News

April 13, 2021

Greetings from the High Country

Flatlanders may be surprised to hear it but the trees up here at 3850 feet amsl are just starting to have buds.  When I look at the mountains around here, I can just see hints of a red-brown tint starting to show up on the trees as the leaves are starting to come out after the long hard winter.  We should have enough warm weather to get everything green in about another week.  Down in Boone, 600 feet lower in elevation than where I live, there are trees showing their leaves, flowers are in bloom, and the lawn crews have been mowing for two weeks already.   Lots of trucks with mulch and plants are on the road every time I go into town.  Spring may be on its way!!

Now to business.

FCC MATTERS

For many years, the FCC has established RF exposure limits for transmitting devices under the Commission’s jurisdiction.  As a practical matter, relatively few stations are required to exclude humans from close proximity to high power transmitters.   TV and FM radio stations may have to reduce their transmit power while tower crews are fixing strobe lights or making antenna repairs.  Sometimes the RF field is so strong that the stations have to go off the air for the tower crews.  I have seen video of a man climbing the mast atop the Empire State Building at 3 a.m. in order to minimize revenue loss when five tv stations and six FM stations have to be shut down because the RF exposure levels are exceeded.

Last week, the Commission announced that updated rules will go into effect on May 3, 2021.  According to the ARRL, the new rules do not set new standards b ut no longer categorically exempt amateur radio licensees from calculating the RF exposure associated with their antennas.   No later than May 3, 2023, licensees should have completed the needed calculations.  Because amateur transmitters generally do not operate at very high power levels, and because humans are not typically in close proximity to antennas while radiating a signal, it is unlikely that the typical ham will have to create an exclusion zone near their antennas while transmitting.

The FCC has prepared guidance documents which implement the rules.  ARRL’s RF Safety Committee is also developing instructions to help amateur operators complete the required assessment.

Note that although the assessments for existing transmitters must be completed by May 3, 2023, any new station or a station that is modified in a way to affects is exposure limits must come into compliance beginning on May 3, 2021. Information on this topic can be found at:

http://www.arrl.org/news/updated-radio-frequency-exposure-rules-become-effective-on-may-3

On other matters, there has been no action by the FCC on the following matters:

  1. Voice and data privileges for Novice and Technician operators on 80 and 40 meters
  2. Repeal of the obsolete baud rate rule for amateur data transmissions so that Pactor 4 can be used on amateur frequencies.
  3. The ARRL proposal to establish sub-bands on HF for wide and narrow band data transmissions

In another matter, on March 12, 2021 the FCC has announced that five Chinese electronics manufacturers pose a threat to US National Security.  The Commission acted under the authority contained in a 2019 law that requires the FCC to identify equipment and services “that have been found to pose and unacceptable risk to U.S. National Security.  The companies are:

            Huawei Technologies Company

ZTE Corporation

Hytera Communications Corporation

Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company

Zhejiang Dahua Technology Company

One effect of the designation is to prohibit public agencies using Federal funds to purchase equipment manufactured by these companies.  More information about this matter can be found at:

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-370755A1.pdf

Finally, in another matter, the FCC has urged members of the public to use the FCC Speed Test App to measure their broadband data speeds.  While the test will give you information on the speed with which you can download and upload data, the App will also allow the FCC to get a better understanding of which areas have poor internet access.  Current maps showing broadband coverage apparently treat an entire census tract as having coverage if any part of the tract has coverage.  The app will give the FCC more granular information while still protecting the privacy of those who use the app.  More information can be found at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-371522A1.pdf .

ARRL MATTERS

  1. IT issues persist at ARRL HQ.  Apparently, an undetermined number of email messages to and from ARRL HQ have been lost in cyberspace.  Some messages that I sent to persons with arrl addresses were apparently lost. 

Anyone who writes to me at my ARRL address should expect to get an acknowledgement of your email within 24 hours.  If you don’t hear from me within 24 hours, with at least an acknowledgement that you sent me a message and I will get back to you as soon as possible, please leave a voice mail on my home phone 828-355-9766.

