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Repeater Coordinators Meeting Oct 1995

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Thanks to Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, of Newsline for making his recording available to TAPR for this page. Included below is an overview of the meeting provided by Newsline.

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Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF
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FCC's Haller Speaks to Coordinators

The following is the text of the speech given by Ralph Haller, N4RH, Deputy Chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau to the nations Amateur Radio Repeater Frequency Coordinators. The speech was delivered on Saturday, October 7, 1995 in St. Charles Missouri.

"Thank you.

I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you today and I would also like to thank the League for organizing this event.

Let me kind of set the stage by saying that I'm not looking at the frequency coordination process as being broke. Rather, it is a system that has worked well for several years with relatively few problems. Hundreds of dedicated people work every year to make sure that the process works. So, if its a process that is working, then why are we here today?

First, I am here to work with you and hear from you. You are the people that have to deal with our rules on a daily basis. I need to hear from you about problems you have and are encountering with the rules as they are written today. I need to know what rule changes you might like to see that would make your jobs and your lives easier.

Your efforts have contributed to a nationwide network of repeaters that cannot be matched anywhere in the world. For the most part, these repeaters co-exist. They not only co-exist, they actually compliment each other because of the work that you have done in frequency coordination.

Such a complex system could not have developed haphazardly. Fundamental to every repeater is its frequency assignment. Mistakes cause interference, and solutions to that interference are costly. But you people have mastered the art of frequency management and thats why the system is working today.

So that brings us to the question of evaluating the system and providing minor changes that will strengthen it. That's why we are here. Not to fix a system thats in trouble, but to make a very well oiled system work even better.

In that regard, I want to share a few thoughts with you and then I am very interested in what you have to say.

I have never been particularly comfortable with the notion that there was no official recognition for the coordinator in a given area. Under our rules, most anyone could claim to be a coordinator. Now, that has happened very few times, but unfortunately, it has happened.

So, just as a precaution as we move into the future, I would like to provide a recognition mechanism for coordinators. You have devoted time, money and resources into the development of the coordination data bases that you have in place today. Nobody wants a fly by night interloper to come in and be able to issue a faulty coordination just because a couple of other amateurs in the area happen to agree with that person.

I don't necessarily have the best answer for how to do this, but I have envisioned the possibility of some type of umbrella organization of coordinators across the country -- not necessarily one entity -- but you as a group working together in a formal or informal umbrella organization that would serve two purposes.

First, it would be a single point of contact for the FCC to deal with Amateurs on coordination matters. Second, it would be a group that would keep track of recognized coordinators throughout the country and serve as a second level review of contested coordinations. After all, I think it is far better to solve such within the Amateur Radio community than it is to take those conflicts to the Federal environment. We might also see this group eventually develop a coordination manual to help memorialize the collective knowledge that you have gained over the years.

I've also thought about what incentives we might offer to help make this program a success. First, the certainty of who is the coordinator should be a fairly big incentive to most everyone in this room. Now, I am not necessarily suggesting that we should have a process that excludes other people from coming in and doing coordination. But, I think when you have more than one coordinator that you need a process to force these coordinators to work together.

How about implementing a simplified repeater licensing program? No, I don't mean sending off tower heights and ERPs and coverage maps to the FCC. But suppose that once a repeater was coordinated by this umbrella group we assume that in itself would be sufficient for a repeater callsign. Perhaps a "KR" callsign to be issued to truly coordinated repeaters. The basic operating authority for a repeater has and will continue to come from the trustee's license which is issued directly by the commission. But, we might be able to come up with a process whereby this umbrella organization would actually be able to issue the "KR" callsigns and then just advise the commission to update its database.

Depending upon what we come up with, it may or may not require rule making. I have no pre-conceived notions there. I am really interesting how you feel about bringing repeater licensing back. We are about to start the vanity callsign program. We have one little hurdle left which is to get the Office of Management and Budget to approve the form. But if we are going to do vanity callsigns for individuals, then I think that the time has come to look for a process whereby repeaters can be licensed once again with their own callsigns.

I believe this is a win-win situation for the Amateur community and for the FCC. I have wanted to resume issuance of repeater callsigns for years, but never had the resources. With many of the resources coming from your efforts, I think we can now accomplish this repeater licensing program.

In addition to that, we have new equipment and software in place a the commission that instead of manually processing these special callsigns permits us to do it electronically. As you know, in the VEC program, most of that information is coming to us electronically and I foresee that we can continue into other areas to receive information electronically which in turn minimizes our processing.

