Wednesday, November 25, 2015

60 Meters Goes Worldwide

Worldwide DXing on 60 meters will become a possibility over the next several years, following approval by the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in November of a worldwide secondary amateur allocation between 5351.5 kHz and 5366.5 kHz. Power will generally be limited to 15 watts effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP), according to the ARRL. This is the first new worldwide amateur HF allocation since the 30, 17 and 12-meter bands were approved in 1979.

The 5-MHz band is currently available on a country-by-country basis. In the US, amateurs currently have access on a secondary basis to five discrete channels between 5330 and 5405 kHz, and are permitted to operate SSB, CW and PSK-31 with up to 100 watts EIRP. It is not clear how the WRC action will affect the US amateur allocation, since it creates a smaller band with lower power limits. There will be no change to the current allocation, however, until the U.S. adopts the conference's final acts and the FCC goes through the rulemaking procedures to put any new rules in place.

Amateur Radio Parity Act Clears Senate Committee

An ARRL-backed bill to give amateurs in homeowner-association controlled areas the same rights as other hams was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in mid-November and cleared for an eventual vote by the full Senate. The bill, S-1685, also known as the Amateur Radio Parity Act, would extend the FCC's limited pre-emption of state and municipal antenna ordinances to private land use restrictions as well. According to the ARRL, it would give amateurs living in antenna-restricted communities "the opportunity to negotiate with homeowners associations to install an antenna that reasonably accommodates amateur radio communication." A companion bill in the House of Representatives, HR 1301, is still in committee even though it has over 100 co-sponsors.

FCC Licensing Computer Problems Persist

A key element of the FCC's Universal Licensing System (ULS) computer continues to shut down periodically, backing up the flow of license applications and grants. According to the ARRL, the computer's electronic batch filing system, or EBF, is the source of the problem, which has caused at least three shutdowns since the FCC's computer system was upgraded last September. The League says FCC staff has now identified the cause of the problem and hopes to have a permanent fix in place as soon as possible. Meanwhile, staffers are monitoring the system and processing applications manually whenever the snafu pops back up.

ARES Uproar in Oregon

Oregon's state Office of Emergency Management has had a falling-out with the head of the state's Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) organization. 

According to news reports, Section Emergency Coordinator Vince Van Der Hyde, K7VV, told ARES members not to participate in a state OEM drill because he was not happy with the state's equipment or its notice to volunteers about the drill. The state said it would no longer work with Van Der Hyde, but emphasized that it was not cutting ties with the ARES organization itself.

ARRL Oregon Section Manager Everett Curry, W6ABM, who oversees all aspects of the ARRL field organization in the state, including ARES, assured the state's emergency coordinators that the organization would continue to work with the state OEM. He w2as scheduled to meet with OEM officials in late November.

Good News, Bad News, From Orbit


 AMSAT-NA's first cubesat - formerly known as Fox-1A and now AMSAT-OSCAR 85 - has been formally commissioned and is now in regular amateur service. It apparently suffers from a lack of
sensitivity, according to the AMSAT News Service, so AMSAT is recommending a minimum uplink power level of 200 watts EIRP (effective isotropic radiated power). Contacts have been made using 5 watts and a gain antenna such as an Arrow handheld Yagi.


Meanwhile, AMSAT-UK reports that efforts to deploy the experimental de-orbiting sail on the University of Surrey's DeorbitSail satellite have proven unsuccessful, so the control team is refocusing on making the best use of what does work aboard the satellite, which was launched last July. One goal of the project was to demonstrate the use of a deployable sail to quickly slow the satellite's orbit and speed up a planned re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Idiom Press Sold to Ham Supply

Amateur radio publisher and accessory manufacturer Idiom Press has been purchased from the Locher family by Ham Supply of Elizabeth, Colorado. According to a news release, Ham Supply will honor existing warranties for Idiom Press products as well as orders placed but not yet fulfilled as of the time of the sale. Ham Supply says it intends to continue producing Idiom's product line as well as introducing new products of interest to the amateur community. For more information, visit <>.

