Riley Hollingsworth at the ARRL SW Division Convention

(Part 1)


(Ed. Note: An ARRL convention will usually draw a good crowd and some very interesting forums with excellent speakers. The ARRL SW Division convention was no exception. At the FCC forum, Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, the legal advisor for FCC enforcement gave an outstanding presentation on Amateur Radio enforcement.

This originally appeared in Worldradio.


"Ladies and Gentlemen, I appreciate being given the opportunity to be here today.

This Amateur Radio service is serious business. I think that Steve Mendelsohn of the League has made the best analogy of the Amateur Radio service, saying that the frequencies allocated to the Amateur Radio service are really the Central Park of the radio spectrum. And when you think about it, nobody in their right mind would advocate leveling Central Park and putting up office buildings, apartment buildings, condominiums, fast food restaurants or parking lots. But that’s only to the extent that Central Park serves its purpose as a park. As long as Central Park can reasonably be used and reasonably be said to be a park, then it’s safe”.


"And there’s an analogy similar to that for Amateur Radio. We’re sitting on an incredible allocation of radio frequencies, and it used to be said that they had no other use, and it used to be said that we would never auction off Amateur Radio frequencies. I was at the Shoreham (Hotel) in Washington, DC, a few years ago when they had the first broadband auction. In the war room there, they had computers set up where they could speculate on the first bids and decide what the next incremental bid would be, how long to run the auction and so on. They had the foremost authorities on auctions in that room.


“They unanimously agreed that the first bid would come in at around two million dollars. The first bid for broadband PCS came in at twenty million dollars, and on that day, the radio world changed”.


"We can’t take anything we have for granted anymore. That’s not to say it’s in danger — we just have to be aware of the Central Park analogy.
You see these cellular towers going up. You go through a neighborhood that you haven’t been to in a while, and you see the monopole or cellular tower go up with all the high tech communications, and you know and I know that when a natural disaster hits, they’re the first ones to go down. And the few that are remaining are jammed and you can’t get access. The people who are going to be taking care of the real communications are sitting right here in this room. It’s the Amateur Radio service. And in the first few days, or the first few hours of these multi-jurisdictional incidents, it’s the amateurs who keep things going. In the public safety spectrum, frequencies are on discreet channels. When a multi-jurisdictional disaster strikes, they can’t talk to each other. Anybody in public safety who has been involved in one of these disasters will tell you that in the first few hours or the first day or two, it’s nothing but mass chaos and they depend on the Amateur Radio service to get things straightened out until the dust settles”.


"We had some trepidation about the monitoring all during hurricane Floyd and we were very concerned in the Tampa area. There was a big newspaper chain that had a reporter with headphones on listening to the hurricane emergency net. That made us nervous. The last thing we wanted was some bad publicity for the Amateur Radio service anywhere. We should be very proud of the way the Amateur Radio service handled the hurricane Floyd communications that week. There were virtually no problems. There was one inadvertent problem that the HF/DF station in Laurel, Maryland took care of very fast. To me, that is a good sign for Amateur Radio and the direction we’re going”.


"The reason we got back into enforcement about a year ago is really pretty simple. The League sent a letter to the commission complaining about the Tony Barben case and the way the case was not being handled. The letter was a very well-written letter, but critical about the Tony Barben case. Tony Barben had been on a 15-month suspension, and there was more than ample evidence that he was on the air, and interfering with amateur communications, once again. But nobody would respond to the evidence. The letter came in at the time when we had a new chairman who was very interested in enforcement and very embarrassed at the lack of enforcement for the last ten years and determined to have an enforcement program with the same respect as the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. It also went to a bureau chief, Richard Lee, an ex-Marine. Now if that isn’t divine intervention, I don’t know what is. You should have been there the week that letter arrived. Rich could not stand to know that he had one flank uncovered, and that was the flank of the three-quarters of a million amateur licensees who felt like they were getting no enforcement attention. Being an ex-Marine, Rich likes maps and pins in maps, and he wanted action — preferably that day on all fronts, or at least as many as possible”.