Over the next several years we expect the Gettysburg facility where your licenses are processed to decrease in size, but I do not expect the services to the public to decrease. Rather, I want services to the public to increase. But the only way we are going to see that happen is for us to become more efficient and for us to rely much more on you -- the users of the FCC services to take on some of the responsibilities that have traditionally been government responsibilities.

I am looking to you for other ideas here today, or to tell me that mine are fairly stupid -- and I do not mind hearing that if they are.

That's why we're re here. This is the first meeting of its kind. This is the first time that some of you have met each other. I hope that it is not the last time, because you are the ones out there performing a great service on a day to day basis, with relatively little recognition and lots of problems.

We would like to help that and smooth that. The commission can become the final arbiter in disputes. This relieves some of the risk that you have today.

I don't know what the new process should look like. I don't know if we should even make any changes. But I think it is appropriate that, after the frequency coordination system has been in place for the number of years, we at least talk about the process.

This is not an FCC meeting. It is your meeting. I am here as an observer. I am here to try to answer your questions. We are not going to resolve all the answers today, but we can certainly determine what the problems are and at least set a course to change those things that need to be changed.

When the current system was put in place, none of us knew whether it would work. It has worked because you people in this room made it work, not because we back in Washington had created such visionary rules. Now that your program has matured, let's put the finishing touches on it.

Nothing that I am suggesting in any way removes any autonomy that you currently have, but it gives you some protection. It adds no technical complications, but it does give some incentives and rewards.

I would like to open these thoughts up to general discussion. I have no preconceived notions on what the outcome of today will be or where we will be headed. But I am delighted that you have taken time from your schedules to be here, and that you have shown so much interest in this matter that you would come to St. Louis on a Saturday.

I would like ask that we try to stay focused. In talking to you, I know that a number of you in this room have lots of other concerns. Enforcement. Changes in the Volunteer Exam Program. But that is not what today's meeting is about. Today's meeting is about frequency coordination. It's an opportunity for you to get to know each other and to bring frequency coordination to a higher plateau.

So, during the day, let's stay focused on the real issues of why we are here. Let's not get sidetracked on other issues that can easily take up the day. Lets stay focused on frequency coordination.

This is a truly historic day in the history of amateur radio. It's your meeting though, so please take advantage of it and lets make the most of the time that we have together.

Thank you."



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The following is a QST

Repeater coordinators meet in St. Louis and change the very basis of repeater coordination. Also more on the aftermath of Hurricane Opel and another Big MACC attack. These stories and more on Newsline report number 948 for release on Friday, October 13, 1995 coming your way right now!


The nations repeater frequency coordinators have met with the ARRL and the FCC in St. Charles, Missouri. It was a politically charged meeting that has changed the face of VHF operation forever. This is because there is now a tentative agreement by which the American Radio Relay League has tentatively agreed, subject to board approval, to represent the nations coordinators to the FCC. This, in exchange for the commission recognizing the work of the coordinators and possibly making their decisions binding on the ham radio community.

The meeting was held at the Best Western Noah's Ark motor hotel not far from the St. Louis Airport. About fifty of the nations sixty five recognized repeater coordinators were present. Also in the room were representatives of packet radio, amateur television and other modes that use the VHF and UHF spectrum, but from the outset it was made clear that this meeting was to discuss the problems of FM voice repeater coordination only. Even though he was there unofficially, the tone of the meeting was set by the keynote speaker Ralph Haller, N4RH, Deputy Chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau:

"I'm particularly delighted that all of you have taken time from your schedules to be here and you have shown so much interest in this matter, that you would come to St. Louis on a Saturday.

I would like to ask that we try to stay focused. In talking to you, I know a number of you in this room have lots of other concerns. Enforcement, changes in the volunteer examine program, but that is not what today's meeting is about. Today's meeting is to talk about frequency coordination. An opportunity to get to really get to know each other. And it's an opportunity to bring frequency coordination to yet a higher plateau. So during the day let's stay focused on the real issue of why we are here. Let's not get side tracked on other issues that can easily take up the day. Let's stay focused on frequency coordination. This is a truly historic day in the history of Amateur Radio." Haller, N4RH.

