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King Wants To Sell Out Ham Radio 309

An anonymous reader writes "Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has introduced HR 607, the 'Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011,' which has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which handles telecommunications legislation). The bill would create a nationwide Public Safety broadband network using the so-called 'D-Block' of spectrum in the 700 MHz range for Public Safety use. But to pay for it, he wants to sell off 420-440 MHz, currently heavily used by the military, satellites and Amateur Radio operators."
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King Wants To Sell Out Ham Radio

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  • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:48PM (#35446322) Journal

    Peter King has struck me as one of those guys who can rationalize away everything he does. Sure, to some people, it would seem like creating a Public Safety network by hobbling the military's usage of the 420-440 MHz block would seem highly inconsistent, but not so for Peter King. Same thing with his current hearings on the how American Muslims are becoming radicalized. Some people would think that it would be highly hypocritical of him to open public hearings on radicalism in Islam considering that for decades, he was a supporter and backer of the Irish Republican Army, a terrorist organization that killed 3500 people in 3 decades and were involved with Libyan terrorists funded by the Gaddafi regime. But nope, Peter King sees no hypocrisy at work.

    What an awful person.

  • by Caerdwyn ( 829058 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:53PM (#35446420) Journal

    PAVE-PAWS [] uses 435Mhz. In fact, there are regulations regarding ham use, power output, and directionality of transmissions in that frequency range by ham radio operators within 150 miles of those installations.

    No. They will not auction that off. Peter King will sit down and STFU.

  • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:55PM (#35446462) Homepage

    The point is - removing spectrum from them is a bad idea.

    Basically - in emergencies, the ham bands already DO get used for emergency purposes. It's on a volunteer basis, but it's almost unheard of for non-emergency hams to fail to vacate a frequency in favor of emergency users.

    If you take 70cm away from hams, the end result will likely be:
    You gain the band for emergency use (wait, you already effectively had it!)
    You lose a lot of frustrated hams - so not only do you effectively lose the other ham bands, you lose a bunch of trained radio operators with emergency experience (or at least emergency training)

  • by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:56PM (#35446478)

    Dot Dot Dot, Dot, Dash Dot, Dash Dot Dot - Dot Dash Dash Dot, Dash Dash Dash, Dot Dash Dot, Dash Dot

    "Send porn"? You'd probably have to do that via SSTV, not CW.

    Side note: if you're sending code phonetically it's di-di-dit dit da-dit da-di-dit ... di-da-da-dit da-da-dah di-da-dit da-dit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:57PM (#35446490)

    I'm 26. I'm not old. Like any hobby there is a mix of old folks and young folks. Sadly us young folks are never heard about because we don't care about the politics and swap meets like the old timers do. We're also busy getting laid and whatnot, too.

    To make matters worse, the part of the spectrum that jerk-ass is wanting to sell actually doesn't affect hams too much. 420 to 440 is used for TV and satellite downlinks in the amateur community, and is not used for repeaters or simplex operations. Repeaters and simplex are up between 440 and 450MHz. Us youngin's don't care about ATV whatsoever, and no matter who sells what the satellites will still keep transmitting on 438MHz like they always have.

    While we don't care, we SHOULD care. If we let them sell this band off, they will think they can get away with selling, say, 2 meters. If we don't speak up and stop this now, there will be nothing to stop them from trying to sell off more and more of the spectrum, all for a few shiny pennies.

    KD4PYR has a script that will generate a letter that you should print and send to your representative. It is located at

    I don't know how effective it would be, but, that is the process that we're supposed to go through to tell our representatives that we DO NOT WANT what they are doing. So, tell them.

  • Re:But will we? (Score:4, Informative)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:01PM (#35446532) Journal

    Here's an example: []

    You could, y'know, use a fucking search engine and answer the question yourself, but then you wouldn't get a chance to be a belittling piece of shit on /.

  • Re:But will we? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:01PM (#35446538)

    I hear this a lot, that Ham radio is useful in disasters, but can anyone give some examples?

