Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Many of our "crusty curmudgeon" Ham Radio Operators in the USA have repeatedly opined in various forums that letting 700,000 US Hams “loose” to operate anywhere on the HF Bands (and in whatever mode they so choose) would lead to anarchy in our Service.

The truth is that there are ALREADY roughly 60,000 Hams from Canada who are “regulated by emission bandwidth” (vice by license class and operating mode) and who have been quite regularly “running loose to operate anywhere” for going on several decades now.  What’s more, these nice folks have been operating this way for years (gasp!) RIGHT NEXT DOOR to USA with it's all its regulated sub-band (and sub-sub band) nonsense..

And the "sky" has yet to "fall".

Now, granted, the numbers of Hams in Canada are much smaller in comparison to those in the USA.  However, I think the fact that because nothing horrible has happened on the North American bands as a result of the way Hams have been regulated in Canada, it speaks volumes about the baselessness of the “paranoia factor” in the debates now raging south of the border over such issues.

As I have also noted in various other forums, I've come to believe that a lot of the regulatory issues US Hams are now grappling with are a direct result of the FCC’s decision (with the encouragement of the ARRL) to carve up the bands into smaller and smaller segments based on their myopic “Incentive Licensing” foolishness back in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

To my knowledge, nowhere else in the world are the Ham Bands as carved up as they now are in the USA.  Nowhere else in the world is operating spectrum meted out based on such a complex and confusing system of license “classes” based on an examination system of ever more comprehensive “achievement tests”.  It’s a licensing approach that now looks more like a college degree program designed by (and for) RF engineers than a simple certification system to help insure that a group of “amateurs” will not be a hazard to themselves or their neighbors, or become a nuisance to other Hams on the bands.

So, with this as a backdrop, my hunch is that both the FCC and the ARRL have now begun to (finally) see the error of their ways (spelled “overkill) from long ago.  And, they are probably now trying, ever so slowly, to start backing away from the mess they, themselves, created with Incentive Licensing.

Unfortunately, the system they created back in the 1950s (along with it’s accumulated changes and “changes to the changes” ever since) has now become so convoluted and inflexible (not to mention thoroughly entrenched) that I believe it’s going to be quite difficult (if not impossible) to fix it without scrapping the whole sorry mess that is Part 97 and starting over.

But, they need to do so with one basic difference.

Part 97 is currently written in such a way that, unless some particular mode or frequency of operation is specifically enabled, then it’s prohibited.  By contrast, the regulations here in Canada (as well as in many other parts of the world) are written in such a way that unless some form of operation is specifically prohibited, then it’s enabled.   I think the FCC needs to take a good, long, hard look at the simple way other governments in the rest world regulate their Hams to see if some simplification (or removal) of a lot of the “thou-shalt-not” eyewash in Part 97 might be a more productive (not to mention far simpler!) way to regulate.

I invite those who have never looked at the way another country regulates its Hams to point your browsers to:

There, you’ll find PDF files of our Canadian Radio Information Circulars…the RICs...and Regulation by References....RBRs.  Together, these 7 documents (two of which contain the question pools for Canada’s two Ham certifications) comprise Industry Canada’s “Part 97”.  I think even a cursory reading of these documents and then comparing their refreshing simplicity to all of the regulatory gobbledygook now contained in Part 97 will prove my point beyond any shadow of doubt.

What’s more, I strongly believe the obvious, stark differences between these two approaches to regulating are at the very heart of the current “regulating by bandwidth” mess that regulators (and rganizations like the ARRL) the USA have tried (and have so far failed) to grapple with in the past.

This is also why, unless radical changes are now made to Part 97, I believe US Hams will forever be stuck with a 1950s-era regulatory and licensing structure that has now long outlived its usefulness.

Over the years, US Hams (via the ARRL) have now gotten so used to playing “Mother May I?” with the FCC for even minor changes to the rules that when major changes are needed, other diverse (but firmly entrenched) interests in Ham Radio who now see their "turf" in any way threatened simply trot out “the rules” and successfully use them as a barrier to sorely needed progress.

Sadly, to many who are absolutely terrified of change, complex government regulations (like Part 97) simply make it easier for a relatively small group of people to have a far bigger (and far more negative) impact on needed change than their numbers would otherwise justify.

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