"To give a summary of what we’ve done in the last ten months since the first letter went out. In this period we’ve canceled or called in nineteen licensees for re-testing. We discovered that in an analysis of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, no one had ever been called in for a re-test. It’s right there in the rules. If you took the exam from a volunteer examiner, you can be called in for a re-test. They had never done that. We called in nineteen and the alarming fact is, statistically, there’s a sixty five per cent failure or no-show rate. We’ve downgraded three because they couldn’t pass the test for the class of license they held. There’s twenty outstanding re-test orders now with test dates coming due in October and November”.


"People ask me all the time, what can lead to a re-test? You don’t have to be concerned that a re-test order will pop up in your mail, unless we are doing a general audit. Sometimes we audit an examination session. But I can tell you the number one thing that will lead to a re-test — bragging on 20 Meters that you bought your test in New York City. That’s a dead ringer for a recall order. So far, three people have done that, and they didn’t even show up for the exam. We think we’re hitting home with some of these re-tests”.


"We’ve issued about ten modifications under section 316. These aren’t suspension or revocation proceedings — they’re modification proceedings to prohibit operation on some frequencies or frequency bands. We’ve found this to be very effective. The field has issued ten forfeitures. One recently for $20,000. It wasn’t to an amateur, but it was someone who was deliberately harassing and interfering with amateur repeaters”.


"The best way to keep up with what we do is the five news sources. They’re very important, and you should keep up with them to track what we’re doing with Amateur Radio every week. One is Hap Holly’s ‘Radio Amateur Information Network’ on the Internet, the League web site and especially the enforcement log and the ARRL Letter. These are updated weekly, and we talk to all of these organizations two or three times a week to keep them updated. CQ VHF magazine is very clear on their coverage as well as Worldradio, and Newsline by Bill Pasternak gives an up-to-the-minute report on all of this on the internet and telephone service.


"Getting back to what we’ve been doing. We’ve issued about 90 warning letters. We’ve found that in almost 80% of the cases, the problem is solved when a warning letter is issued. We use warning letters in cases where we don’t have quite enough evidence or the situation isn’t severe enough to start a forfeiture or revocation proceeding”.


"In a lot of these cases, we found that amateurs were engaged in malicious interference and jamming because we weren’t there for 10 years. And let’s face it — the Commission was missing in action for those 10 years. A lot of people out there are long-time licensees and they were going to save the Amateur Radio service if we weren’t going to. They weren’t going to let the jammers prevail, so we couldn’t see moving in and making a broad sweep of revocation proceedings and taking a lot of licenses from people who, in their mind, were out there saving the band because we weren’t”.


"We’ve canceled over 50 fictitious club call signs and we have inquiries out concerning 100 more. Lots of these are club callsign scams to obtain highly sought-after vanity callsigns.

"People ask us sometimes about why we are spending tax dollars on club callsigns. There are two reasons. One is that it costs money to program a club call sign by a real, live computer operator in Gettysburg. And secondly, if we don’t pay attention to that rule, then it waters down people’s attitudes towards the other rules, and they wonder which rules the Commission is serious about. So if we’re going to have a rule, we’re going to take it seriously. It degrades the whole service to tolerate abuse in one area — whether it’s callsigns or some other area some people may consider minor”.


"Updates on some of the actions over the last year — Glen Baxter, K1MAN, of Belgrade Lakes, Maine is off the air. The case continues because we tried to inspect his station in May during the Dayton Hamvention. His station was broadcasting, but without a control operator. WB2OTK out of Easly, South Carolina has had his license canceled; John Abernethy, K4OKA, in North Carolina is under a six-month suspension. We issued several warnings to nets. There are several other nets under scrutiny for monopolizing or attempting to monopolize certain frequencies. We’ve dismissed half a dozen applications due to examination discrepancies and we have about six sessions under scrutiny now. About 15 VEs have been disqualified”.






"I mention these names, Glen Baxter, John Abernethy and Rich Whitten because when we polled the first three or four hundred messages that we got complaining about the Amateur Radio service and getting information to us since last October about what needs to be done. We found that 70-80% of the problems were related to a half-dozen to dozen situations in the country.


