FCC Gets Complaint: Proposed Ham Radio Rules Hurt National Security

On November 10th, [Theodore Rappaport] sent the FCC an ex parte filing regarding a proposed rule change that would remove the limit on baud rate of high frequency (HF) digital transmissions. According to [Rappaport] there are already encoded messages that can’t be read on the ham radio airwaves and this would make the problem worse.

[Rappaport] is a professor at NYU and the founding director of NYU Wireless. His concern seems to relate mostly to SCS who have some proprietary schemes for compressing PACTOR as part of Winlink — used in some cases to send e-mail from onboard ships.

The FCC proposal is related to a request by the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) seeking to overturn baud rate limits imposed in 1980 presumably in an attempt to limit signals eating up too much spectrum on the bands. However, PACTOR 4 — specifically mentioned in the proposal — is narrow bandwidth but capable of sending 5,800 bits per second and is thus not permitted on amateur bands. The ARRL argues that this is actually preventing efficient use of the bands. Keep in mind that while PACTOR is well-known, PACTOR-II, -III, and -IV are proprietary and generally not decodable without using an approved modem.

It doesn’t seem especially related to us that upping or removing bandwidth limits would necessarily result in national security problems per se. First, the airwaves aren’t exclusively American. So while the FCC can control radio operators in the United States, that isn’t the entire problem. Second, enforcement is lax but doesn’t have to be and anyone who really wants to compromise national security will probably flaunt the law anyway. And finally, anyone who really wants to send secret messages can probably do it over other means and/or use steganography to conceal their encoding.

So we aren’t sure what the real point to the filing is. Sure, sending encoded messages on the ham bands is against the rules, which ought to be better enforced. If PACTOR-IV is going to be used by hams it ought to be open. But upping the baud rate limit doesn’t prevent or allow this from happening. Is it really a national security risk? If it is, it seems to us only minor. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

126 thoughts on “FCC Gets Complaint: Proposed Ham Radio Rules Hurt National Security

  1. It’s weird that this post just popped up. I know nothing about ham radios but yesterday I was thinking about what we could do when/if the internet crashes and Ham radios came to mind. I don’t have a clue what to think about this post . Do you?

    1. You could look into getting your license if you’re interested. The ARRL has a book called “Now You’re Talking”
      and you can use it as a study guide to get your Technician license.

        1. You can download an app for android and take practice exams – the questions are word for word the same as on the tests. If you have general electronics knowledge and common sense you can probably already pass, or get very close. Question pool is like 400 questions, with 35 (?) on a test.

          1. I recommend getting the ARRL 4th Edition Technician manual, watch videos by Dave Cassler (KE0OG) on YouTube (He has a technician series) and then use the apps like “Ham Test Prep” on Android, or sites like HAMStudy.org or arrlexamtestprep.appspot.com to practice what you’ve learned. Once you consistently can get 80% or better on practice tests, it’s time to find out when and where a testing session will be. Getting on the air is fun and rewarding and it’s really interesting all of the ways you can use HAM radios and computers together.


          2. Another good one is hamstudy.org, go through the test until you have a good pass rate on all the questions, I did that for mine, went in and actually took all three exams and walked out with my General license (I bombed the Extra class test because I didn’t study much for it, the VE was like “Well you did so well on the other two here do the Extra test”

          3. Is there one for iPhone? Ive been monitoring for 25 years. I’m on my 3rd radio. I’ve bought about 4 AARL manuals. I miss the local repeaters being constantly active. I know, it sounds lame that I still don’t have my ticket, but you can’t say I’m not committed to trying. 73s!

        2. I agree with the other responses, but would add this:
          Get yourself a reasonably priced, all-band type receiver, and start listening yourself. I tell my friends that I’ve “been into HAM, (or, shortwave radio,)” for two decades now. No, I don’t have a license, but I’ve been listening, watching related news and videos, and even tinkering- this whole time. Doing this will very likely compel you to go further, because the first thing that becomes apparent is the capability of this mode of communication. When, with a limited budget and zero set-up, any citizen can pick up broadcasts from around the world- it is realized how useful and powerful the medium of this art really is.

          I’ve experimented with different equipment, and even acquired enough to run my own system. Not having your license allows you to relax, and pick up the best deals when you see them, before you are anxious and have limited choices, (due to the inherent time constraint.)

          The other benefit is that you learn a lot along the way, including the best and most reliable sources for information, how transmission and reception quality vary, when tests are held and where, and the occurrances of “ham fests” and other things- you just don’t realize when you’re outside the circle.

          I have used shortwave to listen to alternative news broadcasts, both domestic and from around the world; and even though I am limited to English as my first language, you will hear MANY sources that are broadcast in your language. There are both differences in content AND in simple perspective that can really give you a much broader understanding of your place on the global stage. I’ve heard so many news reports that described events in my own country- for which no mention was made in the media here. I’ve heard perspectives on news and politics that you just can’t reach domestically. You see how the rest of the world sees- and if you are objective enough, this is a very powerful tool.

          I have heard ships in distress, reports during catastrophies like Katrina, and even local tidbits from rag-chewers talking about the world in my little corner of it. (You hear many things that way for which no other source, save grapevine, would “enlighten” you. Crime sprees like car break-ins is one example.)

          First and foremost, *for me,* the shortwave is information, and knowledge, and the “power” that comes with this information is a constant assessment of safety and security.

          Also, you might consider getting a CB radio. Now, many will tell you, and in some ways I tend to agree- the CB airwaves are worthless. But, consider that this is a form of radio communication that you can use, LEGALLY, the moment you acquire it. Though most of the structured etiquette has almost completely vanished from this band of radio, there is still some that remains, and others that are simply acceptable by the majority of users. Unwritten rules, you might say. Taking your turn talking from time to time will build confidence, believe it or not, and these units are CHEAP compared to HAM-capable transceivers. I HAVE used CB en-route and mobile often enough that I strongly urge drivers who consistently travel long distance to own and operate them. YOU can help others, and they can help you. No- the CB radio is NOT AT ALL what it used to be, in terms of traffic. But, when you find local contacts, you often can speak uninterrupted for HOURS,.

          Remember: the vast majority of licensed HAMS LISTENED a very long time, before they licensed. Look at me! I’ve been doing this since 1988, have had many different (and cheaply made or acquired) antennas and even radios- and the hobby is enjoyable as I use it now. (I am licensed for high-power FRS, and DO plan to license very soon.)

          W3KSI, (Richard Johnstone) was my Great-Grandfather; a pioneer HAM operator.

          Best of luck!

