In case you have not heard this rumbling on the horizon, you probably want to watch this for future development. Everyone that has connection to Amateur Radio is familiar with the FCC‘s requirement that ham radio not be used for business purpose (specifically Part 97.113). Most of us recognize the obvious situations where that would be an issue, but recently a gray area has come to be in the spotlight. What if someone who is employed by a local Emergency Management Organization happens to also have a ham license, and is participating in a training exercise sponsored by that EMA… Unfortunately the FCC is taking the position that it would not be appropriate for that EMA employee to use the ham radio as part of that exercise. Another example given by the FCC points out the difference between a Red Cross employee transmitting health & welfare traffic on behalf of an individual that has been relocated to a shelter, and a Red Cross employee using ham radio to manage Red Cross resources (read as ‘Red Cross Business’).
Whether you agree with this interpretation or not – you need to know the background facts, and stay informed as to how this is playing out. Even while rule-making proposals are being worked, the fact remains that the FCC has stated their position on this, and we all need to be aware of how to stay out of trouble with the laws as they are currently interpreted. Especially if you are a paid employee of ANY emergency relief or response unit, and hold an amateur radio license – you NEED to read carefully on this subject and understand what all this means, and how it effects you. If you are a volunteer, you need to help ensure that others are not inadvertently mis-interpreted as being in violation.
For those who are only just now learning of this issue, here is a brief time-line (with links following): I first became aware of this issue in June 2009, while reading blog entries(1) by David Coursey – N5FDL, an Emergency Coordinator in California. He indicated that he had received a request for guidance from a volunteer, and that he had been in contact with the FCC. Based upon the FCC response, he further indicated that a Rule Making Proposal needed to be in the works. In August several of us collaborated in the construction of a White Paper(2), with background information and FCC responses. On Sept 1st, the ARRL issued their view of this situation in QST magazine’s “It Seems to Us”(3). On Sept 18, Alabama ARES members received this update(4) from the Section EC regarding the weekly regional HF net. N5FDL also posted his ‘Don’t panic’ updated guidance(5) on 97.113 compliance. Apparently groups around the country are considering their response to this issue as well.
There will be more on this touchy subject going forward, and you can follow along via http://n5fdl.com/97113-blog-and-forum/ . To be sure, there are other valid reference sites, and you are welcome to post comments here (or on N5FDL.com) with any additional relevant information.
Be sure to help spread the word among your fellow hams and emergency workers. This IS important…
(1) Update on Business Communications – June 17 2009
(2) N5FDL White Paper with background and FCC responses.
(3) ARRL issues their insight in September QST
(4) Alabama Section ARES responds
(5) Updated 97.113 Guidance from N5FDL on 18 September