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Railfan Technology > FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use


Date: 10/13/18 07:36
FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: WW

On September 24, 2018, the FCC issued Enforcement Advisory No. 2018-03 (link here:  https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-980A1.pdf ).  The advisory was ostensibly issued to prohibit the sale of two way radios (mostly Chinese-made) that lack FCC Part 90 Certification that are capable of transmitting in the public service and business radio bands (including the railroad bands).  However, the wording in the enforcement advisory is much broader and may effectively prohibit the use of amateur radios by anyone who is not a licensed amateur radio operator.  All of this has created a firestorm in the amateur radio community.  The most troubling part of the advisory is that it essentially countermands long-time government policy that a person may own and use most any two way radio device, so long as the device does not emit "spurious" RF emissions (radio interference), that the device is incapable of monitoring or transmitting on the cellular telephone frequencies, and that the user does not use the device to transmit on any frequency that he/she is not authorized to transmit over.  The term "use" is not defined in the enforcement order, but appears to be intended to be expansively interpreted--i.e., "use" meaning to operate in any manner.

So, here is my interpretation of the order.  I note here that I am NOT an attorney, and this interpretation is simply my OPINION:

1)  Non-certified radios that lack either a Part 90 (commercial two-way radio) or Part 97 (amateur radio) certification are now illegal to use for any purpose.  Yes, your $30 Bao Feng just became a paper weight.  Don't try to sell it on E-bay, either.  That's now illegal,too,  with a VERY high fine for doing so.

2)  Amateur radios with extended receive capability.  This one is really tricky, based on the Enforcement Advisory language.  It depends on the interpretation of the of the term "operate" in the advisory that, like the term "use", is not defined in the document.  If one interprets "operate" expansively, then an amateur radio may only be "operated" by a licensed amateur radio operator.  Under that interpretation, a railfan using an amateur radio to monitor the railroad channels could be required to hold a valid amateur radio operator license to do so.  Some amateur radio operators who have read the Enforcement Advisory also believe that it is the FCC intent to eventually prohibit sale of amateur radio equipment that is in any way capable of "operating"--including receive-only--outside of the amateur radio bands.

3)  Another quirk in the Enforcement Advisory is that ownership or use of Part 90 (commercial two-way) radios for monitoring only is largely unaffected, unless the radio is being used on amateur radio frequencies.  Then it may fall under the requirement that the operator be a licensed amateur radio operator.

4) The enforcement order leaves unaffected the current federal regulations on use of receive-only scanning radios.

The Enforcement Advisory is ambiguous enough that I suspect that clarifications and modifications will likely be coming along, but the main thrust of banning cheap, non-certified two-way radios from sale and USE in the United States will likely not change.  For now, my suggestion would be that railfans NOT use any two-way radio that does not carry either a Part 90 or Part 97 certification for railfanning purposes.  If the railfan is using Part 97 certified amateur equipment, he/she should strongly consider obtaining an amateur license (I've long recommended this and it is not difficult to do).  If a railfan is using Part 90 equipment, he/she should take extra care to assure that he/she does not inadvertently transmit on any frequency for which he/she does not have a valid license (this has always been true).  If he/she does not hold an amateur license, I would also remove all amateur frequencies from a commercial Part 90 radio.

For the record, I do own Bao Fengs, and I've removed the batteries from them and packed them away for the foreseeable future.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/13/18 17:00 by WW.



Date: 10/13/18 18:38
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: RailFanAZ

Thanks WW for posting this thread.

Christina
RailFanning UP & BNSF, AZ
RailFanAZ.com



Date: 10/13/18 20:26
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: tinytrains

I wondered when the FCC would finally take notice. QST, the ARRL magaizne will not advertize most Chinese radios because they are not leagle, and they have see 25% of these radios have out of band spurious emssions when transmitting. That is a big no-no in the HAM world. HAM gear has never been allowed to transmit outside the HAM bands. I have never heard of the FCC bothering anyone for operating a radio as receiver as long as you were not listening to cellular freqs. What worries me about these radio for railfans is they will transmit on the railroad bands. I have been on trains when they were getting someone screwing around on the road channel and came looking for people with radios. No TX, no problem.

