Here is an e-mail exchange that I sent to Bill Edgar (N3LLR, ARRL Atlantic Division Director) and Eric Olena (WB3FPL, ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager). See for yourself how these people "represent" the amateur radio community!
Dear Messrs. Edgar and Olena:
I would like to call your attention to Item 29 of the ARRL Board of Directors meeting that was held in July, as follows:
WHEREAS, there is current substantial amateur radio movement, activity, and innovation in the digital narrowband area; and,
WHEREAS, the FCC has mandated that by 2013 commercial radio move to narrowband channels and Amateur Radio manufacturers normally follow commercial practices; and,
WHEREAS, the VHF/UHF Amateur Radio band plan currently uses 15 and 20 kHz FM channels; and,
WHEREAS, with the increasing use of narrowband across the country amateurs are placing and using narrowband equipment outside the repeater subband because there is no real place to fit the narrowband pairs; and,
WHEREAS, for ARRL to remain a respected leader in technology, we must be actively involved in innovative solutions to problems by bringing about a productive discussion on a technical paradigm shift; now
THEREFORE, the President shall appoint a study committee for the purpose of research and to consider developing a plan to move the U.S. amateur community to narrowband channel spacing. (Emphasis supplied)
Are our self-appointed, self-important "representatives" in Newington representing our interests? Or is the main effort of today's ARRL to provide an economic stimulus package to the Japanese firms that advertise in QST? The most laughable phrase is, "for ARRL to remain a respected leader in technology". May I remind you that D-Star, the mode that the BoD seems most interested in promoting, was developed by the Japanese. The ARRL had nothing at all to do with it.
Amateur radio is a hobby. We can all do without any effort by the ARRL to force obsolescence of the inexpensive, dependable FM equipment that has served us for more than four decades. We can also do well without the dropouts and stuttering "skipping CD effect" that plague digital voice communications in fringe areas, as well as the latency and horrible, overcompressed audio that are inherent in narrowband digital systems. And we can do very well without an organization that "represents" only 21% of all licensed U.S. amateur radio operators trying to force the digital mode du jour down our throats!
Philip E. Galasso, K2PG
635 State Route 239
Shickshinny, PA 18655
Here is what I received from the Atlantic Division ARRL Director, Bill Edgar (N3LLR):
My job is to represent members of the ARRL on the ARRL board - your membership expired almost 8 years ago.
As such, I do not represent you or your viewpoint.
Bill Edgar N3LLR
Atlantic Division Director
Have you ever seen such arrogance? The EPA Section Manager was a bit more diplomatic, even though he never answered my questions or concerns about possible pecuniary interest in the ARRL trying to force narrowband digital modes on the FM community, since the companies that make narrowband digital equipment for amateur use are major advertisers in QST. Instead, he concerns himself with a heckler who showed up at a local hamfest, without having a clue as to why someone would want to heckle those who claim to "represent" us. No, I have no idea who the heckler is.
I am sorry that things don't meet with your expectations. I do sense a lot of bitterness in your words. This also is too bad because that is not what Amateur Radio is about. Your words bring to my mind the fellow who whenever he passes by the ARRL table at the annual Murgas Hamfest always hollers and throws up his hands saying "The ARRL BAH". Although I have no idea who that person is so I can only say that if he were the one who is now asking the ARRL to reflect his views I would be LOL at the situation that he is now be facing. I would think that asking for such consideration following such doltish and inane behavior would cause a person to be a bit more cognizant that he, you, me and all other Hams need the ARRL and it is vital to the preservation of our great hobby.
Perhaps you would see more success for your efforts if you were to quit fuming and get to work, become an ARRL member and get involved in the ARRL Field Organization. However, as a retired police officer I also realize that a small percentage of people would rather stay on the outside and cause as much hate and discontent as they can. I am used to dealing with those types as well, but a positive effort would be much more rewarding.