      1. The Tech and General license dont allow u on all bands, and its not approved to use outside of the us.

        The full license is very hard to get without being a master in electronics. In Sweden u can get on all bands with a General. Maybe a GOOD idea for the arll to get more youngsters on the bands.

        Also i dont see Anyone building soldering anymore.they all buy plug and play gear for the highest prices. And we use voip.

        My vote goes to General license , and all bands with 200 watts. Also that u can use it world wide. The fcc arll iaru should get their heads together and wise up.

        1. You basically do get access to all the bands with General class license. There are portions of bands restricted to those with an Extra license and there are sometimes lower power limits, but a General can do almost everything that an Extra can do (except brag about having the top tier license).

        2. No. that is almost all entirely false.
          The only correct part is that Technician class licensees do not have privileges on some bands.

          In the US…

          The Technician class license, which should be super easy for the majority of HaD readers does not allow one to get on all bands, this is true. It does however get you everything that is available to any other ham in the VHF and above ranges. It also gets you some voice privileges on 10 meters which is low enough to have band openings that can give you world wide communications although those openings are quite rare outside of the peak of the sunspot cycle. It also gives you CW privileges on 80, 40 and 15 meters which is definitely enough to get you around the world except that you have to use Morse code.

          Note that I said you have to USE Morse code, not learn Morse code. You could let your computer do the encoding/decoding although that rarely works well if you are trying to communicate with someone who is sending by hand. Computer software just isn’t as good at handling the inconsistencies and imperfections of a human sending code as a well practiced human brain is. It would be fine for communicating with a friend who is doing the same however.

          The General class license takes a bit more work to get however it is probably within reach of most anyone that would read HaD articles if they are willing to work for it. The General class license DOES give one access to every mode on every ham band and even full power. The only things that a general class licensee is missing are some little slivers of bandwidth on 80, 40, 15 and 20 meters.

          To be fair those “little slivers” aren’t as insignificant as I make them sound. They matter because different countries don’t all have the exact same bands as we do. Those slivers are what are known as “DX windows”. They are the ranges where our bands in the US overlap with other, distant country’s bands that we might want to make contact with. Still, they are only some very small parts of the total frequency ranges that we get. General class licensees really do have access to almost everything.

          Also, I don’t really know what you are talking about when you say that Tech and General class licenses are “not approved outside the US”. The US has reciprocal agreements with most other countries that give US hams similar privileges when traveling to what they have at home. Of course the details vary from country to country so I’m not going to even try to get into any specifics. Maybe there are some countries that only recognize extra class licenses from the US. If so they are in the minority. Also, this only applies to a traveling ham wanting to transmit when in another country. There certainly is no rule prohibiting one’s signal from crossing national boundaries or even communicating with foreign hams if that is what you meant!

          Anyway.. if you really want full, complete access to the ham bands is it actually hard? No! All you have to do is pass the test. The test is multiple choice and pulled from a pool of questions that is publicly available. If you want you can just memorize all the answers. It might take a while if you have no pre-existing background but that’s all that is technically required is some rote memorization.

          I don’t recommend that. It’s much more rewarding to actually gain understanding along the way. My recommendation is to start with the lowest level that you find to be a challenge. Actually learn what the questions and answers mean. Get the license and then actually play with the many privileges it gets you for a while before bothering to go to the next stage. Then, when you are ready for a new challenge don’t just memorize the questions but learn the meaning behind them.

          But… if all you care about is having ALL the privileges… nobody is stopping you from memorizing a bunch of multiple choice questions. Nobody is going to test your understanding. 74% or better gets you the same license as 100% correct too and nobody is going to know if your score was lower of higher than anyone else’s nor will they know how many tries it took.

          1. Oh, yah, in case I wasn’t clear about this. Even a “mere” technician class license is powerful. Want to talk around the world? You can use satellites. Or, you can use linked repeaters. you can even bounce your signal off the freakin moon!

            It’s just rare to get a simplex (direct) signal beyond a distance of a few hundred miles or so.

            Also, if you want to play with higher bandwidth digital signals UHF and above is where it’s at. Even if the FCC drops the bandwidth limits physics limits bandwidth on the HF bands that are not available to technician licensees.

            And getting a tech license… It’s easy!

          2. I got my Amateur Extra Class license by buying Gordon West’s study book and taking practice tests online until I consistently got over 90. Then I found the next VEC party at Grumman (was TRW). Passed. No Morse Code required.

        3. Personally I am 27 years old and not a master of electronic knowledge AT ALL, and I got my amateur extra license after a little studying, it took two attempts at the test, but overall it wasn’t too hard. I know several people who build their own gear (I’m guessing that’s what you meant by “building soldering”) some of whom are amateur radio operators too.

          The goal of requiring people to get their extra license is to force them to learn the concepts they must know in order to not interfere with and/or damage other peoples/organizations/governments equipment and/or operations.

          It [amateur extra license] also forces you to know concepts that end up helping you when you have a problem with your own setup and/or gear and have to track down what is wrong ad fix it…..that knowledge is one of the main factors that encourages/enables people to repair and/or modify their current gear instead of throwing it away and buying another or to quote your post “buy plug and play gear for the highest prices.”.

          You say that you use VOIP…that wouldn’t work in a grid down scenario, which is one of the main purposes of amateur radio in modern times. This is the reason some states give amateur radio operators “emergency communication” tag/registration for their vehicles at a highly reduced price (I recently got a tag for a 94 Jeep Cherokee for $3.00, that’s three dollars, not a typo, in Alabama) the reason being that there is an expectation that if a disaster happens locally and disables all conventional communication, that you will use your HF(or sometimes other) setup to relay messages to help your community.

          My vote is to not change anything. Many people a lot smarter than me spent a lot of time coming up with the system we currently use and as a self policing system, it works very well.

          p.s. The amateur extra license [the most qualified of the licenses] is recognized by many other countries, although sometimes an extra permit is required. Just as when traveling with a firearm, do your homework before you try to operate a station in another country. Canada for instance requires you to state your general location once during every conversation and to have a physical copy of your FCC license and your drivers license (other forms of ID would probably be okay as well). Research the country you plan to operate from and follow the guidelines set fourth. Also remember that in addition to the reciprocity of your license, you must follow their [the country you operate from] regulations regarding operating procedure, how often to state your call sign, what power level is allowed, what frequencies are allowed, etc… Just because they acknowledge your license doesn’t mean they allow the same regulations allowed in the US.

