[Namaste-dev] Re: Interoperability through APCO-25

Daniel Schultz n8fgv at usa.net
Tue Jun 3 21:19:02 PDT 2008

I have continued to mull this over during the past week. I still believe that
it would be a mistake for us to design a system to be used by anyone other
than radio amateurs operating under Part 97.

The fact that "We amateurs are unencumbered by the NIH problems that have
plagued the various governmental agencies." is precisely because we operate
under Part 97, and the public service agencies do not. If we elect to design
systems that operate outside of Part 97 we will be entering the same
proprietary and bureaucratic world that designers of public safety radios deal
with. In my 19 years of experience working as a government contractor I have
witnessed firsthand the resistance that is offered by the bureaucracy to any
truly revolutionary effort to change the existing way of life. The sort of
free spirit experimentation that hams take for granted under Part 97 is a
threat and anathema to officials who are trying to maintain their turf.  

The argument that "during a real emergency, all the rules are irrelevant." is
not appropriate, because the correct way to prepare for an emergency is to
train and practice for it ahead of time, and then use those same procedures
during the actual emergency, instead of making it up ad-hoc during the
emergency. In any event, equipment needs to be designed and procured well
ahead of the emergency.

I have been involved in two projects (Stensat and one other) in which I
started the initial project, and then asked for or received an offer of help
by people who had access to money, resources and manpower. In both cases it
started out as "We would like to help you with your project", very soon I was
helping them with their project, and soon after they didn't need any more help
from me. I don't want to see this happen to Amsat or to amateur radio in
general. DHS has megabucks and while they may start out helping us with our
project, soon it will become their project, and soon after that our help will
no longer be required. Amsat will be reduced to the role of satellite
contractor for DHS, and we will have no say in the operation or use of the
system after it is launched. Some brilliant government bureaucrat will decide
"now that public service agencies can talk directly to each other via
satellite, what do we need the hams for?" Soon thereafter there will be
Configuration Control Boards and amateur experimentation and casual rag
chewing will no longer be allowed on what is now mission critical

I will refer you to this weeks ARRL letter: ARRL FILES COMMENTS IN TWO MATTERS
BEFORE FCC: in which the League filed comments opposing the use of the 430-448
MHz band by a robotic device designed for use by police and public service
agencies: “such interference is not a comforting thought for licensed radio
amateurs who could very easily be perceived to be, or held responsible for the
failure or malfunction of these analog devices in a given application and the
danger to public safety officers who are relying on them”.  The ARRL
understands that public safety applications cannot coexist or directly share
resources with the amateur radio service, it is likely to lead to
misunderstandings at best and to hams being taken away in handcuffs at worst.
Interference is not the main issue in our case, but public safety agencies are
still not going to be comfortable sharing “their” resource with a bunch of
undisciplined hams.

The small, battery powered, handheld terminals that could be deployed to a
"hot spot" need to be operated by persons licensed in the Amateur Radio
Service or we risk losing the entire project. Better yet, instead of
“deploying” these terminals during or after the emergency, they would
already be in place ahead of the emergency, mounted on the rooftops of
licensed hams who have been using them for everyday ragchewing, DX chasing,
field day and emergency preparedness exercises long before their services are
needed in the actual emergency. 

For these reasons I maintain that the correct way to sell this project to DHS
or other funding agencies is to explain that it is a way to enhance the
capabilities of the Amateur Radio Service to respond to emergencies with a
well trained and highly experienced corps of volunteer communicators who are
already in place in every city and town in the US, available to serve as soon
as they are needed. Attempting to intrude on the far different world that
exists outside of Part 97 will subject us to the same political, bureaucratic
and proprietary constraints that affect everybody else who tries to design
radios for that service. At the very least, Amsat will need to write an iron
clad contract with the funding agencies making it clear that this is first and
foremost an amateur radio project, and that the informal ham way of getting
things done is the very soul of the project and the only thing that makes it
possible. That should prove interesting.

Dan Schultz N8FGV

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