Monday, July 23, 2012

It seems these days that a number of hams (and a number of ham radio-related organizations like the ARRL) are pounding the drum that one of the main reasons we exist (as a separate radio service) is to provide emergency communications (EMCOMM) in times of disaster. 

Specifically, they cite a long laundry list of fundamental purposes for our Service as outlined in the FCC's Part 97…specifically Part 97.1…. which state in part that:

"The rules and regulations in this Part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.

(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communications and technical phases of the art.

(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.

(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to enhance international goodwill."

Now some will also argue that these rules provide us with the ultimate authority of why we exist and what we are supposed to be doing.


The ULTIMATE authority for what we do is not contained in FCC Part 97!

Rather, it is the International Telecommunications Union (the ITU) that establishes and maintains the Amateur Radio Service in the International Radio Regulations.  As the United States is a signatory to the treaty that established the ITU, those rules have the force of law in the United States.

Sadly, few US Hams realize that ALL of these "other" reasons as to why we exist are not present in the International definition of our Service.  Our own FCC has ADDED them all.  And, to the best of my knowledge, this long "laundry list" of words defining our Service exists nowhere else on the planet.

Specifically, the FCC's "particularly with respect to emergency communications" verbiage (along with all that other nonsense about "expanding an existing reservoir within the Amateur Radio Service of trained technicians") as spelled out in our Part 97 is absolutely and completely absent from the ITU's definition of our Service 

As I've noted before, that definition (in Article 1.56 of the ITU rules) simply states that ours is to be: 

"A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, by duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest"  (my emphasis added)

Would someone please show me where it specifically authorizes (or even allows) EMCOMM or "technician reservoir building" activities in any of that?

It seems to me the FCC very clearly "muddied the waters" back in the mid 20th Century when they added all that EMCOMM verbiage (along with their "expanding pool of trained operators, technicians and electronics experts" eyewash...nonsense they also no doubt used to justify their so-called "incentive licensing" foolishness) to further define who we are and what we do.

However, by turning our Service into something that goes well beyond both the spirit and intent of the simple ITU definition of why we exist...on a number of fronts...the predecessors of today's FCC who wrote all that garbage into Part 97.1 were the ones primarily responsible for laying the groundwork for most (if not all) of the current EMCOMM controversy about the blatant pecuniary interest implications of such activity.

And all of that "building a reservoir of trained technicians" nonsense simply gave more cannon fodder to those elitist techno-snobs who have been desperately trying (unfortunately, with some success) for the last half-century to turn our Service into the "No Budding RF Engineer Left Behind Radio Service"...a notion that also runs completely counter to the "solely with a personal aim" intent of our Service internationally.

Clearly, what our own gormless FCC bureaucrats (and their ARRL handlers) apparently forgot (or ignored) way back then is the fact that sometimes, less really is more.

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