NJ Ham Murdered in Home Invasion

 A Belleville, New Jersey ham who was a leader in local radio clubs and the state Army MARS organization died in late May as a result of injuries suffered in a home invasion robbery about two weeks earlier. The Nutley Sun newspaper reported that 85-year-old William Fitzsimmons, N2LMU, was knocked unconscious in a home invasion robbery on May 16th, and died of his injuries on May 30. A 25-year-old man from neighboring Nutley was indicted on seven counts, including felony murder, on November 13.

Hams Recognized for Outstanding Contributions

Two organizations recently honored several hams for their contributions to the hobby and to radio in general. 

The Radio Club of America recognized Dr. Nathan Cohen, W1YW, inventor of the fractal antenna, for his work in engineering and manufacturing of radio equipment; David Bart, KB9YPD, for helping preserve the history of radio and electronic communications; Tim Duffy, K3LR, and Gerry Agliata, W2GLA, for their work with the club, and CQ contributor Carole Perry, WB2MGP, for her contributions as a woman in wireless communications. Perry is also RCA's Youth Activities Chair (see her article in the upcoming January issue of CQ).

Separately, Newsline reports that the YASME Foundation granted its 2015 Excellence Award to the development team responsible for the N1MM contest logging program: Tom Wagner, N1MM; Rick Ellison, N2AMG; Steve London, N2IC, and others.

Well-Known Alaskan Contester KL7RA SK

Richard Strand, KL7RA, was a regular presence from Alaska
in major contests for decades.

Richard Strand, KL7RA, became a Silent Key in late November, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the month. The Kenai, Alaska, resident was a very active contester who enjoyed giving out Alaska and/or CQ Zone 1 in various on-air competitions. 

According to the ARRL, Strand was also a contributor to the ARRL Handbook. He was 69.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Contesters: Please Protect 7060 for Mexican Hurricane Net

Hurricane Patricia as of Friday morning, 23 Oct.
(NOAA satellite image via National Hurricane Center)
Attention Contesters: Please protect the Mexican hurricane emergency net frequency of 7060 kHz during the upcoming CQWW SSB DX Contest as potentially catastrophic Hurricane Patricia heads for Mexico's Pacific coast.

This request comes from IARU Region II/Area C Emergency Coordinator Arnie Coro, CO2KK, who says additional frequencies on 40 and 80 meters may be required once Hurricane Patricia makes landfall later today (Friday).

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Patricia is the strongest eastern North Pacific hurricane on record and is "heading for potentially catastrophic landfall in southwestern Mexico later today." As of Friday morning, the Category 5 storm had maximum sustained winds of 200 miles per hour (322 km/h).

Please avoid 7055-7065 kHz during the contest, to provide a clear frequency for the net on 7060. Thanks and good luck in the contest!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Milestones: W1UED, W9DYV SKs

Former ARRL Washington Coordinator Perry Williams, W1UED, became a Silent Key on September 25 at age 86, according to the ARRL. Williams served on the League staff from 1954 through 1994, starting as an assistant secretary and then rising to Membership Services Manager before being named Washington Coordinator in 1980. He is credited with convincing Congress not to impose license application fees on amateurs and promoted approval of vanity call signs. 

Wes Sxhum, W9DYV, in early photo.
(Photo from Central Electronics website
Wes Schum, W9DYV, also passed away in late September. You may not know his name, but you most likely are familiar with his work. According to Newsline, Schum is considered the father of single-sideband in amateur radio. As founder of Central Electronics in 1949, he and colleague Joe Batchelor developed the CE 10-A, the first practical amateur SSB transmitter. Schum was 94.

Jan 31 Deadline for ARRL Foundation Scholarship Applications

Young hams planning to pursue post-secondary education have until January 31, 2016 to apply for one of the 80-plus scholarships administered by the ARRL Foundation. 

According to the ARRL Letter, the grants range from $500 to $5000, as well as the four-year Goldfarb Scholarship, which fills the "gap" between the recipient's other scholarships and his/her "expected family contribution," based on the federal FAFSA form. Some scholarships are restricted by geographic region or planned college major. 

For more information, visit <>.

