News

September 15, 2020

Greetings from the High Country where we have been saying goodbye to Summer and are waiting for Fall and all that it has to offer.   Appstate played a home football game without fans and without tailgating.  It turns out that tailgating has become a source of competition among schools that sometimes seems more important to some fans than the game on the field.

Loosening of the COVID 2.5 restrictions seem to have generated an increase in business up here.  Visitors, anxious to get away from home, appear to have come to the High Country.  Traffic is up, restaurants, even with social distancing, have been busy and motel parking lots seem full each evening.   

Some leaves have fallen from the trees and later this week, we will see how much rain Hurricane Sally has in store for western North Carolina.

Now to the business at hand.

FCC APPLICATION FEE PROPOSAL

The proposal by the FCC to levy a $50 application fee has generated a lot of comment during my visits with clubs and on the bands.  The sentiment seems to overwhelmingly oppose to the proposed fee.    I have heard a small segment of the people express an opinion that the $50 application fee is small in proportion to the investment people make in their ham radio station which can easily cost several thousands of dollars.  They point out that the $50 application fee occurs once during a ten year license period unless someone upgrades.

Some have said they would support  levying a fee if the funds were dedicated to strengthening the enforcement of FCC rules, particularly on ham bands where profanity and malicious interference is still occurring. 

Some have said that a first-time Technician should be exempt in order to attract more hams into the hobby.

However, the overwhelming majority of comments that I have heard have been negative.  Comments that I have heard from hams include:

  1. The proposed application fee is too high, going from $zero to $50 in one step is thought by many as being unreasonable.
  2. It is claimed that the application fee will be a huge deterrent to young people getting into the hobby.
  3. There is a widespread belief that there will be an inevitable decline in the numbers of ham radio operators which in turn will decrease whatever importance the FCC attaches to ham radio.  If people are dropping out of ham radio, the critics say, the FCC will probably need fewer frequencies which could then be sold to business interests.
  4. If $50 is thought to be affordable, what is to say that in a year or two, the FCC will not attempt to raise the fee to generate more even more revenue for the federal government and not be earmarked for FCC enforcement efforts.

Some hams have been quite vocal in asking why the ARRL has not organized a letter writing campaign like they did when the ARRL seemed to be at every hamfest in America urging hams to sign sample letters that the ARRL gathered up and delivered to the offices of each Member of Congress to show how important the antenna issue was to hams across the county. 

Hams have been vocal in pointing out that, even though that the Amateur Radio Parity Act effort failed, at least the ARRL was visible and offered advice to hams wanting to contact the FCC and Congress.

Here are steps that you can take if you want to express your opinion about the proposed fee. 

  1.  You can go tohttps://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/ and express your opinion pro or con.  Be sure to mention Proceeding 20-270 and be polite whichever side you take on this matter. 

As of this morning 876 comments had been filed and 35 of the commenters were from North Carolina.

  • It is election time and all 13 members of the US House of Representatives from North Carolina are up for election as is U.S. Senator Tom Tillis.

The FCC indicated that the fees were mandated by Congress two years ago in the RAY BAUM ACT which directed the FCC to capture the cost of processing applications.  Since Congress mandated the FCC study various fees but also exempted certain groups of users from fees perhaps the Congress could be persuaded to exempt Amateur Radio as well.

If you encounter Senator Burr or Senator Tillis, an incumbent US House Member a candidate for the US House of Representatives, politely express your opinion whether or not you disagree with the FCC proposal to levy a fee for amateur radio applications.

  • Send a letter to your representatives in Washington.  Our webpage, https://www.ncarrl.org , has information on how to contact your member of Congress. 

In addition, although the Senate and House members have left Washington for a month of campaigning, their offices can be reached by calling 202-224-3121.  The Capitol Switchboard operator will transfer you to the office of Senator Burr or Senator Tillis or to your particular member of the US House of Representatives. 

 Be polite but let the staff member know how you feel on this question.

ARRL BOARD MAKES POLICY

On any matter affecting ham radio, you are paying dues to ARRL to serve as an advocacy group for ham radio.  In addition to your own voice, our collective voice comes from the ARRL.  Write to Bud Hippisley (w2ru@arrl.org) when you think the ARRL Board needs to act on a matter.  Bud is one of the 15 Division Directors that set policy for the ARRL, hires and fires the ARRL CEO who, in turn, directs the ARRL HQ staff.   Bill Morine (n2cop@arrl.org) is Vice Director but has no vote except when Bud cannot vote for any reason.

Section Managers have no role in shaping ARRL policy

In other news,

ZACH THOMPSON – TAKE 3

I have received word that Zach Thompson, KM4BLG, has been award the Cover Plaque Award for the September 2020 issue of QST.  You will remember that Zach, a hiker and SOTA enthusiast, wrote an article which detailed construction of a portable mast constructed from hiking sticks. 

