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FCC Insists That Amateur Operators Wear Brown Shirts

These days, not being on the right side of a government enforcement agency can cost your your life, liberty, and/or pursuit of happiness - just ask about it from politically antipolar citizens who have been descended upon physically by armed commando teams or financially crippled by the IRS or EPA. The meaning of law is nowadays declared to be whatever the bureaucrat involved thinks it should be, and nobody dares to challenge it. Amateur radio operator Daniel G. Churovich, N9RSY, of Ripley, Tennessee, recently learned how failing to comply with one FCC lawyer's interpretation of Section 97.111(a)(1) - see letter below - can result in a scary contact from The Man. The ARRL website has a news piece telling how FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Special Counsel Laura Smith issued a warning letter to the fellow for communicating with another radio operator who failed to provide proper identification per Part 97. It was not Mr. Churovich who failed to comply; it was the guy on the other end of the transmission.

FCC Insists That Amateur Operators Wear Brown Shirts - RF Cafe

The ARRL has a long history of being a self-policing organization, and its members routinely conduct violations monitoring activities for quelling pirate (illegal) broadcast stations, unintentional radiation (interference) sources, unqualified operators making calls (often kids or relatives horsing around on someone's gear), malicious interference, etc. The Amateur Auxiliary of the FCC is the official title of the volunteers. From the ARRL website:

Q. What is the Amateur Auxiliary?

A. The Amateur Auxiliary is composed of approximately 700 ARRL volunteer-appointees, known as Official Observers (OO) and the License Interference Committee (LIC) who monitor the bands and notify Amateur Radio Operators of technical and operating discrepancies.

OOs are helpers and advisors, not "band cops." [emphasis added] In cases involving serious rule violations, such as malicious interference, they are trained and certified to gather and forward evidence that can be used by the FCC in enforcement actions. The program is based on a formal agreement between the FCC and the ARRL.

LICs, appointed by their ARRL Section Managers, address local interference issues.

Administratively pinging an otherwise seemingly legitimate operator for failing to terminate a correspondence to another operator who is not properly identifying his call sign seems to be a bit ridiculous, if not overstepping the authority of one's office.

The attorney's letter states that Mr. Churovich realized the other operator was not complying with Part 97 rule as evidenced by his repeatedly asking for station identification, so it might be reasonable to agree that the conversation should be ended, but the issuance of an official warning seems excessive, especially upon witnessing how quickly he has become famous in a negative way (do a Google search). After a lifetime of anonymity, his 15 minutes of fame comes in this way. I apologize to Mr. Churovich for adding to the dilemma with this article.

From the FCC website:

CERTIFIED MAIL - RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED

March 31, 2014

Mr. Daniel G. Churovich
(Address withheld)
Ripley, TN 38063

Re: WARNING NOTICE
Amateur Radio License N9RSY
EB-FIELDNER-14-00014749

Dear Mr. Churovich:

On Friday, March 28, 2014, you were heard by staff at the Commission's High Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) Center communicating repeatedly on 14.313 MHz with an individual who you identify only as "cowboy." This individual failed to provide his call sign during your conversation, a fact that you were aware of as you repeatedly demanded that he provide his name, call sign and location. Despite being aware of the rule violation on the part of this other individual, you continued communicating with him for an extended period of time.^

This incident constitutes unauthorized transmissions in violation of the Commission's rules. Your operation as described above is contrary to the basis and purpose of the amateur radio service as set out in Section 97.1 and is a violation of Section 97.111(a)(1) of the Commission's rules, which states in pertinent part "[a]n amateur station may transmit the following types of two-way communications: [t]ransmissions necessary to exchange messages with other stations in the amateur service . . . ".^ There is no evidence that the individual with whom you were communicating with on March 28^th was an amateur radio operator as he failed to provide his call sign as required by Commission rules. Please be advised that the Commission expects you to abide by its rules This letter serves as notice that, if operation of this type reoccurs after receipt of this letter, you could be subject to severe penalties, including license revocation, monetary forfeiture (fines),^ or a modification proceeding to restrict the frequencies upon which you may operate.

Sincerely,

Laura L. Smith, Esq.
Special Counsel
Enforcement Bureau

Cc: Atlanta Field Office
South Central Regional Director

^ The Commission employee used direction finding equipment and confirmed the transmissions were coming from your location. The employee recorded the offending transmissions, and provided undersigned counsel with recordings of the incident in question. Should you desire a copy of the recording, one will be made available to you.

^ See 47 C.F.R. SS 97.1 and 111(a)(1).

^ Fines normally range from $7,500 to $10,000.

Here is the takeaway lesson: The government is now monitoring every aspect of communications, be it in the form of written, spoken, digital, semaphore, or smoke signal messaging. In order to steer clear of violations, be sure to familiarize yourself with not just the letter of the law, but the whims of bureaucrats within the applicable controlling agency. Otherwise, you might find yourself in deep doodoo. I suppose I will have to be watching over my own shoulder from now on since I have dared to publically criticize the 'New' FCC*.

 

* For the record, I actually appreciate and deem necessary the work done by most of the Federal regulating agencies like the FCC, FAA, DOT, etc.; it is the manipulations and perversions of some in leadership positions (mostly political appointments) that often infuriate me.

 

See More FCC Bureaucratic Strong-Arming for another example.

 

Posted  June 5, 2014

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