    I live in an area that's prone to flooding, this year especially. Every year, local hams provide the communications and logistics for sandbagging operations. A few years ago, there was also a chemical spill and some guys I know ended up acting as go-betweens for the police and fire department as well. They were put on the radio because of their experience.

    On another note, a lot of hams are involved in storm spotting. Granted, there's not a lot they can do other than report but sometimes it does give people enough warning to get out of the way of a tornado.

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:06PM (#35446592) Homepage Journal
    It's not dying out any longer. We're heading toward having 700,000 U.S. hams due to the final elimination of the code test (you're welcome) and the fact that it's technically getting more fun due to software radio, etc. That's more than we've had in a very long time.
  • Re:But will we? (Score:5, Informative)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:10PM (#35446650) Journal

    I was in a natural disaster a while ago where pretty much all communications went down (power was out, phone poles knocked down, taking out Internet connections and landlines, cell towers offline or overloaded) except radio stations and HAM. The HAM guys relayed their message to a HAM operator at the radio station who would broadcast requests for help.

  • by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:15PM (#35446714) Journal

    All amateur radio operators reading about this should be incensed. This is a major grab of our bands for public safety and they already have a very generous portion of the radio spectrum and don't need to steal ours. They already have 450-470 as public service bands and these are only used for that in major metro areas along with 700-800 MHz.

    In 90% of the country public safety uses VHF high and low bands (150 and 30 Mhz, respectively) and that is adequate for their needs. The same is true for amateur radio with the exception of 700-800 MHz, where VHF is primarily used throughout the country and 440 MHz is mostly used in areas of higher urban/suburban density. In these areas, the 2 meter bands are saturated with large, old repeaters and the 440 MHz band is the most vital and dynamic band around, it's where the more technically savvy types tend to hang out, whereas the older systems on 2 meters are usually older folks talking about what they are dying of. Due to saturation of 2 meter repeaters there is no opportunity for growth or change there, if someone wants to put up a new system then 440 MHz band may be their only choice. Also, most of the dinosaur 2 meter machines are multi-receive site networks, and the remote receivers are linked in the 420-430 MHz band. The other service that would be mostly impacted is Amateur Television (ATV) which is mostly in the 420-430 MHz band, that would be completely eliminated.

    There is a nice website set up that will automatically generate a letter of objection, tailored to your local state representative automatically. It's nice and easy you just enter your callsign and it looks it up and generates an auto-addressed letter ready to print and sign. The link is here []. Calling all hams! This is really important, please do it today!!

  • Re:But will we? (Score:5, Informative)

    by michaelwigle ( 822387 ) <> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:16PM (#35446728) Homepage
    Not necessarily. See this Wiki article for some recent examples []. The main thing is that even in the U.S. it's possible to lose cell phone and land line communications over large swaths of territory quickly depending on the emergency. Amateur radio operators have groups who intentionally train to step up with equipment and their own expertise to fill the communication void that can be created when the main forms of communication go down. You can also check out ARES at [] for more information. Emergency trained ham operators also often have training in severe weather spotting (tornado, etc) and basic first aid training. Those interested often participate in training on how to coordinate large amounts of communication and large numbers of different groups effectively with the ability to pass priority information faster than updates. All in all, when things are rough, these folks quickly and quietly step up, help get the job done, and then go back to their own (not their parents' :P) basement.
  • by coldfarnorth ( 799174 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:25PM (#35446830)

    Two quick points:

    1) They're everywhere. There are over 600,000 licensed amateur radio operators in the US. If you live in the US, odds are, a ham lives or works less than half a mile from you.
    2) A quick example of what they can do:
        a) talk to people in the ISS
        b) access email from nearly anywhere on the planet (no cell coverage? no problem!)
        c) move information into and out of countries where infrastructure is not available or does not exist (Libya)
        d) provide communications networks for very large events (marathons, etc)
        e) tell emergency services to dig you out of your (mother's) hurricane-flattened house. (Ask the folks in New Orleans)

    Hams are frequently very active in the public safety sphere. Don't mess with them.