Congratulations, Zach, for this honor.

SPECIAL BIRTHDAY WISHES

Guy Moberg, W0GHM, turned 100 on July 21.

Oscar Norris, W4OXH, will turn 103 on September 25.

Both remain active on ham radio and their longevity is something that few of us will match.  Happy birthday to both of you.

TARHEEL EMERGENCY NET MANAGER APPOINTED

I have asked Mike Fagan, AE4MF, from Mitchell County to become Net Manager for the Tarheel Emergency Net.   A message is being sent out to each of the Net Control Station advising them of this appointment as well as requesting their cooperation in submitting a net log when they serve as NCS.  The NCS log will be simple and we want to capture the number of hams checking and the duration of each net session.  Thank you, Mike, for your willingness to serve as Net Manager.  The Tarheel Emergency Net meets nightly at 7:30 p.m. on 3923 KHz and has been in existence since 1947.

EmCOMM UPDATES

There remains great uncertainty as to how long the COVID-19 restrictions will continue. 

CISA (the Cybersecurity and Information Security Administration) in the Department of Homeland Security is reorganizing its COMU classes for virtual (remote) delivery.  The COML class is being beta tested and plans are for the Auxcomm course to be delivered remotely beginning in January.

NCEM has suspended delivering in-person classes until at least January 1, 2021 and their trainers are beta testing the ICS 300 and 400 classes with remote delivery options.   Information about upcoming training is posted on TERMS (the Training and Exercise Registration Management System) operated by NCEM which can be found at terms.ncem.org .

RF INTERFERENCE ISSUES

Many hams are plagued with a variety of interference that most often shows up on HF as a buzzing sound or a high noise floor that limits your ability to receive weak stations.   In many situations, the cause is close to home, many even in your home.  The proliferation of wall wart switching power supplies, laptop and tablet power supplies, solar power systems, LED light bulbs, grow lamps for indoor gardening, and cracked power line insulators have been identified as sources for RFI-radio frequency interference.

If you experience RFI, you might want to consider viewing this YouTube presentation:

If you want a somewhat deeper discussion about the problem of RFI and what the ARRL is doing about it, read the EMC report submitted to the ARRL Board of Directors prior to their July 17,2020 meeting:

BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOR

A ham friend of mine sent me a rather long letter expressing his concern over “outside”ham  groups coming into an area without regard to local groups. 

While your ham license allows you to operate anywhere within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, my friend’s letter can be boiled down to the following points:

a.         Frequent visitors to an area are welcome to use the local repeaters but local hams or a local club bought and maintain the repeater.  Be polite and give a thanks every once in a while for using the local machine.  Better yet, stop by at a local club meeting and get to know the locals who are providing the repeater you are using.

b.         Before you set up a Field Day station far from home, contact the local club where you plan to operate.  They will most likely invite you to their Field Day site and even if you want to go it alone, be a good neighbor and drop the local club a note about your plan to set up in “their” home area.

c.          Ideal sites for repeaters are hard to come by and in some locations having more than one repeater on a tower may cause interference to other users.  Before putting up a repeater on a shared site, contact the existing repeater owners so that we can help SERA to find a frequency which will cause the least interference to both the old and newer repeater(s).

YOU CANNOT BE TOO CAREFUL

A sad story out of Maine involves the death of an experienced tower climber disassembling  an 80 foot tower.   Details can be found at http://www.arrl.org/news/maine-radio-amateur-dies-after-fall-from-tower.  OSHA has not yet determined what went wrong in this situation.

WINLINK TRAINING CONTINUES

Dan Marler, K7REX, Idaho Section Manger, back in January began a series of weekly virtual meetings for Section Managers and Section Emergency Coordinators.  Seven of the sessions have focused on digital modes to pass EmComm traffic.  Five more sessions will conclude the digital EmComm tutorials. 

On Thursday, September 2, 2020, Phil Sherrod, Steve Waterman and Lor Kucthings from the Winlink Development Team answered questions for over two hours when 200 hams signed on for what I described as the Advanced Winlink Seminar. 

Drop me a line if you want links to the seven Winlink sessions that have been recorded on Vimeo.

SLOW MOVING SALLY

As I write this on Tuesday morning, most tv stations are carrying updates about Hurricane Sally which presently is at Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.  All Hurricanes are dangerous but Sally has the potential to deliver historic amounts of rainfall on the Mississippi-Alabama –Florida coast due to the extremely slow (3 mph) surface movement of the storm.  This means that the areas affected will experience prolonged periods of winds and some areas may receive up to 18 inches of rain.  The rainfall and the storm surge may subject some areas to historic flood levels.

