed American broadcasters by stealing listeners. Pirate operators also cause “harmful interference” that inhibits the ability of real broadcasters to transmit their signals and programming, which provide such vital services as emergency alerts, critical weather updates, political information and news. And, pirate radio can disproportionately impact minority-owned stations as they undercut their financials and can cause harmful interference to legitimate stations serving minority populations.

Let’s also dispel another myth: pirate radio does not increase media diversity. From time to time, arguments have been made that we should look the other way because some pirate radio operators may be minorities, or the stations’ content appeals to minority listeners. To be clear, the race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or any characteristic of a pirate radio operator should be completely irrelevant to the discussion. Their operations are illegal – end of story. Just imagine if we allowed this argument to be persuasive in other spectrum enforcement decisions: Commission spectrum and licensing policies would be thrown into complete chaos and wireless systems would cease to operate.

Instead of embracing pirate radio, approaches like the NAB’s Broadcast Leadership Training Program should be encouraged to prepare underrepresented populations for leadership and ownership positions in broadcasting. Alternatively, those truly interested in operating a legal broadcast station can seek to participate in the Commission’s July 2015 auction, in which 131 FM construction permits will be available, many in smaller and less expensive markets.

If there are unmet needs or underserved populations, the solution is not to condone an illegal station, but to convince the applicable existing broadcaster to be more responsive. Collectively, broadcasters are uniquely attuned to the needs of their communities and promoting localism because the success of their stations and ultimately, their livelihoods depend on it. Moreover, there are other technologies available to target broadcasts to a distinct group within a community, such as low power FM stations or Internet radio stations, which are free, easy to establish and not regulated by the Commission.

To combat pirate radio, I am suggesting that we replicate a concept contained in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Specifically, section 7(g) authorizes an Internet Service Provider to “bring a civil action in any district of the United States with jurisdiction” against (1) false or misleading header information; (2) aggravated violations relating to commercial electronic mail; (3) failure to place warning labels on commercial electronic mail containing sexually oriented materials; or (4) a pattern or practice involving deceptive subject headings, failure to include return address, or continuing to transmit after a recipient objection.[1] This provision provides a mechanism for ISPs to enjoin further violations and recover actual and aggravated damages and attorney fees. In other words, it authorizes ISPs to seek out the bad actors for a host of illegal activity and recoup their losses. The framework serves as a good model to provide additional options – outside of the FCC process – for eliminating and deterring pirate radio.

There is no doubt that pirate radio stations are often highly mobile, making tracking and finding such stations tedious and sometimes futile. But with the right technology to pinpoint signal strength and a little luck, the origination point of the pirate radio broadcast can be located, often leading to some back office or mobile van. In fact, broadcasters have told me of instances where they were able to accurately detect and locate pirate radio stations, meaning it can be done. And locating mobile pirate operators, while difficult, is no more so than trying to locate the purveyors of unwanted spam who can be stationed anywhere in the world with Internet access and a server. If it can help in the case of spam, or even if it acts as a further deterrent, why not give it a try here? Who do you think would cause more concern to a pirate station: the busy FCC or a broadcaster seeking to protect its station’s rights and revenues?

In all fairness, the CAN-SPAM’s private right of action for ISPs hasn’t been used all that often and hasn’t magically eliminated spam. No one who worked on the law ever expected it to do so. Instead, the private right of action was meant to be one more tool in the toolbox. In practice, the provision has been used by a select number of companies determined to be ISPs by the courts, including Yahoo!, Facebook, and My Space. Facebook has been of the more frequent users of the provision, using it to obtain judgments in no fewer than three cases leading to statutory damages and injunctive relief.

On a side note, pirate radio has been mentioned recently in conjunction with the Commission’s proposal to reorganize and close certain FCC field offices. To be clear, I am not taking a stance on that matter at this time, and my proposal should not be seen in any way related. Few details have been made available to me regarding the field offices, and I was not a party to the plan’s development. The field office discussion should remain completely separate because the problem with pirate radio and lack of attention exists today under the current enforcement structure. Whether altering the field offices would further denigrate our enforcement efforts against pirate radio is a debate for another time.

Private enforcement of spectrum license rights in court should remain limited in any event. I am in no way suggesting that the Commission transfer its spectrum enforcement authority to the court system, and any private right here would be in addition to, not supplanting, the Commission’s responsibilities, nor undermining any common law rights of broadcasters. And to allow for some private action in this specific case should not be interpreted as my support for more lawsuits and certainly not more class-action suits. As in the case of spam, I would not recommend allowing consumers (e.g., a station’s listeners) to file lawsuits. But if we can narrowly permit a limited and targeted private right of action here to be used only by broadcasters, it could provide a valuable tool to tackle a persistent problem in some radio markets. To the extent that this idea garners consideration, it may require a change in current law, which is solely within the purview of Congress. At such a point, I would leave the discussion in the capable hands of our elected representatives.

Though I know commissioner O’Rielly is mostly focusing on local FM and AM pirates, I can say that I’ve never heard shortwave pirates interfere with commercial stations; they occupy rather unoccupied parts of the bands.

Click here to view this post on the FCC Blog.

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