Friday, April 20, 2012

I really have to laugh when I hear folks in various amateur radio forums perennially bitching, moaning and complaining about how our bands are always "too crowded".

Clearly, few of them have actually tuned across the LOWER portions of our HF Bands lately.  If they had (and were honest) I think they'd most likely find GOBS of empty spectrum space down there that was absolutely dead quiet and going begging. 

This leads me to believe that a lot of this so-called "problem" isn't that our bands are "too crowded".  Rather, the REAL problem is that there are too many rules (official and otherwise) that are carving up our bands into smaller and smaller chunks of horrifically over-regulated "turf".

As I and other hams have noted on numerous occasions in the past, there is more than enough spectrum space in our Service to easily accommodate everyone's particular passion.  The problem right now stems from a horrendously outdated, FCC-imposed, license-class-and mode-based band planning scheme that shoehorns US hams into their own little slices of walled-off "turf"…. separate little regulated fiefdoms that are still based largely on operating habits and mode preferences that were popular back in the 1950s and 60s! 

What’s more, because most HF Net Control Operators want to attract a lot of "customers" (particularly on 75 Meters) they tend to congregate their nets in the US General Class license portions of our spectrum.  Indeed, it is in these portions of the bands that most of the boorish behavior seems to be occurring.

However, what seems to perennially get lost in all these "isn't it horrible what we are seeing on our bands lately?" discussions is that such boorish behavior seems to only be happening in comparatively small portions of our bands...such as in the so-called "US General Class" portion of our 75 Meter Phone Band. 

We humans are social animals by nature.  So it really shouldn't come as a surprise that when more and more of us try and jam ourselves into smaller and smaller slices of over-regulated "turf", those attempts are bound to generate verbal "elbowing", catcalls, and boorish behavior as more and more people strive for dominance.  

Indeed, for the last 60+ years, our FCC has built our entire licensing system on anointing a chosen few in our ranks with "exclusive" access to artificially walled-off slices of frequency spectrum.  And now we wonder why we have seemingly endless "turf wars" and boorish, "I'm entitled" snobbery among many of those so anointed who actually bought into all that "I'm the greatest because my FCC license says so" elitism.

By contrast, most of the rest of the world's administrations regulate their Amateur Radio Services simply by emission bandwidth, NOT by license class and operating mode as we do. 

This means that, most everywhere else on the planet, governments have left it up to we hams to decide "how much of what goes where" on our bands.  It's only in the United States that our bands are carved up into smaller and smaller slices of FCC-regulated, sub-band (and sub-sub band) "turf" based solely on license class and operating mode...NOT on that turf's popularity!

What’s more, most everywhere else, differences in license class are based on safety and non-interference considerations (such as power output, being allowed to build transmitters "from scratch", or being the licensee of a repeater or club station) rather than on granting ego-stroking, so-called "exclusive" access to smaller and smaller slices of bureaucratically segregated frequency spectrum. 

What's more, as a direct result of all our FCC-imposed sub-band (and sub-sub band) nonsense, radio amateurs in the United States are perennially forced to play "Mother May I?" games with the FCC in order to shift things around as our collective interests and technology changes.  This, in turn, means that our horrifically outdated regulated band plans are always going to systemically lag behind emerging technology and societal changes.

Frankly, I believe all this ego-stroking, "turf based" band planning nonsense has also been a major contributor to our collective hesitancy to embrace new communications modes as they come along.  That's because those new modes often don't fit anywhere in our current, FCC-imposed "straight jacket".

The bottom line here is that, just as when office space is divided up into little cubicles, the end result is LESS usable space, not more.  It also breeds an ever-increasing human craving for more "elbow room"....a precious commodity that our currently (by regulation) horrifically chopped up 75 Meter Phone Band  never seems to have enough of.

To the contrary, all the while we continue to allow a government organization (the FCC) who could absolutely care less about what we do internally to still remain in charge of those "who and what goes where" decisions for our Service, our band plans will ALWAYS remain woefully out of date with technological and sociological reality.

And the horrific overcrowding, catcalls, boorish behavior and "frequency wars" we are witnessing on 75 Meters will continue indefinitely.

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