          1. I have a lot of practical knowledge but am not any kind of EE. I was licensed as a Technician in 1974 and then let it lapse during college. I relicensed in the ’90’s and passed all of the written tests up to Advanced without study, in one VEC session. The Extra written test required study. I then had to pass the code tests up to 20 WPM, which took 60 days of hard work to get to. I was founder of No-Code International, so you can thank me that you didn’t have to take that code test.

        4. I disagree with your comment about needing lots of electrical/electronic theory to earn an EXTRA license. I knew hardly anything about that and only missed one on my EXTRA exam.The key is to take the test exams repeatedly, study an hour a day, and after a week’s worth of study, you should get a very high score on any of the exams. Good luck de K4RDG

        5. It’s not like the ham bands aren’t dumb down enough as it is. The HF ham radio bands had deteriorated to the point that they sound like right wing am talk radio so as far as I’m concerned dumbing-down the requirements to get an extra class license is really a stupid idea the last thing we need is ham radio sounding like CB.

          If you want an extra class ham radio license then you need to learn how to work on the equipment you’re using as far as I’m concerned if you can’t repair the radio equipment you’re working on then you don’t deserve the license.

          as far as people not soldering or working on electronics anymore, who do you think designs and builds the computers and cellphones you’re using. The highest class of amateur radio license should be reserved 4 people who contribute to the hobby not just people who want to ratchet jaw

          1. Thankfully, those making the laws aren’t elitists insisting that a public resource be treated with an air of mysticism. In this respect, at least.
            Perhaps only those that can demonstrate proper spelling/grammar/syntax deserve the right to comment in a text-based medium?

            a licensed amateur that sucks at soldering.

          2. Actually, those who make the laws expect an Amateur Radio liscrnse holder to know electronics theory. That’s why they provided for a mentoring and testing process. Those, like you who choose to game that system by only memorizing test questions are what’s known as cheaters. It’s a condition of poor integrity and low personal character. It’s dishonest and dishonorable.
            Sadly, that seems to be a plague more and more prevelant these days.

    2. Finnalllly a baud rate increase means a higher increase in the amount data that can be made available aka higher internet bandwidth of the law will never flex out of the way of tower based ISP and 4g Lte or even 3g for that matter protecting businesses like Verizon and t Mobile instead of someone like me who wants to run their own comms setup from home or anywhere else on the go without a cell service why because I don’t friggin need one it’s 2018 we have the tech why should I pay extra for it every 6months to 2 years it’s bullshit

        1. In the 70s/80s/90s “Phone Patching” was one of the coolest things a ham could do. You could Radio a station that was connected to a phone line, and dial and make phone calls. Before cell phones. Likewise, when the Internet was young 300 baud was an early speed. 1200 baud was another milestone. 70s and 80s here. But ham radio is limited to 300-1200 baud on the classic “HF” bands, which used to be cool! But now it’s basically good for sending text messages and literally-text-only emails. It’s WAY behind the times. The guy is complaining that if he was allowed high baud rates on ham radio, he might not need to pay for so many commercial services like home internet, cell phone, etc.

          1. I depended on MARS radio operators to call home during the 1970’s and 1980’s while on active duty in the Army from all over the world. This was well before cell phone’s were thought of.

      1. The bands would descend into utter chaos, as in the ISM bands, if the FCC allowed arbitrary transmissions on the ham bands. It’s true that they’re partly in the pocket of Verizon/ATT/etc., and I dislike those corporations as much as you do, but at the very least it’s not complete anarchy.

    3. I agree with the ARRL position. As usual, this has turned into an asinine rant about licensing, sadly, with many advocating cheating to get a Amateur license. It’s easy to spot those who do so…

    1. Its not the FCC proposing this, its a ham is proposing that they do not remove the old symbol rate limitation on digital modes.that currently exists. The ARRL has proposed (years ago) that it be removed, and there has been no action.

  2. It’s not that specifically PACTOR or that it’s being intentionally encrypted but the compression negotiations that goes on between two stations for some new protocols makes it difficult if not impossible for a third party to decode.

    The amateur radio service is not intended to be a secure personal communications channel.

    With the Official Observer and soon to be Volunteer Monitor program, Amateur Radio is a self policing hobby. If other amateurs cannot monitor we cannot self police. This would make it easier for those that would exploit the amateur service (specifically maritime operators) to avoid using commercial services that that would be more appropriate.

    Left unchecked, the HF Amateur Bands could become a constant buzz of indecipherable ship-to-shore email.

    1. I have been a HAM since 1968 and still am. Also, a 30 year USN Radioman. The U.S. FCC controls the U.S. amateur rules and frequency allocations and modes/speeds of operation but not worldwide. HAM radio isn’t a threat; more like a fallback for emergency (and non-paid) VOLUNTEER supporters to Civil Defense, Crowd Control and numerous other civil unrest issues. We are mobile and fixed, we cover a wide variety of modes and spectrums and we are DAMN good at it. It only cost our Government a simple “Thank You”.
      Freedom has a cost. We spend our time when needed to support that.
      C. Quint Webb, CDR, USN, (Former Radioman Senior Chief) USN, Retired
      W7CQW…Post Falls, Idaho

    2. I am an extra class license operator
      . Looks like they are dumbing down America. I had to learn the code at 20 wpm . Now no code extra ! I know it’s been this way a long time. The FCC should enforce the rules we already have. Not make new ones.

      1. I agree with the no code rule change as it’s just another mode. There are many, like me, who simply can’t get their brain to accept code. Those who take the rules seriously and strive to operate well plus try to advance the hobby should be excluded just for that. What you should be ranting about is those who cheat by memorizing answers just enough to correctly guess multiple choice questions. They have no interest in the hobby as intended and indeed do “dumb down” Amateur Radio. What we should do is eliminate multiple choice test questions and go to essay type.

        1. Yes, and you know who sponsors this “cheating”, don’t you? THE FCC, the ones who make public the test pools! Really, try Googling the term so that you understand it. There is no one “intent” to the HOBBY, nor is someone who engages in it any less for not being a broadcast engineer. It’s called AMATEUR RADIO, not “Applied Radio Physics, Advanced Electronics, and Circuit Manufacture”. Hobby versus career. Say it again slowly.

          People like you are why the hobby is dying. Go comb your beard and dial up a BBS.

  3. Oops, my fiist comment, in which I used abusive language toward Rappaport, seems to have been deleted by the spam filter. So, let’s just say he’s grossly irresponsible and harmful, and that he has no substantiation for the national security issue.

    I am now in the position of having to write a paper explaining the issues PROPERLY to undo the harm done by this guy and his friends. This will take me days. Days that I should be doing other things. Thanks, Ted.