  • Dave Minster, NA2AA, the new ARRL CEO, has made it a priority to replace and combine the several separate IT systems at ARRL HQ so that a single inquiry will show membership history, ARRL Awards, LOTW entries, ARES Connect and email exchanged with ARRL staff. 

One can hope that ARRL avoids some of the challenges that the Defense Department has faced in trying to develop and deploy a common aircraft that meet the separate needs of the Army, Air Force, and Navy as well as NATO allies for agility, dependability and defendability.  Sometimes simple and separate works better than developing one system that is to carry out many functions.

  • In another matter, CEO David Minster plans to have the ARRL Learning Program convert content from QST and use it to produce video programs s for hams who are more adept in picking up  content visually than by reading text.  Look for the pace of ARRL content development  in the ARRL Learning Program to increase significantly.  ARRL has had a contract with a content consultant since 2019 and its own staff that has been criticized for its slow rollout of program content.
  • In the near term, the ARRL Learning Prforogram will offer a program on Finding and Fixing RF Interference on April 20 at 1 pm EDT.  The program will be offered by Paul Cianciolo of the ARRL Lab staff.  On May 6, at 3:30 pm EDT, Mike Ritz, Northwestern Division Director, will offer a seminar on HF Noise Mitigation.  Information on these seminars can be found at  http://www.arrl.org/arrl-learning-network .
  • Your attention is drawn to the March 2021 Volunteer Monitor program report prepared by Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH.  The report focuses on VM program activities last month aimed at bringing into compliance operators who either unintentionally or by design operate outside the FCC rules.  The Volunteer Monitor program is clearly among the best programs operated by the ARRL and has minimal cost relative to other programs operated by the League.  Go to http://www.arrl.org/news/march-2021-volunteer-monitor-program-report to read Riley’s latest report.
  • ARRL is encouraging US hams to support the International Amateur Radio Union[s World Amateur Radio Day which will be held on April 18.  The purpose of the event is to increase fellowship among radio amateur operators around the world.  Look for contacts on HF on this coming Sunday.  Information can be found at https://www.iaru.org/on-the-air/world-amateur-radio-day/.
  • Field Day rules adopted in 2020 will remain for this year.  Class D (Home) stations and Class E (Home-on emergency power) may communicate with all other stations but are limited to 150 watts PEP output.  Go to http://www.arrl.org/field-day for information about Field Day.

HAMFEST MATTERS

  1. Vienna Winterfest, April 24

Normally a large in-person hamfest that draws crowds from around the Washington DC area, the Vienna Winterfest this year will be done virtually and is free. The Vienna Wireless Society has bee recognized this year for their extraordinary efforts and was designated as the Club of the Year by the Dayton Hamvention.  There will be numerous forum sessions that fall into three broad categories: 

i.    Radio Boot Camp – Helping the Newbie Ham Get Started

ii.   Hot Topics – including ARRL Matters (with presentations by Bud Hippisley, W2RU, and Bill Morine, N2COP)

iii.   ARES and Auxcomm  (including ARRL Emergency Management Director Paul Gilbert, KE5ZW       and John Peterson, National Auxcomm Manager, N4KEA)

Information about the Vienna Winterfest programs is found at http://bit.ly/VaSecConvSchedule

b.         WCARS (Waynesville) Hamfest – July 24

Held in a beautiful mountain setting near Waynesville and Lake Junaluska, the Waynesville Hamfest apparently will be the first hamfest  held in North Carolina in 2021.  The hamfest is approximately 1/3 the size of the Raleigh and Charlotte hamfests but brings out a great bunch of hams who enjoy seeing each other.  I have attended the Waynesville Hamfest seven times in the past and always look forward to going.  Information can be found at http://wcars.org/hamfest-annual/docs/hfnotice.pdf

NC EM MATTERS

There will be a statewide Hurricane drill on April 28 in which a variety of counties will participate.  Many personnel remain tied up while also continuing to respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic and vaccination operations.

