Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Well, the perpetual nay-sayers in our ranks are at it again.

This time, its to voice their vehement opposition to a new FCC proposal to allow only two (vice three) Volunteer Examiners (VEs) to administer exams in our Service and to also allow us to use more modern (?) forms of digital transmission (such as TDMA) on our bands.

And, once again, these "good old boys" are crawling out of the woodwork to strongly oppose such progress, saying that do to so would (once again) invite hoards of "riff raff" and "cheaters" into our Service (like those low-life "no-coders").  Their other (lame) argument is that the use of these new digital modes will cause untold amounts of harmful interference to their precious AM, CW and SSB so-called "legacy" modes of communication.

It's the same old story from the same old (and getting older ) minority in our ranks who view ANY relaxation of "the rules" as nothing more than an invitation for the (gasp!) "CB Crowd" to hopelessly pollute our bands.

First of all, it's painfully evident that none of these clowns have tuned across the CB bands lately.  If they had, they would find that, with the possible exception of over-the-road truckers, the CB bands are as dead (or deader) than our own ham bands.  Most of the folks who once used CB as a form of hobby communication have now LONG since moved on to Internet chat rooms, and to use such "social media" outlets as Facebook, Twitter (not to mention cell phones!) to get their jollies.

The other truth these Luddites don't seem to want to admit to is that, when the FCC's Riley Hollingsworth was actively going after such ne'er-do-wells on our bands, the VAST majority of them showing up on his "scofflaw list" turned out to be 20 WPM, FCC office examined, Extra Class operators!...that is, from the exact same crowd who are now doing most of the bitching and complaining.  Apparently, these arrogant snobs believe that, because they've been licensed "forever" that also gives them the God-given right to interfere with others trying to operate in our Service whom they don't feel are "worthy" of a ham license because they didn't pass a stupid Morse test.

And, as far as having only two examiners administering exams,  as an Accredited Examiner for Industry Canada, I alone frequently administer Canadian ham exams to applicants while they are sitting around my kitchen table. 

And the sky here in Canada has yet to fall.

The big advantage to this approach is that it allows my Canadian license applicants to take exams when THEY feel they are ready, and not force them to wait while we gather three examiners together, or to wait for an otherwise scheduled exam session. 

Because people learn things at different speeds, the flexibility of this approach helps alleviate the "peaking too soon" problem that often plagues folks studying for our exams. I make it clear to all my Canadian applicants to phone me when THEY feel they are ready to take the exam. I then invite them over to my home (or I'll meet them at theirs or somewhere else at their convenience) to administer exams. I've even administered Canadian ham exams in the back booths of restaurants!

And, as far as "accountability" goes, the truth is that if a VE (or VEs) are going to (as the naysayers say) "screw things up for the rest of us" they will collectively figure out a way to do that regardless of how many checks and balances are built into "the system" to prevent it. 

Or, to put it another way, Industry Canada (rightly) recognizes that the integrity of their extermination system for our Service relies on the individual care and integrity of the people administering it, and NOT in how many so-called "security" features are built into "the system" to prevent errors or fraud. 

Next, as far as new digital modes interfering with their precious AM, CW and SSB goes (and as I have noted in this blog 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 all into our own little slices of walled-off "turf"…. separate little, over-regulated fiefdoms that are still based largely on operating habits and mode preferences that were popular back in the 1950s and 60s!

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 then we now wonder why we have seemingly endless "turf wars" (not to mention abject panic at any suggestion of even the slightest regulatory changes) along with boorish, "I'm entitled" snobbery among 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 in the USA. 

This means that, almost 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...and NOT on that turf's technological usefulness for exploratory purposes or it's popularity potential.  

What’s more, most everywhere else in the world, 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".  Unfortunately, that "straight jacket", backed up by reams of enabling "Mother May I?" eyewash in our Part 97, also provides an incredibly easy way for a vocal minority to block such progress at even the hint of such change.  

In other words, thanks to the continuing howls of protest from these "not in my backyard" Luddites, such long-needed emission mode experimentation in our Service is often stifled before it even has a chance to emerge, let alone grow.

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, for example, our horrifically chopped up 75 Meter Phone Band never seems to have enough of.

Indeed, all the while we continue to not only allow, but encourage a government organization (the FCC) who could absolutely care less about what we do internally to still remain firmly in charge of those "who and what goes where" decisions for our Service, our band plans will ALWAYS remain woefully out of date with both technological and sociological reality.