    There are two issues. One is that certain protocol issues of some Amateur radio digital text communication systems may not have been sufficiently disclosed so that hams can self-monitor and thus self-police their own frequencies. Maybe. But I am not at all clear today that PACTOR III and IV are insufficiently disclosed, even if there is no Open Source to decode them today. Note the claims by SCS at https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/110731917879/16-239.pdf

    The national security issue, however, is entirely spurious. If he wished to substantiate this, which is of course necessary for such a claim, although he offered no substantiation at all, he might offer this sort of evidence:

    Evidence collected by police, coast guard, etc. that the devices referenced were part of equipment on captured drug boats.

    Monitoring information without decoding, such as direction finding establishing likely locations of such an operation.

    But he offers no substantiation at all.

    However, the really hurtful thing is that this fellow has written to his congress people claiming that Amateur Radio is a national security threat. He’s a ham, and should know better. The same congress people who hear from companies, many of which contribute to their campaigns, that would like to take our frequencies for commercial use. Did he think the congress people or their aides would understand the letter? It’s so poorly written that Hackaday editor Al Williams, who is more technical than can be expected of a congress person and their aides, couldn’t make sense of it. We don’t need to create new enemies of ham radio in congress.

    1. Agreed. If anything, national security is served best by having better data communications over HF for disaster response. I would like to see a requirement that modulation and encoding techniques used on amateur radio bands be unencumbered by restrictive patents and IP (PACTOR and P25 come to mind). It should be possible to at least receive and decode all amateur radio transmissions without paying a vendor surcharge.

    2. I’m going to disagree with Bruce. The petitioner may have an important point, though it is obviously and very detrimentally overblown.

      Pactor III, and IV are proprietary, unpublished protocols. One of the goals of amateur radio is open communications. As a matter of international trust these communications must be open if other nations are to agree to it. If we allow encoding and compression using unpublished protocols, the communications become opaque. Those who might be suspicious of the activities of an amateur radio enthusiast would be inclined to ban the activity.

      Nation states are naturally afraid of their technocrats. Technocrats upset the way of the world. Those in power know that the technocrats can bring good things. But they’re rightfully worried that these seemingly trivial noodlings with technology can upset very well entrenched interests and sources of social power. That’s why the deal was struck to keep amateur radio communications open, not encoded in ways that make it difficult for a third party to monitor.

      The fact that others have used such protocols to communicate is not the issue. The issue is one of control. Nation states control businesses and they can shut them down at will. They are not in control of their hobbyist technocrats. So they want to keep them in the open where they can be observed.

      I do not like what this reality is. Yes, we should be able to freely experiment with whatever technologies we see fit. Yes, that’s how the state of the art improves. And yet right now in Europe, there are bureaucrats chasing news aggregator sites away because they are scared of the power of a headline aggregation site. Instead of dealing with the social and technical implications of the site, they ban them. Why? Because it’s upsetting the power structure and the control of information that they used to possess.

      This could happen to amateur radio activities very quickly and quietly unless we observe this social pact. Argue with it all you want. It shouldn’t be that way –but it is. The thugs in charge want to stay there and this is how they do business. Choose your battles wisely.

      1. Amateur radio should be open and decodable by anyone because of two reasons. First, it is an experimental hobby, if I cannot decode what others are doing it hinders experimentation. Second, if I cannot decode it, there is no way of telling that the conversation is hobby related. It could be commercial traffic that is abusing the amateur spectrum.

      2. Can you look at the SCS disclosures listed at https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/110731917879/16-239.pdf and see if you think anything is obviously missing? Also, if anyone here is a GNU Radio head, the obvious thing would be to attempt to write a sketch to decode PACTOR using some transmissions recorded off of the air.

        Decoding negotiated compression requires that you clearly receive both stations. This could take two monitoring stations to achieve. So, it’s difficult, but not in a way that would itself be a rule violation.

        1. Unfortunately, while it appears to have quite a bit of detail there are “proprietary parts” of it that were deliberately left out. You can see that it’s missing in https://www.p4dragon.com/download/PACTOR-3%20Protocol.pdf

          For example, the “Pseudo-Markov” Compression tables for English and German are nowhere to be found in this document. The letter from scs-ptc is a bit combative and incorrect. There are published code bases for other protocols used in ham radio, such as JT65, ROS, Olivia, and others. These protocols may not have the detailed background design documents in the public realm, the code is there for all to see. In contrast, these documents are generally quite open to the things you could glean with a bit of study of an SDR recording. But the key part, the compression table information is glaringly absent. The selection of which compression table to use is also glaringly absent.

          That’s their “proprietary” secret sauce. I think with a lot of work you could reverse engineer it, but I think it’s a bit disingenuous to act as though it’s a trivial exercise.

          1. I really can use some help here, if you can list what’s missing in greater detail. Without that I don’t have my own substantiation to say there _is_ a problem with PACTOR, while I am on stable ground to say there _is_not_ a national security issue.

          2. Bruce, as I pointed out, this is a bit overblown.

            However, the full details of PACTOR are not public. I listed two things: the proprietary compression tables and the automatic selection criteria that are in these protocol overview documents that were not given to the FCC. Keep in mind, the documents released by SCS are not normative. I have been on committees that wrote communications protocol standards, so it’s actually possible that I might know a thing or two about what a protocol document should look like. What they submitted to the FCC was a design outline.

            Can you listen in? Sure. Just pay these people for their proprietary CODEC. The problem I have with the proprietary CODEC is that it does not enable people to tinker with it. It is proprietary and they have not documented it publicly, that I’m aware of.

            I don’t know if that’s enough for the FCC to consider banning the use of PACTOR III or IV, but it bothers me. Amateur radio is supposed to be for those who like to tinker with the technology. PACTOR III and PACTOR IV are appliances that are not documented well enough to tinker with.

            That’s my complaint. It’s trivial, I know, because much of the operation in this hobby is appliance oriented. But in the spirit of the amateur radio service, I think PACTOR III and IV fail.

    3. Thank you. I hope you send this to the FCC.
      I’m expecting Rappaport has a financial interest in this. This horse left the barn with the release of PGP to the public domain. Encryption is available and is going to proliferate as long as their are smart folks to develop it.Nobody can stop it.
      Ted ought to take up pickleball.

  4. The purpose of ham radio is for experimenation. Raising the baud rate limits should allow experiments that may provide a breakthrough allowing higher baud rates than current technology allows.

