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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 elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:43PM (#35446240)

    Laugh at the old Ham guys all you want. When a real disaster hits and the infrastructure goes down, I bet you'll be going to them and asking for their help.

  • by phyrestang ( 638793 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:44PM (#35446262) Homepage
    If they are using it so heavily, surely they won't give it up easily, no?
  • by trainman ( 6872 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:48PM (#35446326) Homepage

    Well that could be fun considering a lot of the HAM radio spectrum blocks are internationally recognized and used. Go ahead, sell it off, give it to someone else to use, I'm just north of your border, and my government hasn't proposed selling off that spectrum (yet). So I'm sure the private purchases of that spectrum will just LOVE when we all continue to key up on those bands (or the satellites already in orbit continue to transmit in to your borders on those frequencies).

    Someone needs to inform this congressman of the realities of how spectrum allocation works.

  • Re:Useless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BoberFett ( 127537 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:52PM (#35446386)

    The government itself may not come out ahead on a deal like that, but I'd imagine there's a very good chance that King himself or one of his good friends would.

  • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary.yahoo@com> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:54PM (#35446432) Journal

    King claims the IRA never killed an American. As if that should make a difference, but it isn't even true, the IRA has killed Americans.

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:59PM (#35446512) Homepage

    I'm a ham operator, although I haven't been active on the air for a long time, so my information may be out of date. This doesn't seem like a huge crisis to me. Hams currently have 2 meters and 70 cm. This proposal would take away most of 70 cm, but there would still be a lot of bandwidth left in there. Considering that the hobby is basically dying out, I'm not sure it would be totally rational to keep allocating the same amount of spectrum to hams indefinitely. Is there any evidence that in a hurricane or earthquake, the remaining 10 MHz of bandwidth would be inadequate for emergency communications?

  • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:59PM (#35446518) Journal

    Peter King supported, financially and politically, people who murdered and maimed women and children. He has no moral high ground.

  • by Valen0 ( 325388 ) <michael@noSPam.elvenstar.tv> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:00PM (#35446528)

    I certainly hope that his current anti-Islamic hate campaign [wikipedia.org] ends very badly for him [wikipedia.org].

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

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:02PM (#35446544)

    You ask a lot of questions.

    We'll pick Katrina for an example. ARRL members swung into action and delivered the only real communications after phone went down and sat dishes were blown into surrounding counties. But this is a big example, smaller ones are equally as important when a tornado or hurricane just dropped by.

    It's a hobby, and hams take things seriously with battery packs, survival gear, links into local emergency services, and knowledge of what works, what doesn't, and why.

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

  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:14PM (#35446700) Journal

    We're also busy getting laid


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

    by snspdaarf ( 1314399 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:38PM (#35446974)
    Well, I can't give you names or refer you to news stories, but I have talked to people that were relaying messages in and out of the gulf coast areas hit by Katrina. It was mostly names, phone numbers and "I'm alive" messages to someone far enough out where the phones were working, but it was important to the people directly affected.

    Also, how many police, fire, red cross people have the capability to put their radio net back together after something like that? The HAM guys can help coordinate action. I have seen antennas made from barbed wire, top rail of chain link fence, all kinds of crazy things, so one guy in his car could function as the control point for a net of people with hand held radios.

    Most of the time, they are not on the news, because they are the people working to make things better, and not the people needing help. If you are not injured, grieving, or complaining about something, you are not of interest to the news media.
  • Re:But will we? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:03PM (#35447272) Journal

    Of course, once you put all the responders onto an encrypted channels in the 700MHz range, amateur radio will no longer be able to help

    I'm not a HAM enthusiast, but I know my fair share, and rest assured that availability of long-range communications is ALWAYS helpful.

    Even if everyone in all emergency services has the same band of 700mhz radios and can talk to each other (unlikely, since they'll all be from different lowest-bidder manufacturers), it's often impractical due to the sheer volume of personnel. Having people who know how to communicate quickly and efficiently is important. Having people at the disaster site where shit's going down is important. Having people who can maintain equipment in addition to using it is important.

    Keep a couple of HAM sets and someone who has a clue about them at your emergency center, and you can get field reports from places your officers can't go. You can talk to each other if and when your official encrypted channels are overloaded. You can get messages out to not only other departments, but other continents. You can coordinate with the general populace (at least to some extent) because just about everyone's got someone less than a mile away who has a HAM radio.

    Plus, you've got some people who can build and maintain their own radios. Not many first-responder personnel are going to be very useful if they drop their radio into a puddle, but more than a few advanced HAMsters can probably rig something up with baling twine and bubblegum to keep the lines open to some extent (exaggeration, of course, but they've probably got enough spare parts to whip you up an extra radio, or keep a half dozen radios running).

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

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:18PM (#35447400)

    Take it to the scene? Are you talking about a car-wreck or a natural disaster? A large earthquake could have a 200 square mile "scene", and may involve emergency personnel from across the country, each with their own disparate radio system that doesn't interoperate with the local agencies. Even in my local area there are a number of non-interoperable EMS radio systems, complicating disaster communications.

    How do I know this? Local ARES meetings where the hams meet with local agencies to help define and coordinate their roles. Many of the members work for EMS services as EMT's, firemen, dispatches, etc. It seems that emergency service providers in my area don't reject volunteer disaster communications help - perhaps the thought of hundreds of thousands of people without power and fresh water (many of them suddenly homeless with no where to go) makes EMS providers think that just because their firetrucks can talk to each other, there might be other disaster communication needs. Only 30% of my department's firefighters even live in my city, so there won't be much immediate help to supplement on-duty firefighters, there may be less than 600 firefighters on-hand to support 700,000 citizens (and another few hundred thousand commuter workers trapped in the city).