ARRL: FCC Must Clarify Proposed Rules on Modifying WiFi Gear

The ARRL has called on the FCC to make clear that hams will still be permitted to modify non-amateur equipment for use on the amateur bands. According to the League, the call came in comments on proposed FCC rules that would require manufacturers of WiFi equipment to include security features on network devices to prevent modifications. Hams often modify commercial routers and other WiFi equipment to operate on amateur frequencies at higher power and/or with external antennas. 

The League also called on the FCC to tighten rules on Part 15 and Part 18 equipment authorization to minimize the potential for interference with licensed services.

ARRL to FCC: Hurry Up on 630/2200 Meters

The ARRL is urging the FCC to quickly enact final rules to permit amateur radio operation on 630 meters (472-479 kHz) and to propose specific rules for amateur operation on 2200 meters (135.7-137.8 kHz). The FCC last April proposed rules for 630 meters and announced its intention to do the same for 2200 meters, but has yet to take further action. 

The FCC's proposals are opposed primarily by the Utilities Telecom Council, which fears amateur use of these frequencies may interfere with utility systems that control the power grid and operate between 4 and 490 kHz.

IARU: Minimize Antenna Restrictions Worldwide

The administrative council of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) has called on governments worldwide to ease restrictions on amateur radio antennas. According to Newsline, the council's resolution urges member societies to press their governments to "recognize the importance" of amateur antennas and not to "place undue restrictions" on them. 

The resolution, which was adopted at the council's October meeting in Bali, Indonesia, noted the non-pecuniary nature of amateur radio and "its popularity in the student and senior communities."

FEMA Administrator Visits WX4NHC

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - who is also a ham - paid a call on amateur station WX4NHC during a visit to the National Hurricane Center while Hurricane Joaquin was deciding whether or not to head to the U.S. east coast (it didn't).
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate,
KK4INZ. (FEMA photo)

 According to the ARRL,  FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, talked with station operator Hank Collins, W8KIW, and his wife, Pat, about reports being received from hams in the Bahamas as well as the multiple modes and frequencies used by WX4NHC to gather reports of on-the-ground conditions during hurricanes.

ARRL Re-Opens 146.52 for Contest Use

Reversing a long-standing policy intended to protect simplex users on 2 meters, the ARRL has approved the use of national simplex frequency 146.52 MHz for making contest contacts during ARRL-sponsored VHF contests. The change takes effect as of the 2016 ARRL January VHF contest. 

The new policy was recommended by the League's "VHF and Above Revitalization Committee," which is hoping the change will encourage more new licensees to discover and enjoy VHF contesting. The committee concluded that the current restriction is no longer necessary, due to reduced activity on the 2-meter band.
Note: There has been no change to date in the rules for the CQ World Wide VHF Contest, which continue to prohibit contest contacts on 146.52 or other countries' designated national simplex frequencies.

ARRL Launches "National Parks on the Air" Event for 2016

The ARRL is sponsoring a year-long activity to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. national park system. The "National Parks on the Air" program, or NPOTA, runs from January 1 to December 31, 2016, according to the ARRL Letter

The program will be similar to other "OTA" programs run by various groups, offering separate awards to "activators," who operate from within national parks and other sites administered by the National Park Service, and to "chasers," who contact a certain number of "activators." For the purposes of this program, acceptable sites include not only national parks but also national battlefields, historic sites, memorials, preserves, reserves, rivers, seashores, national scenic trails and other NPS-administered locations. See the ARRL website <> for complete details and program rules.

New Foundation Formed to Administer IOTA Program

The original, and arguably most popular, "OTA" program is the Radio Society of Great Britain's (RSGB's) Islands on the Air (IOTA), which has been encouraging "activations" of islands around the world since 1964. Since celebrating the program's 50th anniversary last year, the RSGB's board has been looking at ways to keep it growing and to meet its challenges, including a computer system to allow online credit submissions similar to the ARRL's Logbook of the World (LoTW).
The RSGB announced in October that it is forming a new organization - the IOTA Foundation - to manage IOTA in partnership with RSGB and to spearhead development of an online credit system with a target completion date of 2017. Initial leaders of the foundation will be Roger Balister, G3KMA; Bob Barden, MD0CCE; Cezar Trifu, VE3LYC, and Johan Willemsen, PA3EXX.