And we realized then that the Amateur Radio service was far from hopeless. It would have been a different picture if the complaints had been across the board complaining about everything you could imagine going on the amateur bands. Then it would have looked like too expensive a problem from a staff and resource problem to attack it. But it seemed that within certain areas of the country, and on certain frequencies, is where the problems were concentrated”.


"After reading through these complaints which number about two or three thousand letters and e-mails, there’s no doubt in my mind that RF radiation does cause brain damage — but only on two frequencies. I think in 10 years it will be well-established that RF radiation does in fact cause brain damage, but only on 3.950 and 14.313 MHz. I’m sure that’s what they’re going to find out”.


"Finally, the K7IJ system remains under operating restrictions, but I must say that the licensee and control operator are doing a good job trying to run that. The difficulty in working a repeater case like that is you just can’t tell the repeater operator that if you have certain kinds of violations, you have to shut it down. That would just open the door to people who want to get that repeater shut down to come on the air and do just that. If they have the mindset that they want that repeater shut down, they’ll make sure those violations occur. That defeats the purpose. It’s a complicated process to work your way through a repeater case. Those guys are doing a good job, and I think we’ll see some improvements there”.


"I want to say that you may hear that the amateur frequencies are totally safe, that nobody would ever want them. I can’t emphasize enough — don’t listen to experts who say this. That really scares me — when I hear the complacency that only the amateurs would want those frequencies. I’d like to read some ‘expert’ quotes that I’ve saved over the years. When you hear ‘experts’ say something about amateurs, don’t believe them. One quote is, ‘I think there’s a world market for about half a dozen computers’ said by IBM chairman Watson in 1943. ‘There’s no reason for anyone to have or even want a computer in their house’ said the president of Digital Equipment Corporation in 1977. ‘Video won’t be able to hold onto any market that it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring into a plywood box’, said Daryl Zanuck of Twentieth Century Fox studios in 1946. And these ‘experts’ aren’t clustered in private industry. This is a quote from a government ‘expert’ in 1895. It’s a memo from the head of the Patent Office to President Grover Cleveland. This probably came as a result of a request for budget cuts. A couple of years ago, we would get calls from the budget management office to say, ‘Hey, see if you can find a way to save two million dollars over the next fiscal year, and have the plan by close of business tomorrow.’ In the first place, if I could think of it that fast, and hadn’t already thought of it, I should be relieved. When you do something like that, it always has a domino effect. If you think of something like that real fast and send it in, usually you have wrecked some other system you haven’t thought about. My theory is the chief of the Patent Office got a request like that and in his memo to President Cleveland in 1895 said, ‘All important machines and devices that need to be invented have now been invented. The Patent Office is an unnecessary drain on the federal budget and should be closed’ ”.


Continued next month








By Pete, N2PYV





The meeting was called to order by Gordon at 5:35 p.m.

All present introduced themselves.




Finances continue to be in good shape.



Gordon, KB2UB

The rumors that the Hauppaugue Repeater Tower would be taken down have not materialized. The Bethpage Repeater still has the “crackles”. We will replace the antenna to see if that improves the situation. Access to the antenna is a problem because an escort is required to go on the roof. This limits troubleshooting time to about a half hour. We may have to go to a two antenna configuration.



Zack, WB2PUE

The Sunday 40-Meter Net was good. It is reported that one of the faithful members, Emmet, WD4GOL, is now in an assisted living facility. The Thursday Evening 2-Meter Net had the usual check-ins.



Bob, W2ILP

Bob was not able to make the VE session, but there were five applicants and four VE’s present. One applicant became a new Technician, three upgraded to general and one passed the



written exam for General, but needs to pass the code test to upgrade.



Bob, W2FPF

Bob received confirmation of two CW contacts.



Gordon, KB2UB

We will have to find a different place to meet in April. Jack, WA2PYK, will check on the availability of the Bethpage Library.




Gordon, KB2UB

Gordon reported that on January 1, 2008, all federal VHF users will have to go to narrow band FM. The Marine VHF Band will not change.

It was discussed that the FCC has promulgated a Notice of Intended Rule Making concerning BPL. We will have to wait to see how this goes.

There were further discussions about the problems with the Bethpage Repeater.

Jack, WA2PYK, mentioned that this is our 60th Anniversary Year and maybe we should consider something special.