  5. Just the same, that the gov’t and business and so many may encode, to say that a ham cannot seems an infringement of their rights and to their privacy. If the gov’t wants to limit the degree of encryption, I might buy that.

    1. There are many other radio services that are about privacy. Like cell phones, and WiFi. Ham radio is about everyone being able to hear everyone else. It has to be that way so that hams can self-police their own frequencies. Commercial use, etc., doesn’t belong and self-monitoring is how such things are kept off of ham frequencies.

      1. You might want to look up what frequency Wi-Fi runs in ! You might be a little shocked to find out it’s actually in the ham band 2.4 gigahertz !! Like these new smart meters are in the 900 ham band and the 2.4 gigahertz and band !!

        1. Emily, the band Wi-Fi exists in is an ISM band. ISM stands for Industrial, Scientific, and Medical. Unlicensed activities are a Secondary allocation. it is allowed on a non-interference basis. ISM bands are parts of the spectrum where people can make noise. Microwave ovens operate here. Radar instruments for tank level gauges operate here. Lots of things operate in this band –Without a license.

          However, there are limitations. The power of the signals should be minimal. Any interference to such operations must be accepted. Any licensed operations they interfere with can demand that these unlicensed activities cease and desist. Generally Wi-Fi was intended for unlicensed, short range, non-critical applications.

          Amateur radio operators, however, are licensed to use significant levels of power to communicate over longer distances. The greater power and longer distance means that they cannot use encrypted communications. People may want to know who is using those power levels and where they are. They may want to know what that radio traffic is. And because it is intended for longer range communications, it legally should not be encrypted.

          Like automobile race tracks, and car racing, if ham radio didn’t exist, it would have to be invented. If you don’t allocate places for people to experiment, explore and learn about the technology, they’ll do it in the streets or on parts of the spectrum where they may cause significant problems.

          So the comparison isn’t particularly relevant. It’s not the encryption of the communications that is important. It’s the Eb/No and the power behind it that makes the difference.

        2. Multiple radio services with completely different and incompatible rules often share the same frequencies.

          When you transmit WiFi or run a smart meter you are limited by the rules in Part 15. Encryption is allowed but power limits and even antenna gain are very very low.

          When you transmit on those same frequencies using your amateur radio privileges you get the ability to use far more power but it’s pretty useless for WiFi’s purposes because no encryption.

          Also, the “main” purpose of those bands… ISM which means things like big industrial microwave ovens that are used to dry glue and stuff like that which is not about communication at all.

      1. Ehhh. Not the most credible defense. You’d still be perfectly able to track down those transmitter’s locations. Or determine if some company’s product was illegally using a certain reserved frequency, even if the data itself is encrypted.

        The FCC and its corporate owners just don’t like the idea of methods of communications existing that can’t be spied on. That’s what it’s really about I think. Our phones and wifi all have ludicrous numbers of backdoors and methods of control; if a ham can just encrypt any old equipment on any old band, it would be hard to keep tabs on everyone. It’s just about control.

        1. We actually don’t want to make it so difficult to find a violator that we have to RDF them and then subpoena them to disclose their logs and determine that their communications are corroborated by other hams. Monitoring other people’s communications is much better. We are in general deeply offended by people who feel there is a need for privacy on Amateur Radio and will continue to keep them as far as possible from the hobby.

          1. You are not the spokesman for all of ham radio, now stop pretending like you are. Your statements aren’t even arguments, you’re just pretending that every word out of your mouth is fact. No wonder your hobby is dying, it’s full of self-important loudmouths.

    2. Amateur radio is also, a hobby. You build your radios, and try them on the air. It doesn’t replace something else. You can’t use it to talk business, and while you can relay messages for third parties, you can’t be paid for it. The need for “privacy” doesn’t exist because you won’t be talking about “private” things.

      You can play with technology, but it’s not about using it for “practical purposes”.


      1. The idea that you only need privacy to talk about private things is such a big misconception. It’s a herd immunity thing. If only shady people need privacy, nobody will ever be afforded privacy. If only business interests deserve secrets, then they will get privacy but the citizens won’t. Which is basically where we are today.

        Information security should always be the default. It doesn’t need to be explained beforehand; a lack of security is what needs to be explained.

        1. You’re misreading this.

          Amateur radio is the least controlled radio sevice there is, the cost being an exam to get the license. But there are restrictions, which many non-hams don’t get, judging from comments when the hobby is mentioned here. We can do things most people can’t, but can’t do some things most people can. You can’t use it to replace commercial communication. You don’t get a frequency assigned to your own use. There has long been a “gentleman’s agreement” to avoid certain topics, including religion. Unless it’s changed, in the US you generally can’t talk about what you heard on the radio, broadcast and amateur radio being the main exceptions (I guess NOAA weather forecasts must be an exception too). You don’t have the expectation of privacy, because it’s not about “serious” communication. You aren’t living in your own bubble, you need to be able to hear what others are saying, and be heard by others. They can join in, or tell you your signal is too wide, or warn you that the frequency is being used for emergency communication. That’s the nature of the amateur radio service, if you need “privacy” then sonething else is more suitable.

          Amateur radio is a party line. If you think you need privacy to say nothing important, then think about the neighbor who can’t call for an ambulance because you’re using a scrambler or modem, so you can’t hear them tell you to get off the phone because they are bleeding to death.


    3. Amateur radio is only for communication of a personal nature and is not intended to be private. Knowing that from the outset as all ham operators do privacy or encryption are not an issue.

  6. The problem with variable bandwidth unattended emitters, is not the regulated symbol rate limit, it is the variabe bandwidth in a shared band. The solution is discrete frequencies that are high bit-rate data only. These discrete frequencies can be outside the current Amateur bands. For example the US could transfer from the military these discrete frequencies in each data capable band. This way, non-data signals, and competing narrow-band legacy modes can be prohibited. Charge the ARRL some multi-thousand dollar fee to issue channel licenses to users for these variable bandwidth high bit-rate groups. Pay to play. These water and land yacht owners can easily afford it.

      1. Many of the boat folks use multiple forms of communication including Ameteur radio. When you are out in the middle of nowhere you want a backup and a backup to the backup. I get your point though.

  7. With almost every rules change in ham radio, you’ll find someone who decides that this new change represents some kind of existential threat to amateur radio, and in response tries to construct some kind of dire sounding justification. I’d submit that Rappaport’s complaint is precisely this. The idea that amateur radio in any form represents any kind of national security threat is simply absurd, for no other reason that if one operates according to the regulation, one is not allowed to use encryption to obscure the meaning of messages, and if one is willing to circumvent the rules, then it doesn’t matter what those regulations are.