  • Re:No I won't (Score:4, Informative)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:28PM (#35446866)

    Screw your "Red Dawn" scenario roleplay bullshit, I have REAL emergencies to attend to, where people REALLY die when things fuck up.

    I thought that was why hams worked with the Red Cross for non-emergecny health and welfare communications. The EMS guys are busy looking for bodies to save and don't really care if Aunt Betty wants to tell her family that she's in a shelter and is ok. Even digital trunking radios have capacity limitations, so wouldn't you rather have non-essential communications going out over a separate radio network?

    The hams know much more about signal propagation and antenna design than any EMS worker ever needs to know. If the earthquake takes out your repeater tower, you're going to be begging the hams to get communication out over HF since your nice digital trunking handheld wont reach around the corner without the repeater.

  • ARRL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shadyman ( 939863 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:49PM (#35447108) Homepage
    The ARRL has a page set up against HR-607 [] as well as sample letters []. Apparently, if you send them to Chwat & Co (info on previous link(s)), they will hand-deliver it to Congressional office.
  • Follow the money... (Score:4, Informative)

    by thestudio_bob ( 894258 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:54PM (#35447168)
    As always, the real question is what industry is lobbying King to get this spectrum. Telecom? It's a dick move, but you gotta know someone is paying good money to get this done.
  • by avgjoe62 ( 558860 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:57PM (#35447206)

    I think you mis-read that bill a little. Apparently, Rep. King wants to set aside spectrum in the 700 MHz range for Public Service emergency use. To make up for the loss of income from auctioning that spectrum, the spectrum in use by HAMs in the 400 MHz range would be auctioned off to commercial interests. So, we set aside some spectrum for first responders, but then sell spectrum already allocated to HAMs for commercial use. We are not taking the spectrum used by HAMs and giving that to the first responders - we are giving it instead to commercial interests.

    Somehow, I smell a campaign contribution in all of this...

  • Um, no. (Score:4, Informative)

    by dtmos ( 447842 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:00PM (#35447238)

    No, we don't. For broadcast, we rely on existing commercial broadcast stations, which is why they test the Emergency Alert System [] from time to time.

    The problem H.R.607 is attempting to address is the fact that police, firemen, and first responders of all stripes don't have a common way to communicate; their frequencies are spread throughout the spectrum. The attempt is to establish the so-called "D Block", 758-763 and 788-793 MHz, as a unified, interoperable public safety band to fix this (among other repairs). The part to which people object is Sec. 207(d)(1) [], which reads,

    AUCTION- Not later than 10 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the paired electromagnetic spectrum bands of 420-440 megahertz and 450-470 megahertz recovered as a result of the report and order required under subsection (c) shall be auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission through a system of competitive bidding meeting the requirements of section 309 of the Communications Act of 1934.

    In other words, the bill proposes to fund the transition by selling off this spectrum; the people who have been using this spectrum (since shortly after World War II, I might add) are, quite reasonably, upset.

  • Re:No I won't (Score:5, Informative)

    by green1 ( 322787 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:26PM (#35447490)

    I am a "real professional" I work on an ambulance, I have an extensive background in search and rescue, and I'm a ham radio operator.

    I have amazed the military, the local police forces, and the head of disaster services for our province with what I can do on ham radio, things they can't do on their multi-million dollar comm systems when they're working properly. In a disaster, when all the repeaters that are required for the fancy digital radios stop working, emergency services always come back to the hams.

    Your truck is a good first step in emergency preparedness, but there's never a guarantee it will work as planned, or that it can get to where you need it, or that you won't need it in more than one location at the same time. One mobile repeater won't cover the site of a large scale disaster, and outside responding agencies may not even be able to use it.

    The only "holier-than-thou I-know-everything" types are the ones who think they are infaliable and could never require any outside assistance. If you are truly involved in emergency services I suggest you go back to your most basic introductory class where they discuss knowing your limitations, operating within them, and not being afraid to call for help when you actually need it. This is part of every single course I have ever seen for every emergency service qualification, it's tragic that many people forget it, because it's simple stuff like that that costs lives, sometimes the victims, and often the responders.