    Rather than badmouthing those that try to help, why not put them to work - organize meetings and find ways that they can help cover gaps in your communication. If power is out, cell towers are down, how will someone in a remote area let you know he needs help? If you think hams get in your way in a disaster, wait until disaster victims crowd your fire station trying to get health and welfare information for them and their family members.

    Even my NERT [sf-fire.org] training talked about the role that hams can play in a large disaster. EMS can't be everywhere, and when normal communication channels are down, the average citizen needs some way to contact EMS when there's a problem. (though my city is unique in that there are still old-fashioned fire department call boxes on many street corners)

  • Re:No I won't (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:20PM (#35447424)

    I've never met a real "professional in emergency services" who is so angry at people volunteering help - but I guess there's always one. I guess you've never been involved in a large scale disaster, particularly not outside the US. I'm sure you don't need a ham helping you out at a car crash a mile from the city centre, and anyone too eager to help can be asked nicely to move on and leave space. But for large scale disasters in the US, where multiple records and official acknowledgement of ham assistance exists, what do you say?

    Now, imagine you were to move outside your comfortable city centre and decide to start practicing the middle of nowhere. You find your equipment has developed a fault. No, worse - your wonderful van of blach box tech is neck-deep in water. Who exactly are you going to turn to?

    I think you're probably in your early to mid 20s. You have no notion of the spirit of US independence and self-sufficiency which built the nation. You're probably scared of the notion that people try to look after themselves and support their own community. You lean on big, centralised, uniform and very young structures. You long for freedom to be taken away because you hate that others might enjoy what you couldn't handle anyway.

    Oh - it goes without saying that I'm a ham. And a physician of 15 years. Both these talents have enabled me to save lives. Catch up, boy.

  • Re:But will we? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bstender ( 1279452 ) <mail...slashdot. ... @spamgourmet.com> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:35PM (#35447558)
    Ham radios are like guns. Authoritarians don't really like regular people having them. So it's a good idea to have them even if you don't see any reason at this exact moment.
  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:41PM (#35447622) Journal

    Read between the lines friend, they aren't using the Ham frequencies for emergency responders they are selling it to commercial interests which means this little congress piggy went "How much money will you give me? really? Yes boss, we'll sell you that frequency and fuck them Ham guys!"

    Sadly when just about anything gets brought before congress it was written by the lobbyist who paid senator/congressman piggy off. Hell these scumbags would sell the gold fillings out of their mama's teeth if the price was right! So I'm sorry Ham guys, but unless you can cut a better check than whatever corporate interest just bought congressman Porky you're screwed. Good luck Ham guys, you're gonna need it.

  • Innovation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by linuxpyro ( 680927 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:44PM (#35447660)

    Emergency communication is important, but that's really not the only reason for amateur radio. Access to these bands is a great way for people, both young and old, to be able to experiment with electronics. A lot of innovations in communication have come from hams, frequency modulation is a good example. Many experienced engineers have gotten their start messing with radio gear.

  • by brindafella ( 702231 ) <brindafella&gmail,com> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @06:16PM (#35447992) Homepage
    Just because someone designs a receiver (as a TV is) that is *poorly* designed or built, so that it is affected by "out-of-band" signals (eg Amateur Radio transmissions) does not mean that the Amateur (or owner of another transmitter) is at fault. There are many examples of radio design where there is an assumption that poor / cheap design is countered by the remote possibility of a nearby and legal 'interference'.
  • by Intron ( 870560 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @06:17PM (#35448004)

    Amateur radio operators are very good at staying within their licensed frequencies. What you were seeing and hearing was how cheap TV tuners are. Ginger was bobbing around somewhere in the low TV bands 59 - 88 Mhz, while the Ham was on the closest 6 meter band at 54 MHz. I have a 100 ft tower for an AM radio station less than a mile from my house so I have a trap on the phone line to filter that frequency. You could have done that on your antenna line for a few coconuts.

  • by mr100percent ( 57156 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @07:04PM (#35448426) Homepage Journal

    No, it's an issue because despite the fact that there have been numerous terrorist attacks this year by non-Muslims he's ONLY going to focus on Muslims. Also, he's not letting Muslim organizations or supporters testify despite the fact that he's been saying a lot of stuff about them and that these Muslim organizations have done a lot of anti-terrorist work with the FBI. Actual law enforcement officers aren't allowed to testify either, so he'll never have his theories disproved.

    If Congress were to hold hearings on Wall Street Fraud and Madoff-style scandals, but only focus on Jews, it would also be "hate speech."

  • by Tjp($)pjT ( 266360 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @07:28PM (#35448600)
    Unless this funds replacement of all the licensed users equipment, hams, and police, fire etc. And takes into account treaty restrictions for the use (420-430 MHz is already contentious near the north / Canadian border with some restrictions) this is a non-starter. But the BIG BIG one is Satellite use of the bands. You can't bop over to Radio Shack and get a spare transceiver or transponder for an alternate frequency and send jimmy to the electronics shed to install it. So that is a HUGE expense to replace.

    So sure allocate some of the public interest wireless use spectrum that used to be TV spectrum over to public interest and emergency responders, but taking the 440 band from HAM use and alternate emergency services and satellite use is just wrong and costly. If they do this I want my brand new unused (and all my old) 440 gear replaced as part of the auction requirements. I am sitting on about 8 thousand dollars in just my shack and car (and motorcycle) at the moment. And I'll be upset and it will affect my voting pattern ...
  • by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @07:32PM (#35448636) Journal

    He has no moral high ground.

    And it doesn't speak well of his constituents. What kind of people would vote for this man?

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982