    Look, I’m opposed to using undocumented protocols or encryption as part of amateur radio, including protocols like PACTOR or patent-encumbered voice codecs like AMBE. I don’t view them as consistent with the purpose of the amateur radio service as defined by Part 97 in the United States. But it is hard to see how this has anything to do with the baud rate used on HF channels, and Rappaport’s complaint serves only to make politicians and their appointees consider amateur radio to be a risk rather than a benefit to the communities that ham radio serves.

    73 K6HX

    1. +!!

      Agreed, Rappaport’s argument is mute according to part 97. Allow the increased baud rates with the current bandwidth limitations, no encryption necessary and let hams be hams. This seems to be the same old “no code” argument moved to digital techniques. Hams will figure out a way to make it work within the limits of the regulations and everyone has fun.


    2. Absolutely agreed. It’s so baffling how conservative and traditionalist ham radio experimentation and the regulation around it has become. It’s turned into a nostalgia hobby instead of real scientific effort. They resist anything, and for the most part ignore the ramifications of new technology for the majority of the spectrum. For god’s sake, if it weren’t for microwaves acting as accidental signal jammers we probably never would have had wifi. That band would just be another part of the vast, silent sea of protected military airwaves or something. They would have jealously guarded that unused asset and prevented a huge part of our culture from developing.

  8. Just make an automatic encrypted transmission detector connected to some overpowered CW transmitter that will tune to that frequency and send series of short pulses that will foul the message.
    “Oh, did my experimental 10kW transmitter obscured your encrypted emails? Sorry, didn’t mean to. Next time use commercial band, asshole!”
    Repeat until they learn to avoid ham bands…

  9. The Marine bands that boats are using for pactor4 comms are not amateur radio. Operators at sea do so using an fcc issued ship station license for which there is no testing . Two completely different things.

  10. Just a minor gripe: You mean “flout the law”, not “flaunt the law”. You flaunt fashion, or ostentatious wealth, or your accomplishments, parading them around in front of people. By contrast, laws get flouted – disregarded, scoffed at, or shown scorn towards.

      1. It’s not encryption that is prohibited, but obscuring information. This is important, because it has implications like there being no prohibition on digital signature.

  11. I think the logic in that filing to the FCC is this:

    “If allowed, NPRM 16-239 would perpetuate the current violations, and would authorize
    obscured transmissions of unlimited bandwidth over the global airwaves, further increasing
    the danger to our national security, since these transmissions cannot be intercepted or
    eavesdropped by other amateur radio operators or the FCC.”

    I take that logic to mean that we can’t intercept those communications for the purposes of “national security” (i.e. code breaking or analysis during war time or to detect criminal activity, etc).

    Furthermore it might be likely that such a high-bandwidth transmission would just look like normal noise, but you would not be prevented from “intercepting” it; you just wouldn’t know you had done so.

  12. Pactor patented protocsls that you must buy a licence to fecode used to deliver email to boats for profit does not belong on the ham bands. It has nothing to do with the hobby or experimentation

  13. Unfortunately, the precedence for proprietary, licensed-only communication via Amateur Radio has been set. SCS isn’t the only one fouling things up. PACTOR II and above are like the closed-source proprietary voice codec (AMBE) which is patented by Digital Voice Systems and used on [mainly ICOM’s] D-STAR. Want to roll your own voice radio without buying their chip? Forget it. The same goes for the voice codec used for Yaesu’s system fusion. Also Motorola’s DMR and P25. How ANY of these were accepted by hams (and are even legal on the air) is beyond me. They are all 180 degrees backwards from the open spirit of Ham Radio. It’s sad.

    That said, I’m 100% behind the FCC opening up the symbol rate. I look forward to OPEN efforts like Codec 2 (and the myriad of digital modes which you can actually experiment with yourself) benefiting from the opportunities.

    1. You may be interested to learn the D-STAR vocoder chip fell out of patent protection a while ago. I have been told the codec has since been reverse engineered but a cursory search doesn’t show a solution. Still, proprietary encoding don’t belong on the amateur radio spectrum in the first place.

      1. AMBE was fully disclosed to APCO before it was allowed to be included in APCO 25. IMBE too. The document is online. It uses a fancifully inefficient implementation. There’s a huge discrete Fourier transform, for example. As if nobody knew to code FFT in its place.

  14. Issues with specific schemes including PACTOR could certainly be dealt with in better ways than blanket rules regarding maximum baud rates. As soon as one’s argument starts to depend on a specific mode then that is a good sign that it is time to change one’s argument.

    1. This is not FCC’s fault. ITU still builds its rules on modulation designators, which have modes encoded into them. FCC bases its rules on ITU, since the US has to follow the ITU treaty.

  15. I think that using a proprietary protocol is a very bad idea. It strikes at the heart of ham radio and being able to build your own gear without having to buy a particular company’s modem.

    Is there a patent standing in the way of reverse engineering it, or building an equivalent open protocol from scratch?

  16. If the baud rate is faster, it will take less time to send messages and therefore not tie up the bandwidth. Besides, there are bandplans for all kinds of activity and a lot of the digital space is quiet except contests and weekends.

    1. I support your general intent, but your argument has a flaw. If the medium becomes USEFULLY CAPABLE, many more people will use it. My case-in-point: the Internet moving to being a video streaming medium. Remember before that was a thing? It was inconceivable to the average user. And it worked like crap in the beginning. Now I stream CONSTANTLY… for “One Low Price”. First World Problems? :-)

  17. They are mixing arguments in the complaint to the FCC. The speed has nothing to do with the security of the transmission. The encryption of the data would control that. Unless there are some secret keys involved that cannot be intercepted then I don’t see the problem. If the data is encrypted then that already violates amateur radio rules. If the protocol is proprietary then I don’t think it should be allowed on the amateur bands. If ships are sending emails on amateur bands then that would probably be commercial use which is already banned.

    1. Ships can send email over Ameteur radio using Winlink as long as they hold an Ameteur license. It’s primarily private owned pleasure vessels using Winlink so not commercial use. I’m not really sure why people are concentrating on ships. Pactor was recently used by Ameteus as part of the relief efforts between the mainland and Hawaii. The FCC even granted a temporary waiver to allow pactor 4 to be used with higher symbol rates. There are lots of protocols that would benefit from the increased symbol rate other then pactor.