Eric D. Olena, WB3FPL
ARRL Section Manager
And my response to both of these clowns:
My views on the ARRL were not formed overnight. They came out of decades of frustration with League policy, especially in the regulatory arena. For I am not a newbie who got a vanity callsign to "be cool". I have been very active in amateur radio for 41 years. Here's why I will not join the ARRL, at least as long as David Sumner (K1ZZ) and most of the current leadership is in place:
1. For at least 45 years, the ARRL has had an obsession with overregulation of a HOBBY radio service. And the League has a nasty habit of filing rulemaking petitions with the FCC without polling the membership, with the result that we are saddled with obnoxious rules that are difficult to change once they are in place. Let's start with the Incentive Licensing fiasco, in which the ARRL played a major part. I remember all the high-sounding prose about increasing the proficiency of the American amateur radio operator. That's fine...but instead of taking priveliges away from those who already had them, the phone bands should have been expanded for the higher class licensees, with General Class licensees still being allowed to use CW in those segments. In other words, a form of the old "Class A phone bands" that existed prior to 1952 should have been instituted, rather than the system that drove hordes of people out of the ARRL. In 1971, the FCC proposed to expand some of our phone bands to at least bring us into line with what Canadian hams had at the time, getting rid of the de facto American-free zones on parts of 15 and 20 meters. The ARRL opposed that expansion, as stated in fine print buried in the middle of QST. And we were stuck with inadequate phone bands for decades after that! More recently, there was the "regulation by bandwidth" fiasco. Sure, it sounded good at first glance...to substitute occupied bandwidth for specific emission modes in Part 97. That is, until one saw the nitpicking system of subbands that the ARRL proposed. The AM community, the last remaining bastion of traditional amateur radio, whose members build, repair, or repurpose equipment, would have been screwed, as "regulation by bandwidth" relegated AM operation on the bands below 29 MHz to an easily removed footnote. Now we have the latest brainstorm of the BoD, which, if incorporated into future FCC regulations, would make our existing FM transceivers and repeaters obsolete. Since the companies that sell those newfangled digital radios with which the ARRL is so infatuated buy lots of advertising space in QST, there is certainly an appearance of impropriety. Has it ever occurred to you people that, maybe, we don't want to have narrowband digital modes rammed down our throats? And when the FCC expanded the 75/80 meter phone band to 3600 kHz, the ARRL opposed the expansion, thereby looking a gift horse in the mouth! The FCC wisely told you people to walk east until your hats float. Do us all a favor, fire your high-priced attorney, and STAY OUT of the regulatory arena. Stick to selling books and magazines. With its obsession with overregulation of a hobby radio service that is not hobbled by our system of subbands in other countries, the ARRL reminds me of the nerdy little kid who used to get the crap pounded out of him in school because he would always ask the teacher to assign more homework.
2. The embracing by the League of Winlink. The current cause du jour of the ARRL is emergency communications (EMCOMM). What makes amateur radio valuable for EMCOMM is our ability to communicate reliably with simple, inexpensive equipment. Why then is the League promoting a closed, proprietary system which requires the purchase of an obscenely expensive modem and the use of a computer...which, of course, can be rendered totally useless in a natural or man-made disaster? Is there some impropriety here? Do the higher-ups in the ARRL believe the League's own EMCOMM propaganda ("When all else fails...")?
3. Relevant to the above issues, many League people seem to be out of touch with the realities of amateur radio. Some years ago, I met the Director of another ARRL Division at a hamfest. I asked him why nothing is being done to alleviate the situation in which the United States (nowadays just the 48 contiguous states) is the ONLY country in the world whose amateur radio operators are not allowed to use phone below 7150 kHz (now 7125 kHz with our most recent phone band expansion). He told me that "it's an ITU matter". Excuse me? The division of our bands into emission subbands is a matter of domestic (FCC) regulation. The ITU does NOT prescribe emission types and subbands in our amateur bands, nor did it do so at the time I spoke to that director, who is still the director of that division!