INTERESTING MISCELLANEOUS MATTERS

  1. A group of DownEast hams (in Pamlico County) launched a balloon on Monday, April 12.  At 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning, the balloon had travelled about 20% of the distance across the Atlantic Ocean, headed east toward Europe or Africa, wherever  the winds aloft take it.  The balloon, NC4ES-2, is now out over the Atlantic Ocean at 43,,000 feet.  At t p.m. Tuesday, it appeared to be about midway between Ocracoke and Portugal.  The balloon can be tracked at https://aprs.fi/#!mt=roadmap&z=11&call=a%2FNC4ES-2&timerange=3600&tail=3600.

Congrats go out to Matt (WU2V) and Lor (W3QA) for drawing attention to amateur radio, ballooning and APRS with this venture.

  • This past weekend I spent a lot of time watching the Comm Academy 2021 which has put on annually by a group in the Pacific Northwest.  This year, the event was held virtually.  There were several very interesting presentations that are worth your time.
  • Bonding and Grounding , done by Ward Silver, was very interestfocused on best practices for bonding HF radio equipment, towers, antennas and related equipment in your shack and car.  An hour spent watching the video could save you weeks of headaches due to a nearby lighting strike or damage to vehicle computers.  Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycrHJdzY3B4&t=75s .
  • The Holiday Farm Fire caused a wide area loss of internet and phone service when fire burned over 23 miles of fiber optic cable and a telephone central office.  This session covered how a group of ham IT geeks improvised a solution using Ubiquiti microwave links to bring internet into the isolated community where all normal communications were destroyed.

This was a very interesting video which should get some of us thinking about how we could devise solutions on the fly to problems we never expected to encounter. Cell sites on Wheels (COWS) were often overloaded due to limited satellite bandwidth.  Burner phones sometimes would not work with one or other Cellco portable towers. What does a community do when the telco central office is destroyed and cannot be replaced for six months?  Even when temporary facilities were put in service, they were frequently overloaded as people wanted to return to their normal habits and connect to Netflix.

There are a number of lessons to be learned here.   Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYKutRRrr8Y&t=129s

  1. Scott Currie, NS7C, gave an interesting discussion on how Winlink, DMR and other digital modes are being used in the Pacific Northwest when the Internet fails.  Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmUSwVsFFkQ

There were several other presentations as well that focused on a common question which is, “how do we recover when normal communications are disrupted?”

Taken as a group, the video sessions were eye-opening.  Several dealt with situations which were so large and devastating that even Tech Giants like ATT and Verizon were hard pressed to provide or restore service in a couple of days. 

EmComm experts will be well advised to consider some of the challenges that had to be overcome.  And, things invariably went better for groups that had already been working together and were trusted partners with the Emergency Management community.

 I continue to be amazed in talking to SM’s and SEC’s across the country who have no idea of who their state emergency management leaders and complain that EM fails to include them in their plans.  Mike Harris, Deputy SWIC in Tennessee, said, “during bad times, we work with folks we work with in good times.”  Too often hams fail to develop relationships with EM and then wonder why they are not called upon in emergencies.

DX OPERATIONS AND AWARD QUESTS APPEAR TO BE CHANGING

Take a look at the chart set out below which was prepared from data gathered by Clublog.org.  The chart shows a sea change in the reliance on FT8 and other digital models is making DX contacts. 

Some will attribute this to change to poor propagation due to the sun spot cycle but it is also clear that a lot of log entries are now being generated by operators who fire up their computer and transceiver and watch the computer exchange signals with other FT8 operators.  When conditions improve, will the trend away from operators using traditional modes to call CQ and exchanging signal reports continue?

https://g7vjr.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/clublog-2016-2021.png

TRAFFIC NET REPORT

Dave Roy, W4DNA, Section Traffic Manager has submitted this report on net activity for March 2021.

W4DNA – NC Section Net Report – MARCH 2021
NETNMGRQNILISTEDPASSEDTIMESESSIONSTFC %
 
SECTION NETS 
CNKC4PGN4491231195316296.75%
CSNKV4WN13423225903195.65%
NCENW4DNA5441401326843194.29%
NCMNW3OJO32695904443194.74%
THENAE4MF3970055425#DIV/0!
 
