Zero Bias – A CQ Editorial
Who "Owns" What in Ham Radio?
BY RICH MOSESON,* W2VU
We hams sometimes have trouble with matters of "ownership" in certain parts of our hobby. For example, while we generally own the equipment in our stations, we don't "own" our licenses or our callsigns, even though, for many of us, our calls have become part of our identities and changing a call is akin to changing your name. But "our" calls aren't really ours. Amateur licenses and callsigns are granted (in the U.S.) by the FCC, which can also take them away. There is no inalienable right to have a ham license or a particular callsign.
We certainly don't "own" our frequencies, despite the fact that there are those among us who feel otherwise. All amateur bands are shared with the rest of the amateur population, and in the case of 60 meters and most UHF bands, with other radio services. Plus, as with our licenses and callsigns, what the FCC giveth, the FCC can also taketh away (operate on 220-222 lately?).
On the other hand, certain things in amateur radio are owned, and there seems to be some confusion at the moment over who owns what. For example, as this is written in late July, there is a dispute going on between the ARRL and some of its volunteers in the National Traffic System (NTS). Earlier in the month, the ARRL Executive Committee removed an NTS area director for allegedly making unauthorized commitments on behalf of ARRL to FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This has created quite a backlash among some other NTS leaders, including calls for a "declaration of independence," a petition drive at change.org calling for more "transparency" by the ARRL board of directors and a shutdown of some upper-level NTS operations. The former area director who was "fired" has filed a federal lawsuit against the League, alleging defamation. The other two area directors have since resigned.
From reading through various emails and newsletters on the subject, it is clear to us that this whole mess is the result of making inaccurate assumptions, jumping to conclusions about motivations, and blowing opportunities to resolve the issue amicably, with plenty of blame to go around on both sides. It is a classic case of trained communicators failing to communicate.
We have no intention of taking sides in this internal ARRL squabble, but one thing is clear: Whether or not the decision was the right one to make, the League's executive committee was totally within its rights to make it. NTS is an integral part of the ARRL's field organization, and the League's rules and regulations for its field organization clearly state that any appointment may be canceled by the ARRL Executive Committee if it feels the action would be "in the best interest of the ARRL." One may agree or disagree with the wisdom of the committee's action, but there is no question that it had the authority to take that action.
As ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, explained in an email to NTS leaders, "NTS is not a stand-alone organization. It is a program of the American Radio Relay League." In fact, it is a program that is as old at the League itself, which was founded more than 100 years ago to formalize a network of message relay stations across the country (that's where the "Relay" in the ARRL's name comes from). NTS is not only a program of the ARRL, it is a linchpin of the League's history. The ARRL "owns" it, just as it "owns" ARES, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service. Both of these services are administered primarily by volunteers, most of whom have been given a great deal of autonomy. But that doesn't change the fact that NTS and ARES are programs of the ARRL, and that the ARRL is ultimately responsible for their actions.
(By the way, this is not exclusively an ARRL issue. We have occasionally found it necessary to remind some of the wonderful volunteers on our contest and award committees that administering a program on a day-to-day basis, even for a long time, does not give one ownership of that program. CQ's contests and awards are programs of CQ magazine and thus are owned by the magazine, not by their administrators or the participants. We also need to occasionally remind readers that purchasing a copy of this magazine does not give them ownership of the information inside it, nor the right to scan articles — or entire issues — and post them online without our permission. The contents of this magazine are the intellectual property of CQ and/or the articles' authors, and protected by copyright laws.)
Returning briefly to the NTS mess, our hobby cannot afford to have in-fighting among various constituencies and interest groups. As Buffalo Springfield sang in "For What It's Worth" back in the '70s … "Nobody's right if everybody's wrong." It sure looks to us like everybody's wrong to one degree or another in this case, and the worst part is that it makes amateur radio look bad in the eyes of one of our major government partners, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Everybody needs to move beyond the infighting and the turf wars and work together to create a unified amateur radio response network that makes the best use of everyone's skills and training. It is too bad that this couldn't have happened before there were "firings," resignations, and lawsuits.
Hall of Fame Authors
In this issue, we're honored to start things out with articles by two recent inductees to the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame. David Dary, W5ZAX, recalls "the day the FCC came knocking" and how his early, unknowing and very brief experience in pirate radio led to a lifetime in amateur radio, a career in broadcast journalism and journalism education, and becoming a highly- regarded writer on the American West. Next, Keith Lamonica, W7DXX, relates the story behind the first remotely-controlled amateur radio station accessed via the internet, as well as its current status and future plans. The concept of remote operating is revolutionizing amateur radio and making it possible for many people in antenna-restricted homes to get on the air and remain active hams.
We've also got the SSB results of the 2016 CQWW WPX Contest, the conclusion of our three-part series on the first 90 years of Army MARS … and its new role for the future in fighting cyberterrorism. We also review the DV4mini for digital voice with a Raspberry Pi, and in our cover story, explore what goes into setting a new DX record on one of our "frontier" bands, 47 GHz. We hope you enjoy these articles and the rest of this issue.
– 73, W2VU