There are also several other storms located in the sea between the United States and the coast of Africa, including Paulette, Renee, Teddy and Vicky.  Tune into the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 (days) and 7.268 (evening and nights) to hear more about these storms. 

Information is also available from the Hurricane Watch Net webpage at https://hwn.org .  Another site that contains a lot of useful information is https://spaghettimodels.com .

On Friday, portions of western North Carolina are expected to receive up to 5 inches of rain from Sally.

WEST COAST FIRES

Every news program has highlighted the massive fires occurring in California, Oregon and Washington.  Whole communities have been burned and some have lost every possession they ever owned in the fires.  Insurance can help rebuild a town but nothing will ever be the same as it was.  Lives, treasured photographs, family keepsakes are gone forever  And in a few weeks, once the fires are put out, expect huge mudslides when the rains come as there will be little ground cover to absorb the moisture and little foliage to contain the rush of water off the barren mountains.

AMATEUR RADIO NETS SOUTHEAST US

In addition to the Hurricane Watch Net, you may want to listen to traffic  on the nets listed at this site: https://wcares.org/ares-net-frequencies/

Also, FEMA announced late today that two  60 meter frequencies have been authorized for contacts between amateur radio stations and Federal Government stations operating in support of the Western Wildfires and Hurricane Sally:

60 meter Channel 1 – voice -5232 KHZ USB channel center, dial frequency 5330.5 KHz

60 meter Channel 2 – digital traffic 5348 channel center, dial frequency 5346.5 KHz.

Do not interrupt traffic on any of these frequencies or nets unless you are asked to assist with a relay.

CLOSING COMMENT

As bad as those fire losses are and will be for those not yet affected for the Western Wildfires and despite the suffering that the heavy rains and flooding will cause, my heart remains with the fire fighters and rescue workers, some of whom have lost their own homes, fire stations  and equipment, but still are on the line working 12 hour shifts each day to protect their neighbors in what seems to be an impossible situation. 

Fire fighters have died in these fires during this outbreak of wildfires when they could just have easily stayed home and not gotten involved.  Tonight, Rescue workers will be putting their own lives in danger to help total strangers along the Gulf Coast because that is what first responders do.

My family has had four generations in the Fire Service.  In 1938, during the Great Depression, my Dad and a friend co-signed a note to buy a fire truck for the community in which he lived, much to the annoyance of my Mother who never fully got over her monetary fears arising out of the Depression.  My Dad served his small community as Fire Chief for 27 years. 

My father, my brother, myself, my nephew and his two kids all served or are serving as volunteer first responders.  I have no doubt that the fifth generation babies, Colt and Kelsey, who are now celebrating their first birthdays will also be involved in community service as adults.

There are things wrong with our country today and there are certainly injustices that we need to stop and, when possible correct.

However, the spirit of ordinary people and their willingness to serve as police, fire, ems and rescue personnel or to join the military or to serve as disaster volunteers  is not what needs to be fixed, changed or redirected in anyone’s efforts to make things better.

Marv, WA4NC

Wa4nc@arrl.org

828 964 6626

Boone

WA4NC ELECTED ARRL NC SECTION MANAGER (SM)

Our own Dr. Marv Hoffman, WA4NC, has been elected ARRL North Carolina Section Manager, effective April 1, 2000. The ARRL web site summarizes the responsibilities of this office as follows: “The Section Manager is accountable for carrying out the duties of the office in accordance with ARRL policies established by the Board of Directors and shall act in the best interests of Amateur Radio.” Further details of this position can be seen at http://www.arrl.org/section-manager. After reading this, you will agree that Marv has a big job ahead! I am sure our club will support him as he carries out his new duties!

WARC ASSISTS IN SEARCH FOR MISSING MAN

Watauga ARES/Auxcomm amateur radio operators were asked to assist the Red Cross during a recent law enforcement operation. On March 22 over 100 law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel conducted an intensive day-long search over rugged terrain in western Watauga County, looking for a missing person who had left his home and had not returned. We picked up and distributed sandwiches, chips, fruit, coffee, water and soft drinks for the search personnel for lunch and returned later in the day with a hot meal when the search personnel returned to base camp. W4ZW George, WA4NC Marv, and KB4JEB Jack supporting search operation

George W4ZW, Marv WA4NC, and Jack KE4JEB

WA4J CALLSIGN ASSIGNED TO WARC

We are proud to announce that the callsign WA4J, which belonged to our club member John W. Dinkins, SK, has been assigned to the Watauga Amateur Radio Club. The familiar WA4J Repeater ID is once again announcing its presence on 147.36 MHz. Thanks to Repeater Trustee Doug Hall, WA4UNS, for his efforts in this matter.