Satellite Roundup - Multiple Launches in Sept/Oct.

AMSAT Fox-1A lifts off from
Vandenberg Air Force Base in
California aboard the US National
Reconnaissance Office's Atlas-5
launch on October 8. (NRO photo)
The skies are once again filling up with amateur radio satellites, with eight new "birds" launched in late September and early October. 

AMSAT's Fox-1A satellite, now known as AO-85, was successfully launched on October 8 and the AMSAT News Service reportst that signals were heard on its first orbit. For more information, visit <>.

The week before, Indonesia's LAPAN-2 satellite (now IO-86) was launched from India. This satellite carries an FM transponder and an APRS digipeater. Primary access will be to stations located in the tropics, between 30 degrees north latitude and 30 degrees south latitude.

China followed its mid-September launch of nine amateur radio satellites with the liftoff of three more on September 25 (Tianwang 1-A, 1-B and 1-C), according to the ARRL. Another Chinese ham satellite - LQSat - was launched on October 7. All four lifted off from a launch facility in Inner Mongolia.

Finally, two Danish ham satellites - AAUSat-5 and GomX-3 - were deployed from the International Space Station on October 5. The AMSAT News Service says the crew used the station's robotic arm to place the cubesats in orbit. As of this writing, no OSCAR numbers were available for either the Chinese or the Danish satellites.

ARRL.Net Users: Beware of "Phishing" Scheme

(Federal Trade Commission image)
Newsline reports that the ARRL's e-mail forwarding service has been hit by a "phishing" attack, in which members using e-mail addresses are receiving e-mails claiming to be from the League and requesting personal information.

The e-mails purportedly come from "Arrl Webmail Admin," carry a subject line of "account upgrade," and warn recipients that their accounts will be cancelled unless they provide their usernames and passwords. ARRL officials state emphatically that these e-mails are bogus and urge anyone receiving them to simply ignore them. 

Meanwhile, the League's IT department was working to block the sender's e-mail address at its "upstream server."

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hurricane Watch Net Secures

The Hurricane Watch Net has shut down operations for Hurricane Joaquin after the storm skirted Bermuda without causing significant damage, according to Net Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV. Graves thanked the many reporting stations for a considerable amount of data, all of which was forwarded to the National Hurricane Center. He also thanked the everyday users of the net's main frequencies - 14.325 and 7.268 MHz - for changing frequencies during the net's activity. More information on the Hurricane Watch Net may be found online at <>.

Uncertainty Over Status of Hara Arena

Will Hara Arena still be open when it's time for the 2016 Dayton Hamvention®? That is the basic question being faced by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), the owners of Hara Arena and local government officials, all of whom want to be sure the world's largest ham radio gathering remains where it has been since 1964. Last year, according to news reports, the Hamvention was responsible for contributing $8.5 million to the region's economy.

There have been rumors for years that the arena was about to close, but an announcement at the end of the 2015 show promised improvements at the half-century old exhibition center in time for the 2016 event. However, news reports in early October cast new doubts on the arena's ongoing viability.

The reports - first on WHIO-TV and then in the Dayton Daily News - centered on a July e-mail sent by Hara Marketing Director Karen Wampler to the city manager and a city councilman in Trotwood, the municipality in which Hara Arena is actually located. A consultant hired by Hara recommended this summer that the city purchase the venue, but Trotwood officials felt such a move would be too risky, according to the reports. A Dayton Daily News article in late 2014 reported that Hara owed more than $300,000 in back taxes, but was working with local authorities to pay down that balance.

Wampler's e-mail, which the TV station and newspaper (both owned by Cox Media Ohio) received through a public records request, informed the local officials that they had briefed the Hamvention's chairman and select board members on the arena's status and said "they are reeling" after being told that the venue might be forced to close. "They … like us, believed we were close to stabilizing Hara for future growth, rather than ending her nearly 60-year run," Wampler wrote, adding that "(t)here may be one last chance to add Hamvention investment dollars to the proposal before their Board puts all its resources into relocating their event - most likely out of Montgomery County - in 2016."

