James S. Watkins, KI6GU, Answer to FCC Regarding Case # EB-2002-451
November 8, 2002
W. Riley Hollingsworth
Federal Communications Commission
1270 Fairfield Rd.
Gettysburg, PA 17325-7245
RE: Amateur Radio License KI6GU
Case # EB-2002-451
Dear Mr. Hollingsworth:
In the 27 years that I have been active in Amateur radio, I have neverhad anyone file a complaint about my operations. Amateur Radio is a very important part of my life and I would never knowingly do anything that violates the rules. So your letter of enquiry came as quite a surprise. Apparently two complaints were made to your office in reference to the operation of my station on August 16th and 24th, 2002 on 3.830 MHz. They involved phone patches that were provided through the facilities of my station (KI6GU). Upon receiving your letter of enquiry, I have ceased all phone patch operations until this matter is resolved.
I participate on a regular basis with a 75 meter group known as "The 3830 Group" which meets nightly around midnight pacific time. About two months ago, the group asked me if I had any interest in running a phone patch for them. It was explained to me that they had been running a phone patch on a regular basis almost since the group's inception more than twenty-five years ago. These phone patch sessions would generally last an hour to an hour and a half. The purpose was to allow amateurs whose license class did not have HF phone privileges to experience it as third party traffic with the hope that they would be intrigued and inspired to upgrade. Short wave listeners, many of whom are prospective Amateurs, could call in and speak to the group as well. The intention was to answer their questions about ham radio and hopefully encourage them to become licensed Amateurs themselves. To me, this seemed like a fun and novel way to promote the hobby and since I had an operational phone patch and none of the other operators did, I agreed to do it. I believed that I was providing a useful service and many people thanked me for it. The first indication I had that there might be a problem was when I received your letter of enquiry. One of the complaints you received mentions "the spirit and intent of the amateur radio service". It would seem to me to be more in keeping with the "spirit of Amateur radio" for anyone who believed these operations were inappropriate to make me aware of it before filing a formal complaint with your office. There are any number of ways this could have been done. Anyone wishing to contact me can find both my home address and email address on the QRZ web site and my phone number is available through directory assistance. There would have been no need to discuss the matter on the air if they didn't want to. I would have listened to and considered any constructive criticism. I certainly never expected to be answering a letter of enquiry from the Commission. Nevertheless, this is where we are so I will attempt to present my position.
In reviewing the two letters your office received, it would appear that the major complainant is Victor Magana, N1VM an ARRL OOC for the San Joaquin Valley Section. The second complainant Erik Dean, NI6G was following orders from his OOC to echo his accusations. For the sake of brevity I will respond to Mr. Magana.
Mr. Magana provided you a transcript summary of the events in question. There are some inaccuracies and some items are out of context but I will not address those specifically unless you indicate the need for further elaboration. In his letter, the term "Reverse Phone patch" is used multiple times and would appear to be the basis of the complaint. A search of definitions Part 97 [97.3] did not turn up the term. Like wise, a search of the ARRL "Glossary of Key Words", "Repeater Terminology Glossary" and the "Amateur Radio/Electronics Glossary" all failed to provide a definition. The term is misleading. In my mind, it implies automated unattended operation as in the case of a repeater reverse auto patch where a caller with an access key can utilize the repeater facilities automatically. As should be obvious from the recordings, if they are a true reproduction of the event, this is in no way the situation that took place. The interface I used for these patches was a Kenwood model PC-1A. Its operation is entirely manual. As the tape should reveal, the caller (3rd Party [97.3(a)(46)]) [97.115(b)(1)] was monitored at all times while on the air and at no time had control as per [97.3(a)(30)], [97.3(a)(12)]. As a matter of fact, as a precaution to insure no rules were violated, the caller was always questioned and given basic instructions prior to going on the air. At this point I would inform the group that we had a call. Once cleared to proceed, so as not to interrupt any ongoing communications, I would patch the call through. Since all operations conducted over the phone patch were two-way communications between the caller (third party) and the individual hams on the frequency, it was not a broadcast. The characterization of this as a "call-in show" is inaccurate. This was not a "show". This was a standard manual HF phone patch operation and I acted as the control operator at all times. The only thing "reverse" about it was that the telephone call was made to me as opposed to me initiating the call. There is nothing in the regulations that specifies that the control operator must initiate the telephone call for a phone patch. There was no harmful or malicious interference to other stations. The frequency was used for normal traffic before and after each phone patch. There were frequent breaks both during and after each call to allow for other traffic and others on frequency were regularly asked if they wanted to participate or had anything to say. There was ample opportunity for anyone wishing to utilize the frequency to do so. Now, the only question remaining would be the issue of soliciting callers, and in that regard, I see this as being no different from a QST such as those broadcast by W1AW or News line in which contact information is routinely disseminated in the name of promoting the hobby. In this case, the telephone number was transmitted for the express purpose of facilitating an event intended to promote amateur radio and it would have been of direct interest only to those with a genuine interest in the hobby. This is not broadcasting as defined in 97.3(10) "Transmissions intended for reception by the general public, either direct or relayed".
[97.3(a)(10): please note [97.1(b), (d), (e) Authorized transmissions [97.111(b)(2)]
[97.111B]: See above
[97.101A]: All stations participating are operated with good engineering and good amateur practice.
[97.103A]: The station control and phone patch operation was continually under the control of KI6GU [97.115(b) 1]
[97.105A]: See above, [97.115(b) 1]
[97.113]: See [97.111(b) 2], [97.1(b), (c), (d), (e)], [97.115(b) 1]
[97.119]: See [97.119(b) 1]
Furthermore, It is my understanding that the very questions posed by this inquiry were presented to and answered by the commission many years ago. I am told by the groups founding members that when the idea of these phone patch sessions was first conceived a question came up as to whether it might be broadcasting to solicit Hams and SWL's for the purpose of encouraging upgrading and to interest new comers to the service. The question was presented to the San Francisco FCC Field office in detail and the reply was that no rule violations were taking place; as a matter of fact the group was encouraged to familiarize others with the operation of Ham Radio on the HF frequencies. Additionally, I am told that some years ago, while phone patch operations were being conducted, a question came up about automatic CW identifiers and whether it was OK to use them. An Engineer at the FCC Livermore Monitoring Station who had been listening called the patch to give the Commissions view on the subject. The monitoring station had been listening to the group for some time saying they enjoyed the conversation and subjects that were discussed. One would think that this would have been an opportune time to bring to the groups' attention any questionable aspects of the phone patch operation, but none were forthcoming.
I have enjoyed my roll in these phone patch sessions, which I believe provide a beneficial service and the 3830 group would like to continue this activity. If you find that some aspect of the way the operation has been conducted was inappropriate, we would appreciate any suggestions as to what we can do to bring it into compliance. If, however, it is your position that this is an inappropriate use of the amateur service and that it cannot continue, I will honor that decision. I am anxious to hear your response.
Thank you for your time,
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