  18. I’m am extra class licensee and I agree with the writer here. The ham bands are enormous and aren’t limited to operators in the US. If some nefarious characters want to transmit their coded terrorist plot over the airwaves they’re going to do so regardless of some FCC rule or law. Don’t limit us legal operators to 1980s technology because of someone who probably isn’t even licensed and has no clue what really goes on on the ham bands. Also, there is an organization (MARS) comprised of ham operators who work with the military monitoring the band’s for these sorts of things.

    1. I am an extra class Ameteur operator and I wouldn’t use it for covert communication unless there was no infrastructure. There are better ways to communicate without being subject to NSA snooping that wouldn’t break the law or draw as much attention. Seems like half the current WH staff is using the Signal app. Perhaps getting an Ameteur radio license was legitimate or if you don’t believe that maybe it was a deliberate countermeasure to divert NSA resources. Personally I would use the internet through TOR or a VPN and encrypt the messages with one time pads if I were truly worried.

    2. The same equipment is EASILY modified to break the rules. Nowadays totally in software with the click of a check-box. Having the license gives you initial legitimacy to snoopers who pester you about your strange antennas and equipment. Everyone from absolute dipsh!tz to actual Nobel Prize winners are in the ham radio world… that can include spies and academics, Blue-collar workers and doctors.


  19. As a 30-year veteran of the Intelligence Community, I can say the premise that lifting baud rates on PACTOR or any other digital mode is a threat to National Security is complete garbage. Utter nonsense. The argument put forth by Rappaport in his petition is specious at best and lacking an ounce of proof or example. It would, if served up in any military service, be summarily dismissed as “exceedingly poor staff work.” If I had submitted this kind of sloppy work to any of my superior officers, I would have come out of their offices significantly lighter with large chunks of my posterior having been ripped off.

    I wouldn’t go into why specifically higher baud rates are no threat to National Security, but suffice it to say that these communication modes wouldn’t even cause a blip on the capabilities of any decryption system that would be legally authorized to intercept and process such transmissions. They are relatively primitive compared to what the USG and other countries use for sensitive and governmental communications, with interception and decryption systems to match. I cannot imagine a scenario short of a dystopian apocalypse where a governmental entity would really dedicate any degree of resources toward the more primitive modes unless EVERYTHING else was gone or compromised. It would be tantamount to sending your banking information via smoke signals.

    Now there might be some validity to the arguments that using proprietary compression or encoding schemes really doesn’t fall completely in line with the spirit of amateur radio, but that is not the claim in the petition. The rest of the palaver about compression, encoding, and maritime users is eye wash in respect to the petition – the petition claims higher baud rates are a threat and that is nonsensical and indefensible, especially to folks who know the business and have worked in the business.

  20. The use of encrytion and email on ham bands runs directly afoul of existing rules on one level and potentially on a second level. The rules specifically disallow ecrypted messages and no commercial content of any type is allowed. Note that encryption is different from symbol coding and / or compression both of which are allowed as long as the techniques used are publicly published so a third party can listen in if they desire. This is likely another cw (Morse code) forever type raising a false flag to keep ham radio from evolving technically.

  21. Fairly new to ham status but it was something I wanted to do since 7th grade. I plan on learning morse this coming year and trying to bump up to the next class license. Still only infrequently do 2m and 70cm, but it isn’t stimulating enough for me.

    I think this whole “National Security” argument is possibly a moot point… I doubt there is anything the NSA can’t decode/listen to if it wants.

  22. This is got to be the stupidest complaint I’ve seen very poorly researched. It is already illegal to transmit in coded messages on the amateur radio bands.
    there are digital signals on the amateur radio bands but the software and the encoding is freely available to anyone with the technical knowledge to put it to use. The bottom line is if you’re hearing digital signals on amateur radio and can’t decode them it’s not because you’re not allowed to is because you lack the technical knowledge to do it.

    The other issue I have is the reference to data limits and speed on HF. The legal limit on bandwidth and speed is frivolous and irrelevant. the current speed for data communications on HF is not limited by any law but rather by physics. There are physical limitations to the amount of data that can be transferred within the limited bandwidth of HF communications..

    To put this in perspective your cell phone connection utilizes more bandwidth then the entire amateur radio frequency allocations combined.

    in other words when you are browsing the internet on your phone you are using more frequency bandwidth than is a lot of to the entire amateur radio service. Amateur radio is just much more efficient there can be thousands of conversations taking place an amateur radio using less bandwidth then you’re using for one single cell phone call.

    This complaint has really nothing to do with National Security. It is Wall Street and Commercial entities who are concerned that this change in amateur radio rules will impact their business by creating an alternative. of course this is asinine as once again the data limits are result of physical limitations of HF communications and not some arbitrary baud rate rule.

  23. Without expanding on the national security threat this is moot. Nice that he mentions the fcc can not monitor it… is that a fact? No evidence is offered. Also who is responsible for monitoring RF in the 50 states for malicious intent. Not the NSA not the CIA… so it has to lie between the FBI and FCC and you cant tell me that there is a national security mission being conducted by the FCC or Hams that monitor on behalf of the ARRL to pass to the FCC… If you were to go to the lengths to use HF (look how much a rig costs) why would you stick to the ham bands and why wouldn’t you encrypt? There are enough cots solutions to do it.

    If I experiment and create my own data schema between two HF rigs in my basement who could decode it? Experimentation will inherently leave some in the dark… so what? Think of experimental things like wspr ft8 and the like. In early development people saw it but didnt know what it was. Development takes time and by not approving the FCC just hamstrings Hackers… like HAD hackers.

    Furthermore read the email trail. One reply from a guy at the FCC and then a response of a 3 page diatribe… note the response to that… if it was an email that was sent is not present. I know a few PhD grads and none of them have ever presented such a convoluted answer.

    If I had to guess he is an ARRL Observer who is just upset he wont be able to listen in. In the meantime wb6wbj…

    So if this is truly a matter of national security then someone (FCC/FBI) who owns that mission will weigh in. Not a random ham.

  24. TRhis rule was thought up by a bureaucrat who wants a corner office and a high-backed chair. It’s clearly unenforceable nonsense. How about going after the good ol’ boys on 80 m? Now there’s a real poke in the eye.

  25. This is totally ridiculous. Almost all communications is encrypted one way or another whether through intentional coding or through forward error correction. The need for a special modem as a fear factor isn’t a reasonable issue. All satellite communications, all WiFi, all cellphones, all smartphone apps are encoded one way or another. Whoever is blocking this needs to stand down and permit 1990s technology to be used on the hambands. It’s about time this progresses.