4. The quality of ARRL publications, especially QST, has taken a nosedive over the past 30 years. At one time, QST was a gold mine of articles of practical use to amateur radio operators. Nowadays, the 33% of the magazine that consists of material other than advertising is replete with nauseating human interest articles and stuff reminiscient of the now-defunct Ham Radio Horizons magazine. The ARRL will not let me substitute QEX for QST. Why should a large chunk of my $39 dues go toward a magazine that I would pitch into the trash as soon as it arrived in my mailbox?
5. For what it buys me, the dues are too high. See my comments about QST, above. $39 is a good chunk of my weekly household budget.
6. There is a distinct air of arrogance in many of the League's antics. One example is in the remarks made by David Sumner (K1ZZ) toward those of us who opposed the "regulation by bandwidth" petition. Another had to do with comments filed by the ARRL when the FCC decided to open a phone subband on 10 meters to Novice and Technician Class operators (there were no no-code Techs at the time). The ARRL insisted that the only voice mode that should be allowed in that subband (28.3 to 28.5 MHz) is SSB, lest "someone would recrystal a CB rig". Three things are wrong with that:
a. Reworking and converting a piece of equipment once used in another radio service is an excellent way to learn about electronics. That sort of activity, in which I converted surplus commercial and military equipment to amateur use, eventually led to my present career as the chief engineer of a cluster of commercial AM and FM broadcast stations.
b. The young people being wooed by the League do not have tons of money. They cannot afford to whip out some plastic and pay $3,000 for those Japanese radios so prominently advertised in QST.
c. The ARRL was apparently afraid that CB'ers would modify radios to come up into the 10 meter band. FLASH! This has been going on for years and the illegal "export" radios sold at truck stops often have banks of channels already built into the radios, ranging from 26 to 30 MHz.
Another example of ARRL arrogance came from comments filed by the League in a different FCC proceeding. Some 15 years ago, someone with an N3 callsign, who was also involved with CB and who wrote for an SWL magazine, filed a Petition for Rulemaking that would have allowed CB'ers to work skip on 11 meters. The ARRL opposed the petition. Since when does the ARRL have standing in matters relating to other radio services? As long as the CB'ers stay within their 40 allotted channels, who cares if they work skip?
A third example is the response that I received from Bill Edgar regarding my concerns about Item 29 in the July 2009 BoD meeting. That was like throwing gasoline onto a brush fire! The ARRL pompously and pretentiously calls itself "The National Organization For Amateur Radio", claiming to represent all of us. The ARRL usually prefaces FCC filings with this same line. But, as Bill Edgar's e-mail to me shows, the ARRL only represents the 21% of U.S. amateur radio operators who choose to be members. Hardly representative at all!
I would gladly join the ARRL if it were worth joining. But I see the League as an ossified, useless organization that, especially in the "regulation by bandwidth" and the matters brought up in Item 29 of the July 2009 BoD meeting, often works AGAINST my interests in amateur radio. As my career winds down, I would love to form a new amateur radio organization with a vastly different administrative structure from what the ARRL has. And, to avoid any appearance of impropriety, I would run the journal of that organization without advertising, much as the Consumers Union does with its Consumer Reports magazine. If the NRA did the same kind of job of representing firearms enthusiasts that the ARRL does in representing amateur radio, our gun laws would be like the ones that East Germany had, in which only the police and the military would be allowed to bear firearms.
Yes, I will get to work. But the results would definitely not be to the benefit of the clique in Newington.
Get out there and find out why the rest of the 79% of U.S. amateurs refuse to join the ARRL! You may be surprised.
Philip E. Galasso, K2PG
What do you think? Do you get the impression that trying to discuss amateur radio matters with the ARRL people is a little like urinating into the wind? Isn't it time for us to form an alternative organization, perhaps as a federation of amateur radio clubs, to represent our interests? Let's get something going...FAST! Contact me if you are interested.