FCC

FCC Grants Waiver to Permit Higher Symbol Rate Data for Hurricane Relief

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10/05/2017
The FCC has granted an ARRL request to waive current Amateur Radio rules to permit data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than currently permitted, in order to facilitate hurricane relief communications between the continental US and Puerto Rico. The temporary waiver is limited to Amateur Radio operators in Puerto Rico using PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 emissions, and to those radio amateurs in the continental US who are directly involved with HF hurricane relief communications involving Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, the Commission said.

“We conclude that granting the requested waiver is in the public interest,” the FCC said in its October 5 Order. “Hurricane Maria caused massive destruction in Puerto Rico, and communication services continue to be disrupted. Thus, to accommodate Amateur Radio operators assisting in the recovery efforts, we grant the ARRL’s waiver request for the period of 60 days from the date of this Order.”

ARRL explained in its waiver petition that it’s shipping five PACTOR radio modems to Puerto Rico for use in connection with Hurricane Maria disaster relief communications. The League asked the FCC to temporarily allow PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 transmissions that exceed the current symbol rate limitations under § 97.307(f) of the Amateur Service rules.

Under the current rules, “specified digital codes” in Part 97 may be used with a symbol rate that does not exceed 300 baud for frequencies below 28 MHz, with the exception of 60 meters, and 1200 baud in the 10 meter band. The baud rate limits were adopted in 1980, when the FCC amended Part 97 to specify ASCII as a permissible digital code.

Copyright ARRL. Used with permission.

FCC Proposes Rule Changes in Response to ARRL's "Symbol Rate" Petition

The FCC has proposed to revise the Amateur Service Part 97 rules in response to the ARRL's so-called "Symbol Rate" Petition for Rule Making (RM-11708), filed in late 2013, and it has invited comments on its recommended changes. The Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in WT Docket 16-239, released on July 28, had been making the rounds at the FCC since May. ARRL had asked the FCC to change the Part 97 rules to delete the symbol rate limit in §97.307(f) and replace it with a maximum bandwidth for data emissions of 2.8 kHz on amateur frequencies below 29.7 MHz.

"We believe that the public interest may be served by revising the Amateur Service rules to eliminate the current baud rate limitations for data emissions, consistent with ARRL's Petition, to allow Amateur Service licensees to use modern digital emissions, thereby furthering the purposes of the Amateur Service and enhancing the usefulness of the service," the FCC said in its NPRM. "We do not, however, propose a bandwidth limitation for data emissions in the MF and HF bands to replace the baud rate limitations, because the rules' current approach for limiting bandwidth use by amateur stations using one of the specified digital codes to encode the signal being transmitted appears sufficient to ensure that general access to the band by licensees in the Amateur Service does not become unduly impaired."

The ARRL staff was still reviewing the NPRM at publication deadline, and we will report further on this proceeding.

Published with permission of the ARRL. Copyright 2016 Amateur Radio Relay League, Inc.

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