  26. There are a number of issues being commingled and perhaps confused here.

    1. The ham bands depend on being open, unencrypted, and non-private. It is explicitly illegal to encode for the purposes of obscuring the meaning of a message (97.113(a)4). Other forms of encryption on the amateur service aren’t necessarily illegal outright, but I believe they should be. There are restrictions on the content of amateur radio transmissions (no business may be conducted there, among other things), and those restrictions can’t be policed unless the content can be readily understood. We amateurs are generally responsible for policing our own bands, and we can’t do that if we can’t understand each other.

    2. The ham bands may not be used to transmit communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services (97.113(a)5). The word “reasonably” makes this a bit vague, but the idea is that the Amateur Service is not to be used regularly as a free substitute for a commercial service. There are commercial services that work well for sending e-mail to and from sailboats on the high seas, via satellite or other means.

    3. The ham bands work based on users listening to one another, observing which frequencies are in use before transmitting, avoiding those frequencies, and choosing frequencies that will not interfere with other amateurs conducting an existing conversation. Nobody is assigned a particular frequency. When somebody makes a mistake and transmits over an existing conversation, perhaps because he couldn’t hear a distant party that was transmitting, he must be able to hear a nearby station telling him that the frequency is occupied.

    4. Despite these points, Winlink is used on the amateur bands, with PACTOR modems whose transmissions cannot be intercepted, using fixed frequencies. Probably the vast majority of this use is either for testing or for e-mail from areas outside of cell phone service, such as sailboats. Most of these messages are probably of the “Having a great time in Fiji, wish you were here” type. But because these are widespread and undecipherable, we have no way of knowing who might be sending something like, “Expect explosives shipment to be delivered at 2315 at rendezvous point Kilo”.

    5. Symbol rate isn’t necessarily very closely related to any of these points, except that, if symbol rate increases, occupied bandwidth will increase, and perhaps more people will want to use the limited resource of amateur HF spectrum. If the transmissions remain as undecipherable as they currently are, that would make it even harder to find the evildoer among all the “weather is nice, wish you were here” messages.

    6. Amateur radio has very little about it that makes it unique as a communications medium. If evildoers want to communicate, and PACTOR modems become illegal and unavailable (that’s not going to happen soon), they’ll communicate via other means. They might use clear-text amateur communications combined with steganography to transmit hidden messages. They might use satellite phones, with modems, and digital signals encrypted with one-time pads. There are many other possibilities.

    In my opinion, communications that can’t be easily decrypted by noncommercial algorithms should be forbidden on the amateur bands. That’s a minor, but important, rule change. After that is in place, let the symbol rate be whatever people want to make it, but for the purposes of allowing amateurs to listen and avoid interfering with one another, restrict the bandwidth used by a single transmission to a fixed limit, perhaps about 3kHz, since that’s roughly what most SSB radios already use for voice. The motivation for this is mainly to keep the Amateur Service working for its intended purpose much more than to prevent terrorists from nefariously using the ham bands.

  27. Sorry Theodore Rappaport, I totally disagree with the argument. There are a thousand other ways for those bent on espionage to communicate. Bringing out the National Security boogyman to scare people is totally unjustified. I’m surprised an EE would be so opposed to allowing a little innovation. I’m thinking you have some other motivation. You must really prefer good old fashioned Morse Code too! I don’t buy your argument or your motivation.

  28. When I got my tech.ticket in 2002 I found the test was mostly comen sense and had little to do with electronic stuff anybody that has played with CB in the 70’s the test is a piece of cake. Learn by doing and by listening to the radio bands. My girlfriend at the time never had any interest in radio of any kind, only missed 7 correct answers. Get your amiture tech. license and if possible learn the Moore’s code. That is the tuff part thankfully not a requirement now days. I found vhf uhf radio great for local work . Useing the internet to reach someone in say japane. No internet no talkies. It’s not radio. It’s internet. Digital technically is great on the hf bands 160-10 metters. 5 watts of power the same as your standard ht on vhf. 38 country’s contacted. With full 559s 599s signal reports. “Confurmed contact’s”. Long story short get your amiture tech ticket teach your wife and kids other famley member’s the guys at work. What you going to do when the cell phone don’t work . No AM no FM broadcasting radio no TV broadcasting no internet and forbid the land line goes down. That handy wireless home phone don’t work with out batter back up! The electrical grid goes all the time.

  29. Pactorr 3 and 4 require specific modems that are expensive, most hams can’t monitor them anyways, there for they should not be used on ham frequencies…unless the software is in the public domain….

    This modem should only be used on private frequencies.. if not the company that manufactures the unit needs to open its grasp on there software and make it free to hand… that’s my take on it..

  30. Part 97 and the amateur radio service is built on being able to monitor all transmissions including emergency or data. Emergency use as a means to justify obscured non-decipherable messages is improper and degrades the whole purpose and intent of ham radio. The FCC ruled several years ago that encrypted or obscured data is not allowed even for emergency or medical needs. Use a commercial service if you want private messaging.

  31. So I haven’t seen too many hacks that require a HAM license, yet I keep seeing this HAM stuff on HaD.

    I don’t mind it, but maybe post more HAM related hacks or change the site name to HAMaday.com

    1. Ham operators were some of the original hackers. Many of us here are licensed. The number of comments on this article suggest it resonates with the readership. Maybe you should look into Ameteur radio and you might find you are missing out.

  32. How can you report unethical Hamm Operator behavior? I hear radio wave frequency interference when using cell phone and other electronic devices. I sometimes can hear garbled conversations.

    1. Hi Erica,

      What you are hearing is not necessarily a licensed ham’s communications.

      It is very unlikely that they would come into your cell phone – they usually operate very far from that frequency, and your cell phone is encrypted (it sends the call over the air in code) so it’s not possible for ham transmitters to get in there because the hams won’t know the code used by your cellular carrier. Anything you hear on your cell phone is likely to be a problem with the cellular carrier or a wired phone company, especially if you are calling someone with a landline phone. Calls leak between wires all of the time.

      If on other equipment you hear garbled speech sort of like a duck quacking, this could be a CB-er or a ham. CB-ers are not hams, they don’t have the training or legal responsibility that hams do.

      Also, even if a ham leaks into your equipment, it’s not necessarily their fault. Many electronic manufacturers make their equipment prone to interference from perfectly legal transmissions. Often they save a few cents by doing so. The worst interference problem in my neighborhood was because a homeowner used flat wire (like speaker wire) to wire the telephones in his home, where twisted wire is required to prevent interference. A really simple difference that most home-onwers would never know, but of course the phone company does.

      I suggest you call the American Radio Relay League and ask them. Their web site is arrl.org .

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