  • by leighklotz ( 192300 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:46PM (#35447680) Homepage

    Although 70 cm isn't one of the major ham bands

    It's quite heavily used. It's the most heavily used UHF ham band.
    For example, take a look at this list of hand-held radios for sale by one vendor; 2/3 of them work on 70cm. []

  • by Tetsujin ( 103070 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @07:02PM (#35448394) Homepage Journal

    Okay, honest question - I don't know much about Ham radio. But the article says they're selling rights to a particular spectrum - but is this the only part of the spectrum available for amateur operators?

    I swear I'm not trolling, or trying to minimize the impact. I understand it might require changing broadcast gear, etc., but this wouldn't seem to be an existential threat to ham operators, merely a hassle because you have to move to new frequencies. Or is there something intrinsically better about the specific frequencies in question (420-440 MhZ) which makes them particularly well-suited to amateur radio broadcasts, to the point that hams couldn't operate elsewhere?

    A couple issues.

    First off, if you're a ham and you've invested in gear for a particular band, and that band gets sold off... Guess what? Your gear's now nearly worthless. "Moving to new frequencies" means "buying new gear", unless you have gear that already supports that band. And there's nothing in this deal about a new chunk of spectrum being allocated to hams to replace 440.

    Second, yes, it's just one chunk of spectrum. But the problem is this isn't the only thing something like this has happened. If chunks of amateur spectrum continue to be taken away, at some point there will be nothing left.

    Third: different wavelengths have different benefits. I don't remember all the details but I know the longer wavelengths (10 meters, etc.) allow you do do things like atmospheric propagation to get a signal to the other side of the world. Shorter wavelengths (and, hence, higher frequencies) IIRC deal better with local obstacles, and you can get more data through a signal (more bandwidth)

  • Re:But will we? (Score:4, Informative)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @08:43PM (#35449044)

    "Think of hams as radio hackers. Some are heroes, others are hobbyiests, some are both."

    They were the first large group of "geeks". Long before PCs existed, the ARRL was active and strong. []

  • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @11:27PM (#35449836)

    ...the spectrum in use by HAMs in the 400 MHz range would be athe spectrum in use by HAMs in the 400 MHz range would be auctioned off to commercial interests

    Every time the government takes away more bandwidth and spectrum coverage from the Amateur Radio Service, it puts everyone in the USA in greater danger of dying in a disaster as it impedes the ability to provide essential life-saving disaster/emergency communications when other communication systems and infrastructure fail..

    Any time there's a disaster or emergency where all other communications infrastructure is down, Hams are there providing essential outside communications links to state and national resources outside of the disaster area as well as providing/assisting with local rescue communications & coordination.

    All the groundwork and integration into local, state, national, and worldwide emergency/disaster response and relief infrastructure has been done. Officials in charge when emergencies or disasters occur already have plans in place coordinating with amateur radio clubs in nearly every county and state in the USA as well as significant numbers across many nations (most nations??-too lazy to search) worldwide.

    Disaster and emergency response departments and officials across the US and in many other countries along with amateur radio operators rehearse emergency response, planning, coordination, and effectiveness every year with an event called "Field Day". []

    This is one thing that *works* in our dysfunctional society, works very well, and has been working for many decades. Best of all, it does it better than anything else that's been tried while having the virtue of having the parts of the system that would cost the government the most provided by civilian volunteers.

    Selling off *entire bands* assigned to amateur radio to finance some politician's, special-interest's, or political party's boondoggle is akin to the late paratrooper-trainee that decided to sell parts from his emergency chute to get a tattoo that read "Always Prepared".

    I always thought the goal here was NOT to win the "Darwin Award"?

    The even-scarier part is that the erosion of bandwidth and frequency ranges available to amateur radio has been going on for decades and has only accelerated.

    Technology advances have made up for a lot, but the reductions in available bandwidth and spectrum coverage impact the ability to perform the emergency and disaster duties we depend on them to provide when things go really bad.


Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson