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Commission Seeks Comment on Amateur Emergency Communications

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Released: April 2, 2012

PUBLIC NOTICE

Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th St., S.W.

Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

Washington, D.C. 20554

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

DA 12-523

Released: April 2, 2012

COMMISSION SEEKS COMMENT ON EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS BY AMATEUR

RADIO AND IMPEDIMENTS TO AMATEUR RADIO COMMUNICATIONS

GN Docket No. 12-91

COMMENT DATE: May 17, 2012

By this Public Notice, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission)
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau seek comment
on the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio Service communications in emergencies and disaster relief.
As set forth below, comment is sought on issues relating to the importance of emergency Amateur Radio
Service communications and on impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications.
Stakeholder entities and organizations, including the Amateur Radio, emergency response, and disaster
communications communities, are particularly encouraged to submit comments.

Background

The amateur radio service is available for persons who are interested in radio communications
techniques solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. It presents an opportunity for
individuals to self-train, communicate with other amateur radio licensees, and carry out technical
investigations. The amateur service rules are designed to allow, among other things, stations in this
service to make transmissions necessary to meet essential communication needs and to facilitate relief
actions. Amateur radio operators have been useful in recent years in augmenting essential
communication services and providing communication links when normal communication systems are
overloaded or not available. For example, amateur radio operators provided storm observations and
damage reports to the National Weather Service when winds and tornadoes moved through Arkansas and
Alabama in January 2012, and provided communications to villages along the Bering Sea when a
November 2011 severe winter storm knocked out power lines and communications.1
Public Law 112-96, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, requires the
Commission, in consultation with the Office of Emergency Communications in the Department of
Homeland Security, to complete a study on the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio Service


1 See, e.g., American Radio Relay League, “Hams in Arkansas and Alabama Help Provide Assistance to NWS
During Severe Sunday Storms,” available at http://www.arrl.org/news/hams-in-arkansas-and-alabama-help-provide-
assistance-to-nws-during-severe-sunday-storms (last accessed on March 26, 2012); American Radio Relay League,
“When Brutal Storm Slams Alaska, Hams Provide Critical Communications,” available at
http://www.arrl.org/news/when-brutal-storm-slams-alaska-hams-provide-critical-communications (last accessed on
March 26, 2012).

communications in emergencies and disaster relief; and submit to the Committee on Energy and
Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and
Transportation of the Senate a report on the findings of such study.2
The statute requires that the study include a review of the importance of emergency Amateur
Radio Service communications relating to disasters, severe weather, and other threats to lives and
property in the United States; and recommendations for enhancements in the voluntary deployment of
Amateur Radio operators in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts and
improved integration of Amateur Radio operators in the planning and furtherance of initiatives of the
Federal Government.3 The statute also requires that the study identify impediments to enhanced Amateur
Radio Service communications and recommendations regarding the removal of such impediments.4 The
statute specifically identifies "the effects of unreasonable or unnecessary private land use restrictions on
residential antenna installations" as an example of such an impediment.5 In conducting the study the
Commission is directed to use the expertise of stakeholder entities and organizations, including the
Amateur Radio, emergency response, and disaster communications communities.6
Comments on this Public Notice will aid the Commission in completing the study that is
submitted to Congress. Comments must be submitted within 45 days of the date of this Public Notice.

Questions

We pose specific questions below to provide structure for commenters. Commenters may also
address questions not set forth below that relate to the topics of the study to be submitted to Congress.
Commenters should not, however, view this Public Notice as an opportunity to seek Commission rulings
regarding specific situations.
1. Importance of emergency Amateur Radio Service communications. As noted above, the
statute requires a review of the importance of emergency Amateur Radio Service communications
relating to disasters, severe weather, and other threats to lives and property.
a. What are examples of disasters, severe weather, and other threats to life and property in
which the Amateur Radio Service provided communications services that were important
to emergency response or disaster relief? Provide examples of the important benefits of
these services.
b. Under what circumstances does the Amateur Radio Service provide advantages over
other communications systems in supporting emergency response or disaster relief
activities? Under what circumstances does the Amateur Radio Service complement other
forms of communications systems for emergency response or disaster relief?
c. What Federal Government plans, policies, and training programs involving emergency
response and disaster relief currently include use of the Amateur Radio Service? What
additional plans, policies, and training programs would benefit from the inclusion of
Amateur Radio Service operations? How would Amateur Radio Service operations fit


2 See Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-96, § 6414 (2012).
3 See id. at § 6414(b)(1).
4 Id. at § 6414(b)(2).
5 Id. at § 6414(b)(2)(A).
6 Id. at § 6414(c).
2