73's
Scott, AB6YS

Scott Schifer
Torrance, CA
TinyTrains Website



Date: 10/13/18 22:29
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: radar

It's nice to see that the FCC is being proactve for a change.  I seriously doubt the FCC would go after individuals for using these radios only as receivers.  The field agents have better things to do.  Their objective with this advisory is to try and get them off the market, and go after importers bringing this sort of junk into the country.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/14/18 12:36 by radar.



Date: 10/14/18 13:44
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: jkurt

I have older scanners and one new BC-125at will I need a licence to use these?  This government is getting ridicules. I don't transmit i just receive.  Any info would be appreciated.  Oh how will this effect www.railroadradio.net I wonder?

From,

Kurt.

 



Date: 10/14/18 17:35
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: tinytrains

I am sure your scanners are safe.

Scott Schifer
Torrance, CA
TinyTrains Website



Date: 10/14/18 21:28
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: wa4umr

The ARRL labs did a review of the Baofeng radios about two years ago.  The receivers are rather good but the problem is with the transmitters.  Most all amateur radios that will receive railroad frequencies will not transmit outside of the ham bands without modifications.  The Chinese radios will transmit on any frequency that they will receive on and there is no way to disable that.  If  you wanted to open up the radio I guess you could cut a wire or trace on the printed circuit board to disable transmitting.  The lab also found that the transmitters put out all kinds of spurious (unwanted) signals.  While transmitting in the ham bands legally, they may at the same time be transmitting on the local cab company frequency, aircraft frequencies, a police frequency, or a railroad frequency, all illegally.  Higher quality radios may have the spurious signals, but they are suppressed to a legal limit.  

(ARRL, The American Radio Relay League, a national organization representing Amateur Radio operator.)

John



Date: 10/15/18 06:44
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: NS8552

I think there is a way to disable the transmit option for Baofengs in the programming software. If I recall, it has to be done on a channel by channel basis.

Ken VA3KAP



Date: 10/15/18 16:23
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: RailFanAZ

NS8552 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think there is a way to disable the transmit
> option for Baofengs in the programming software.
> If I recall, it has to be done on a channel by
> channel basis.
>
> Ken VA3KAP

Yup, use the provided software to disable the transmit on each line that has a channel programmed to it.

Christina
RailFanning UP & BNSF, AZ
RailFanAZ.com



Date: 10/21/18 07:17
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will not affect railfan radio use.
Author: K3HX

I agree with "TinyTrains" and "wa4umr" on this topic.

I've read the paper and see nothing that would affect a typical railfan.

The target is importers and distributors of non type-accepted radios and
those making unlicensed transmissions. 
If you don't  transmit on frequencies where you are not licensed, no problem. 

Be Well,

Tim Colbert K3HX



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/21/18 07:30 by K3HX.



Date: 10/21/18 07:28
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: BAB

jkurt Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I have older scanners and one new BC-125at will I
> need a licence to use these?  This government is
> getting ridicules. I don't transmit i just
> receive.  Any info would be appreciated.  Oh how
> will this effect www.railroadradio.net I wonder?
>
> From,
>
> Kurt.  PLEASE READ  what was posted they are not going to be affected.
>
>  



Date: 10/23/18 05:47
Re: FCC Enforcement Advisory will affect railfan radio use
Author: navarch2

"4) The enforcement order leaves unaffected the current federal regulations on use of receive-only scanning radios. "

Seems you are safe.....

Bob



jkurt Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I have older scanners and one new BC-125at will I
> need a licence to use these?  This government is
> getting ridicules. I don't transmit i just
> receive.  Any info would be appreciated.  Oh how
> will this effect www.railroadradio.net I wonder?
>
> From,
>
> Kurt.
>
>  



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