LOCAL NETS 
CWTNN4CNX629979771031100.00%
ENCTNW4DNA94363621931100.00%
PCTNW4TTO30281803633198.77%
 
TOTAL 2875595576409527396.81%

Limitations on the ARRL email system make it difficult to send out an Excel file but the entire report prepared by Dave is posted each month at www.ncarrl.org .  I regret that an oversight on my part led to the February report being omitted from the previous Section Newsletter. 

CLOSING COMMENT

April 1 marked the one year anniversary for my becoming the NC Section Manager.  During my first year of service, the following activities occurred:

  1. Prepared and distributed 27 Section Manager newsletters.
  2. Participated in-person at one club meeting and participated in sixteen virtual club meetings
  3. Participated in two quarterly meetings with club presidents and program chairs that were organized by Affiliated Club Coordinator Tim Slay, N4IB, to improve communications between clubs.
  4.  Repeatedly urged clubs and members to invite hams to join the ARRL.  ARRL membership in the North Carolina Sections has grown by 4.6% to 4,593 members between April 2020 and April 2021.
  5. Continued to work on increasing participation in the Tarheel Emergency Net which largely had grown fallow  to a lack of net control stations to call the net.
  6. Appointed Mike Fagan, AE4MF, to serve as Net Manager for the Tarheel Emergency Net, filling a position that remained vacant for approximately four years.
  7. Renewed the appointments of several North Carolina Section Field Organization staff:
  8. Tom Brown, N4TAB, NC Section Emergency Coordinator
  9. Tim Slay,N4IB, Affiliated Club Coordinator
  10. Danny Hampton, K4ITL, Section Technical Coordinator
  11. Dave Roy, W4DNA, Section Traffic Manager
  12. Chuck DeCourt, W3WZN, State Government Liaison
  13. Dave Price, K4KDP, Section Youth Coordinator
  14. Based on input from Dave Roy,W4DNA,  five persons were appointed  as Net Managers for the National Traffic System nets in North Carolina.
  15. Participated in approximately 30 biweekly EmComm meetings held by NC Emergency Management.
  16. Using my hotspot, on most  weekdays, I checked into the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency DMR net in order to become better acquainted with my neighbors on the other side of the mountains that form the NC-Tennessee state border.
  17. Participated along with the WV, SC and VA Section Managers in two virtual meetings held in March and April with Roanoke Division Director Bud Hippisley and Vice Director Bill Morine.
  18. Received and processed silent key notices for 62 hams with requests for their names to be listed in QST.  No doubt, there were additional hams who died in the past year but I did not know of them and was unable to request their listing in QST.
  19. Participated in or saved for later viewing 85 RATPAC hour-long videos on a variety of topics that were prepared by other Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators.  These videos are available for use by your clubs as program content during meetings.
  20. Nominated two North Carolina hams for recognition for their superior efforts in behalf of amateur radio.  Tom Brown, N4TAB, received the Vic Clark Service Award given by the Roanoke Division of the ARRL.  Another ham is up for an award for his excellence in teaching amateur radio classes.
  21. Observed that subscriptions to the NC Section Manager newsletters have increased by 200 during the past year and now are sent to 3222 subscribers.  If you know of anyone having a problem getting these newsletters, drop me a line and I will help getting them subscribed.
  22. Worked closely with Susan Langley Jones, WA4AKB, to get the NCARRL newsletters posted on the web and available to hams who are not members of the ARRL or who do not wish to receive email from the ARRL.

In this second year of my term as Section Manager, I hope to make additional appointments so the NC Section is more inclusive.  When the COVID restrictions are lowered, I plan to make a trip Down East to get to know hams down there as well as I know the hams in the west.  Hamfests are going to come back and I hope to see many of you there.

73,

Marv, WA4NC

Boone

Wa4nc@arrl.net