She told the Daily News in an interview for the October 3 article that the arena is now in much better shape than it had been in July, when that e-mail was written, and that there are no current plans to close.
Hamvention General Chairman Jim Tiderman, N8IDS, shared Wampler's current optimism in a statement issued after the news reports ran. He said DARA "is fully committed to (holding) the 2016 Dayton Hamvention at Hara Arena and Exposition Center … on May 20, 21, 22, 2016," and told the newspaper that "We do not have any plans whatsoever for relocating."

Tiderman dismissed other reports as "speculation," but added that DARA is "still (keeping) an open mind to alternate plans in case they become necessary." The news articles had reported that Hamvention officials had met with the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau and others to examine other possible venues within the Dayton area in the event that Hara was no longer an option.

Bottom line: As of early October, Hara Arena remains open and intends to host the Hamvention next May; and DARA will hold the 2016 Hamvention at Hara as long as the facility is still open. However, uncertainty continues and contingency plans are being considered in case a move is necessary.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hurricane Watch Net Activates for Joaquin

The Hurricane Watch Net went on the air today (Sept. 30) at 11:00 AM EDT, as Hurricane Joaquin set its sights on the Bahamas and ultimately - perhaps - the U.S. east coast. According to Hurricane Watch Net Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, "Joaquin is expected to make a very sharp turn to the north-northeast sometime Thursday.  This is due in part to a frontal system moving towards the Bahamas.  The timing of this system will dictate the timing of this turn. Due to the close proximity to land, whether or not this storm makes landfall in the Bahamas, the Hurricane Watch Net will be active until no longer a threat in this region."
The Hurricane Watch Net's primary frequencies are 14.325 MHz during the day and 7.268 MHz at night.  Please keep these frequencies clear for HWN-related traffic.

Graves says residents in the path of this storm should take every precaution to protect their families and property.  And for the latest information on this storm, and other active systems in the tropics, including Net Activation Plans, please visit the Hurricane Watch Net website at

Monday, September 28, 2015

Western Wildfires Take Toll on Ham Community

The rash of wildfires in the western U.S. this summer has taken a significant toll on the ham community. Sixty-six-year-old Mark McCloud, K6YCV, of Caleveras County, California, was one of two people who died in the Butte fire in mid-September after refusing to follow an evacuation order. According to the ARRL Letter, the county coroner said McCloud and the other victim were both found dead in their homes, which were destroyed by the fire. 
The Lake Chelan Amateur Radio Club's 2- and 6-meter
repeaters, housed in the building seen here, were
destroyed by the First Creek fire. (Photo from the Lake
Chelan ARC website,

In Washington State, the First Creek fire in late August destroyed two repeaters belonging to the Lake Chelan Amateur Radio Club. The ARRL Letter reported that the building housing the club's 2-meter and 6-meter repeaters was completely leveled by the fire.

Hams up and down the west coast provided communications support for a variety of firefighting efforts. 

Sheriff's Deputy/Ham Killed in Line of Duty

Courtesy Okaloosa County Sheriff's Dept. website
Okaloosa County, Florida, Sheriff's Deputy William Myers, KK4KF, was shot and killed while attempting to serve an injunction in a domestic violence case. Newsline reports that Myers, 64, of Shalimar, Florida, was attempting to serve a restraining order on 33-year-old Joel Smith when Smith pulled out a gun and shot him. Myers died of his injuries a short time later. Smith was later shot and killed by police during a standoff at a nearby hotel.

According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Department website, an estimated 2000 people attended a memorial service for Myers on Sept. 28, including Florida Governor Rick Scott and state Attorney General Pam Bondi. 

Special Event Stations Mark Pope's US Visit


A string of special event stations stretching from New York to Virginia took to the amateur airwaves the last week in September in honor of Pope Francis's visit to the United States. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church made stops in Washington, DC; New York City and Philadelphia. 

