Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pecuniary Interest has a life of its own. Will this issue ever end?

Now a committee has filed a Petition to allow paid personnel to use amateur radio frequencies during drills and exercises. There may be some merit to this petition, from the "Fight like you train. Train like you fight." part of disaster preparedness and emergency response training.

However, do I need a drill or exercise to learn how to use my new walkie-talkie I brought home from the hamfest? REALLY.

What would be the purpose of the training, drill, exercise for the amateur radio operator? If it's so the folks can see if the radio works, get a couple of volunteers to go around to each of the radios to see if they can talk to each other.

From the Federal Communications Commission's William Cross:


To flesh out a couple of things you asked about in the below e-mail, the
Public Notice (PN) specifically says that the waiver request must come
from the government entity conducting the drill, not from individual
amateurs or others participating in the drill.

As for how the government entity should request a waiver, it should
submit a written request addressing the factors listed in the PN to

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
445 12th St., S.W.
Washington, DC 20554
Attn: Scot Stone

Note that a waiver is needed only for those licensees transmitting
messages on behalf of their employer during the State and local
government public safety agency "occasionally conducted emergency
preparedness or disaster drills test or drill." This may, after
analysis, turn out to be very few licenses or, by rearranging functions
of participants, a waiver may not be needed.

Adding in a new hire that comes on duty after the waiver request but
before the waiver is granted or the new hire who replaces someone for
whom the waiver has been submitted would require a new waiver submission
or a change to the previously-filed request. As noted in the Public
Notice, "...the filing of a waiver request does not excuse compliance
with the rules while that request is pending. The waiver must be
requested prior to the drill, and employees may not transmit amateur
communications on their employer's behalf unless the waiver request has
been granted."

William T. Cross
Mobility Division
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
Federal Communications Commission

This was in response to the email that detailed the "rules" and the Government's response to it.

The email sent to a number of amateur radio interests states:

Below is a copy of a press release from the FCC #DA 09-2259 stating
the local governments must request a waiver for paid staff to
participate in non-emergency radio communications on behalf of their

Another unanswered question would be how long should the jurisdiction
submit the request? In other words, how long is the wait expected to
be. I know the drills I plan are weeks and months before hand.

However, what about the new hire that comes on duty after the waiver
request but before the waiver is granted (since we don't know how long
this process might be)? Will there be a method to get a quick answer?
If the new hire replaces someone for whom the waiver would have been
submitted is a new waiver submission required?

Answer: No method to get a quick answer. Waiver request must be submitted in writing to the address given above. Jurisdiction would need to file a new request for waiver.

From the FCC:

Transmissions by amateur stations participating in government disaster
drills must comply with all applicable amateur service rules. While
the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary
noncommercial communications service, particularly with respect to
providing emergency communications, is one of the underlying
principles of the amateur service,

1 the amateur service is not an emergency radio service. Rather, it is
a voluntary, non-commercial communication service authorized for the
purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical
investigations carried out by licensed persons interested in radio
technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

2 State and local government public safety agencies occasionally
conduct emergency preparedness or disaster drills that include amateur
operations. Some entities, such as hospitals, emergency operations
centers, and police, fire, and emergency medical service stations,
have expressed interest in having their employees who are amateur
station operators participate in these drills by transmitting messages
on the entity’s behalf. The Commission’s Rules, however, specifically
prohibit amateur stations from transmitting communications “in which
the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest,
including communications on behalf of an employer.”

3 Given the public interest in facilitating government-sponsored
emergency preparedness and disaster drills, we take this opportunity
to provide a clear process for requesting a waiver, and the
information that we require in order to consider granting such a

4 Waiver requests should be submitted to the Wireless
Telecommunications Bureau by the government entity conducting the
drill, and must provide the following information: (1) when and where
the drill will take place; (2) identification of the amateur licensees
expected to transmit amateur communications on behalf of their
employers; (3) identification of the employers on whose behalf they
will be transmitting; and (4) a brief description of the drill. We
emphasize that the filing of a waiver request does not excuse
compliance with the rules while that request is pending. The waiver
must be requested prior to the drill, and employees may not transmit
amateur communications on their employer’s behalf unless the waiver
request has been granted.

In an actual emergency, the Commission’s Rules provide that an amateur
station may use any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to
provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate
safety of human life and the immediate protection of property when
normal communication systems are not available.

5 In those circumstances, rule waiver is not necessary.

For further information regarding matters discussed in this Public
Notice, contact William T.
Cross of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Mobility Division, at
(202) 418-0680,
By the Chief, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau; Chief, Public Safety
and Homeland Security
Bureau; and Chief, Enforcement Bureau.

1 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.1(a). See also Recommendations of the Independent
Panel Reviewing the Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Communications
Networks, Order, EB Docket No. 06-119; WC Docket No. 06-63, 22 FCC Rcd
10541, 10576 ¶ 111 (2007) (noting that the amateur radio community
played an important role in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina and other disasters).
2 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.3(a)(4).
3 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.113(a)(3) (emphasis added).
4 See 47 C.F.R. § 1.925.
5 See 47 C.F.R. § 97.403. See also Amendment of Part 97 of the
Commission’s Rules Governing the Amateur Radio
Services, Report and Order, WT Docket No. 04-140, 21 FCC 11643, 11667
¶ 52 (2006) (clarifying that amateur
radio operators who are emergency personnel may use their amateur
radio stations while in paid duty status, but not
addressing the prohibition against transmitting messages on behalf of
an employer).

Previous to this, the American Radio Relay League announced guidelines on the Pecuniary Interest topic. In an email, Laura Smith, Special Counsel for the FCC, stated she was in agreement with those guidelines. That could have been end of story. As the reader can see, from above, it was not.

As some have suggested, I will not remove amateur radio from the Emergency Operations Center, I will not submit my licenses for cancellation, and I will not quit my job.

In the mean time, the emergency manager, Logistics Section Chief, or the Communications Leader has three options:

1. Use the Military Affiliate Radio System and the willing operators there.
2. Use volunteers from Amateur Radio Emergency Service or the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service as a buffer to keying that microphone in behalf of the jurisdiction.
3. Continue to use the Part 90 equipment they already own and hope the hams will honor their Part 97 obligation to be that existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators.

Hams will have to support their local government, if RACES is to be the case. There are the anti-government types that will refuse to do so.

Perhaps this PowerPoint decision tree may be helpful.


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