Historic yes, but not without its problems. For a while, the entire proceeding seemed to be slipping away as the political differences between various coordinators and between some coordinators and the ARRL took center stage. As a result, much of the early discussion derailed into matters of finite detail rather than the general picture that Haller had requested. So, not unlike other legislative bodies in a state of conflict, the group recessed. It was when the meeting reconvened that headway began. Owen Wormser, K6LEW, the president of the Mid Atlantic Repeater Council was the person who brought it back on track:

"For the sake of a beginning can we agree that those that are listed in the current ARRL Repeater Directory as coordinators for their specific areas etc. are in fact the baseline from which we can begin. Perhaps, but not the final solution, perhaps not the end of it, but can we agree that that is at least the beginning. Because where the next point goes is, if that is agreed then we have something else to say. And that is that in the longer term our objective is to produce the white paper which will be delivered by a committee from this organization. Not an ad hoc committee. This is our organization. So our committee will deliver to Mr. Haller the white paper. That white paper out of our consensus down stairs will address the specificity of a single point of contact, an organization, not a single individual paralleling very closely the commercial representation to the FCC in the form of a single point of contact. And that in order to get some recognized coordinators to single point of contact, there is a lot of specificity that must be put into this white paper." Wormser, K6LEW

Owen Wormser set the stage for the group to arrive at a consensus, but it would be many more hours before this would happen. A turning point came with the comments of Jim Fortney, K6IYK, who chairs Southern California's 220 MHz Spectrum Management Association. If Owen Wormser gave the assemblage its direction, it was Jim Fortney that added purpose:

"It has become very clear to me and I hope it would be clear to the majority of the rest of you, that the environment that the FCC finds itself in no longer allows us to use the methods and techniques that we have used in the past to deal with them. And that in fact that we better look at some new approaches. And one of those approaches that is being used elsewhere and has been suggested from a variety of directions that would be advantageous to us is if we, and I am talking about amateur radio, not repeater coordination necessarily, but amateur radio in total, we amateur radio had someone who represented us to the FCC." Fortney

Discussions and debates lasted another four hours. In the end it was decided to name the American Radio Relay League as the single point of contact, or spoc, between the nations frequency coordinators and the FCC. A committee chaired by Owen Wormser, K6LEW was empowered to draft a white paper setting forth the goals of the spoc. This paper will be circulated to all the nations recognized frequency coordinators listed in the ARRL repeater directory for comment before a final version is submitted. All of this seemed to please the FCC's Haller:

"Clearly this afternoon, I think tremendous progress has been made. And I look forward to continuing to work with this group and your representatives who will ultimately be working with us directly in Washington. I think this is a giant move forward for Amateur Radio and I think it says a lot that all of you come here with such diverse views and in the course of a few short hours reach this kind of consensus." Haller

There is still a lot to be done before recognition of the work of coordinators becomes reality. Two of the biggest hurdles are drafting a white paper acceptable to most coordinators and for the ARRL's Board of Directors to vote on whether or not it really wants the spoc job. The latter will happen in mid January.

But assuming both of these tasks are accomplished, it may eventually mean that the average ham, people like you and me who simply operate FM with a mobile rig or an HT can be assured that the day of the so-called pirate repeater will come to an end. That our ability to communicate through our favorite repeater with a minimum of interference from another uncoordinated and unwanted repeater on the same channel pair, will be assured. And from a users point of view, what more can an FM enthusiast want.


Also making news in St. Charles is an announcement by the giant Mid America Coordination Council. The big MACC, as it has become known, has swallowed up two more regions. Not surprising was the decision by Eastern Washington state and the Idaho Panhandle to fall under the MACC umbrella. What caught everyone by surprise was an announcement by California's Northern Amateur Relay Council that it too was joining MACC. Don Smith, W6NKF, the President of NARC says its time that hams in California drop their isolationist policies:

"The way that coordination and everything else is going to go. If we have a united front, we have a better of than if we are a bunch of splinters. And I think we need, in this point in time, a united front." Smith

Does this mean that Southern California is next? Probably not. This is because frequency coordination in Southern California is by several different organizations acting as caretakers for various repeater subbands. Also, there is the turmoil on two meters as to who really is the frequency coordinator with nine groups challenging the long term coordinator for that position. Southern California will have to solve a lot of regional problems before any umbrella group will bother to give it an ear.

Meantime, the Mid America Coordination Council is now a consortium of 22 amateur radio frequency coordination entities serving 18 states and portions of 3 others. Each entity is autonomous within the MACC organization with all MACC frequency coordination policies and guidelines being advisory only. In addition to providing mutual recognition of frequency coordinators, MACC provides in house technical assistance and dispute mediation to those regions and entities requesting such services.

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