into these plans and programs?
d. What State, tribal, and local government plans, policies, and training programs involving
emergency response and disaster relief currently include use of the Amateur Radio
Service? What additional plans and programs would benefit from the inclusion of
Amateur Radio Service operations? How would Amateur Radio Service operations fit
into these plans and programs?
e. What changes to the Commission’s emergency communications rules for the Amateur
Radio Service (Part 97, Subpart E) would enhance the ability of amateur operators to
support emergency and disaster response? In addition, are there any specific changes that
could be made to the technical and operational rules for the Amateur Radio Service (Part
97, Subparts B, C, and D) that would enhance the ability of amateur operators to support
emergency and disaster response? What other steps could be taken to enhance the
voluntary deployment and effectiveness of Amateur Radio Service operators during
disasters and emergencies?
f.
What training from government or other sources is available for Amateur Radio Service
operators for emergency and disaster relief communications? How could this training be
enhanced? Should national training standards be developed for emergency
communications response?
g. What communications capabilities, e.g., voice, video, or data, are available from Amateur
Radio Service operators during emergencies and disasters? Are there any future technical
innovations that might further improve the Amateur Radio Service?
h. Are national standards in data transmission needed to enhance the ability of Amateur
Radio Service operators to respond to emergencies and disasters? Are there restrictions
with regard to transmission speeds that, if removed, would increase the ability of
operators to support emergency/disaster response? If so, what issues could arise from
removing these restrictions?
i.
Would it enhance emergency response and disaster relief activities if Amateur Radio
Service operators were able to interconnect with public safety land mobile radio systems
or hospital and health care communications systems? What could be done to enable or
enhance such interconnections? What issues could arise from permitting such
interconnections?
j.
Should there be national certification programs to standardize amateur radio emergency
communications training, mobilization, and operations? How would such programs
improve emergency communications?
2. Impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications. The statute also requires
that the study identify impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications and
recommendations regarding the removal of such impediments.
a. What private land use restrictions on residential antenna installations have amateur radio
operators encountered? What information is available regarding the prevalence of such
restrictions? What are the effects of unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions on the
amateur radio community's ability to use the Amateur Radio Service? Specifically, do
these restrictions affect the amateur radio community’s ability to respond to disasters,
severe weather, and other threats to lives and property in the United States? What actions
can be taken to minimize the effects of these restrictions?
b. What criteria distinguish “unreasonable or unnecessary” private land use restrictions from
reasonable and necessary restrictions? How do local circumstances, such as
neighborhood density or historic significance, affect whether a private land use restriction
is reasonable or necessary? How does the availability of alternative transmitting
locations or power sources affect the reasonableness of a particular private land use
restriction?
3

c. What steps can amateur radio operators take to minimize the risk that an antenna
installation will encounter unreasonable or unnecessary private land use restrictions? For
example, what obstacles exist to using a transmitter at a location not subject to such
restrictions, or placing an antenna on a structure used by commercial mobile radio service
providers or government entities?
d. Do any Commission rules create impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service
communications? What are the effects of these rules on the amateur radio community's
ability to use the Amateur Radio Service? Do disaster and/or severe weather situations
present any special circumstances wherein Commission rules may create impediments
that would not otherwise exist in non-disaster situations? What actions can be taken to
minimize the effects of these rules?
e. What other impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications have
amateur radio operators encountered? What are the effects of these impediments on the
amateur radio community's ability to use the Amateur Radio Service? Specifically, do
these impediments affect the amateur radio community’s ability to respond to disasters,
severe weather, and other threats to lives and property in the United States? What actions
can be taken to minimize the effect of these impediments?
f.
The legislation requires the Commission to identify "impediments to enhanced Amateur
Radio Service communications."7 What specific “enhance[ments]” to Amateur Radio
Service communications have been obstructed by the impediments discussed above?

Procedural Matters

A.

Comment Filing Procedures

Interested parties may file comments on or before the dates indicated on the first page of this
document. Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).
See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 Fed. Reg. 24121-01 (1998).

In order
to facilitate staff review of the record, commenting parties should organize their comments, where
applicable, using the above headings.

§
Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the
ECFS: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/.
§
Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each
filing. Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or by
first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the
Commission’s Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
§
All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission’s Secretary
must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 12th St., SW, Room TW-A325,
Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries
must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be
disposed of before entering the building.
§
Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority
Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.


7 Id. at § 6414(b)(2) (emphasis added).
4

§
U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 445 12th
Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.

B.

Ex Parte

Status

The proceeding this Public Notice initiates shall be treated as a “permit-but-disclose” proceeding
in accordance with the Commission’s ex parte rules.8 Persons making ex parte presentations file a copy
of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral presentation within two business
days after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to the Sunshine period applies). Persons
making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda summarizing the presentation must (1)
list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting at which the ex parte presentation was
made, and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made during the presentation. If the
presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or arguments already reflected in the
presenter’s written comments, memoranda or other filings in the proceeding, the presenter may provide
citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments, memoranda, or other filings (specifying
the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or arguments can be found) in lieu of
summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown or given to Commission staff during ex parte
meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must be filed consistent with rule 1.1206(b).
In proceedings governed by rule 1.49(f) or for which the Commission has made available a method of
electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and memoranda summarizing oral ex parte presentations,
and all attachments thereto, must be filed through the electronic comment filing system available for that
proceeding, and must be filed in their native format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in
this proceeding should familiarize themselves with the Commission’s ex parte rules.

C.

Accessible Formats

To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (braille, large print,
electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer & Governmental
Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY).
For further information contact: William T. Cross, Mobility Division, Wireless
Telecommunications Bureau, (202) 418-0680 (voice), (202) 418-7233 (tty), or William.Cross@fcc.gov
(email); or Aaron Garza, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, (202) 418-1175 (voice), (202)
418-7233 (tty), or Aaron.Garza@fcc.gov (email).
- FCC -


8 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.1200(a), 1.1206. et seq.
5

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