According to Newsline, four radio clubs in the region teamed up to operate at least as many special event stations, and expected to make between 20,000 and 50,000 total contacts. The Potomac Valley Radio Club operated N4P in northern Virginia and K3P in the DC/Maryland area; while the Frankford Radio Club and Holmesburg Amateur Radio Club in the Philadelphia area operated W3FRC/WMF (for World Meeting of Families, which the Pope was attending in Philadelphia) and WM3PEN, respectively, in addition to a separate W3P special event station; and K2P was on the air in New York City and southern New Jersey. The New York end of the operation was anchored by the Great South Bay Amateur Radio Club. 

QSL information is available at <>.

Progress on 60 Meters Ahead of WRC-15

The International Telecommunication Union's 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) will be held this fall in Geneva, Switzerland. Delegates representing ITU member countries will vote on international telecommunication policy issues during the nearly monthlong conference (Nov. 2-27). 

Of primary interest to hams are competing proposals to create a worldwide secondary amateur allocation at 5 MHz (60 meters). The South African Radio League reported in mid-September that Europe's ITU members had agreed to a European Common Proposal to create a 100-kHz allocation between 5350 and 5450 kHz. 

There was no word at press time as to whether other countries or blocs of countries were falling in line behind this proposal or sticking to others. Sixty meters in the U.S. is available on a very limited, channelized, basis.

Growing Number of Ham Band Intrusions Reported

The International Amateur Radio Union's Region 1 Monitoring System is reporting a growing number of non-amateur intrusions on the HF ham bands. According to Newsline, monitors in Europe are picking up Russian navy transmissions as well as Russian and Iranian over-the-horizon radar on 20 meters, Chinese over-the-horizon radar on 75 meters, Spanish fishing boats on all HF bands and taxi drivers from various countries on 10 meters.

Chinese Satellite Cluster Finally Launched

 After multiple delays, China launched a group of nine satellites carrying amateur radio into orbit on September 19th. All traveled together on a single launch vehicle.

 According to the AMSAT News Service, six of the satellites have inverting transponders supporting SSB and CW operation, all with uplinks on 70 centimeters and downlinks on 2 meters; one has both APRS (2-meters up/down) and FM voice (2 meters up, 70 cm. down) repeaters, and two more are downlink-only, transmitting telemetry on 2 meters and 70 centimeters.

Fox-1D Satellite to Share Launch with Fox-1C

The AMSAT News Service also reports that AMSAT and Spaceflight, Inc. have agreed to have the Fox-1D amateur satellite share a launch with Fox-1C (recently renamed Fox-1Cliff in memory of Cliff Buttschardt, formerly K7RR, a longtime AMSAT supporter who became a Silent Key in 2008). Both satellites will offer FM repeater capabilities on different frequencies. In addition, 

Fox-1D will carry the University of Iowa's HERCI (High Energy Radiation CubeSat Instrument) experiment. The launch is scheduled for early next year, and AMSAT is seeking additional donations to help cover the added costs of launching two satellites instead of one.

On the topic of the Fox-series of satellites, the ARRL Letter reports that AMSAT has released version 1.0 of the Fox Telemetry Decoder software in advance of the scheduled October 8 launch of Fox-1A, which will also carry an FM transponder with an uplink on 435.180 MHz and downlink on 145.980 MHz. The Fox satellites are also supposed to transmit continuous telemetry as they orbit. The cubesats are intended to be reachable with a dual-band handheld radio and simple 2m/70cm beam antenna.

Carolina DX Foundation Launched

One of the premier DX organizations in the southeast has established a new foundation to help provide financial support for DXpeditions.
The Carolina DX Association recently established the Carolina DX Foundation, a separate entity with its own officers, to collect tax-deductible donations and then make donations in support of DXpedition efforts. The group is starting out with $15,000 in seed money earned from selling a collection of radios donated by Frank Dowd, K4BVQ.
According to a report on the Southgate Amateur Radio Club's news page, the goals of the foundation include "the furtherance of scientific research exploring electromagnetic wave propagation in the high frequency domain, and education through public presentations by DXpeditions supported by the CDXF." For more information, or to make a donation, contact Secretary-Treasurer Cliff Wagoner, W3ZL, at PO Box 577, Davidson, NC 28036 or via e-mail at <>.

K1JT: Beware of "Unauthorized" Versions of WSJT-X Software

WSJT-X Screen shot from
WSJT home page
Digital communications pioneer (and Nobel Laureate) Joe Taylor, K1JT, is warning users of his WSJT-X HF digital software only to use those versions of the software developed by his team and officially released on his website. 

According to the ARRL Letter, Taylor says some individuals are making their own "releases" of WSJT-X using open-source code, but warns that if you use them on the air, "you have no idea what you've got." He adds that subsequent observations of what does and doesn't work are "worse than useless" in that they "waste your time and ours." WSJT-X is currently in experimental form.

Spanish Amateur Group Urges Hams to Get on CB

How do you provide CBers with examples of good operating techniques and encourage those with the interest to "upgrade" to ham radio? By meeting them where they live, according to Spain's national ham radio association, the URE.  

Newsline reports that URE is encouraging hams in Spain and elsewhere to get active on CB. Its website even has a 27-MHz "portal" to encourage greater use of CB by hams and anyone else with an interest in radio communications.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Vanity Call Sign & GMRS Regulatory Fees Eliminated

As of September 3, 2015, there will be no fee to apply for or renew an amateur radio vanity call sign, and the cost of a General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) license will drop from $90 to $65.

In a Report & Order released September 2, the FCC announced that "regulatory fees" for both amateur vanity calls and for General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) licenses would be eliminated as of the 3rd. The Commission had previously announced its intention to remove these fees but had not published an effective date until now.

The order noted that this change applies only to so-called "regulatory" fees and that any application fees associated with these licenses remain in effect. There are no application fees for amateur licenses (even though there are exam fees), but there is a $65 application fee for a GMRS license, which remains in effect. Only the separate $35 GMRS "regulatory" fee has been dropped.

The complete text of the FCC Report & Order is at <>.  The section on amateur and GMRS regulatory fees is on pages 11 and 12. (Please note that due to a computer system upgrade, this document may not be available until after Labor Day.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

FCC Web Services - Including Amateur License Database - to Be Offline, Possibly Through Labor Day

Hams will not be able to access the FCC's amateur radio licensing database or file comments on rulemaking proposals beginning at 6 PM EDT  on Wednesday, September 2, and possibly extending through the Labor Day weekend or beyond.

In an announcement on September 1, the FCC said the planned shutdown of its interactive public-access web applications - including the Universal Licensing System (ULS) and Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS)- is necessary to permit and upgrade to its "legacy IT systems."

During this shutdown, hams will not be able to look up call signs on the FCC database or file license renewals or updates. In addition, new licenses and upgrades will not be posted during this period. 

According to the FCC announcement, "We will work to have these web applications upgraded and available again by the morning of Tuesday, September 8." The FCC says it does not plan to release any official documents during this planned shutdown.

Helping Hams Face Fire Threat in Northwest

Volunteer ham radio operators in Ferry County, Washington, were "standing (their) ground" at the local emergency operations center / evacuation center in late August despite an ongoing threat from a large wildfire. The ARRL Letter reported that amateurs working at the shelter in Republic, Washington, were on the front lines of the battle against the so-called "Kettle Complex" of three forest fires in the north central part of the state. 

Sam Jenkins, WA7EC, the county's RACES radio officer and ARRL Emergency Coordinator, said his volunteers expected to be on post for several weeks despite the ongoing danger. He added that "the firefighters say they are going to attempt to defend our emergency operations center/emergency shelter at all costs."

Hams in other parts of the west were also active in providing communications support for firefighting efforts in one of the worst wildfire seasons on record.

No Consensus on 60 Meters Going Into WRC-15

With the next World Radiocommunication Conference approaching in November, it appeared in late summer that there might not be a consensus on proposals for a worldwide secondary amateur allocation on 5 MHz, also known as 60 meters. In the U.S., the band is currently available to hams on a very restricted basis, with five discrete channels and limitations on modes and power that are not found on other amateur bands.

According to the ARRL, as of late August, proposals from various countries were "all over the map," and it was beginning to look like there might not be a unified proposal for the WRC delegates to consider. Options ranged from no change to a 175-kHz wide option between 5275 and 5450 kHz.