Good luck with that, congressman King

From Slashdot, an example of why legislators are often too dumb to see beyond the financial transaction, invoking the law of unintended consequences:

“Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has introduced HR 607, the ‘Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011,’ which has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which handles telecommunications legislation). The bill would create a nationwide Public Safety broadband network using the so-called ‘D-Block’ of spectrum in the 700 MHz range for Public Safety use. But to pay for it, he wants to sell off 420-440 MHz, currently heavily used by the military, satellites and Amateur Radio operators.”

OK, here’s the really dumb part (as if the above wasn’t dumb enough), have you ever heard of PAVE PAWS?

Well I have, because I’m an Amateur Radio Operator, and I’ve got one almost in my backyard at Beale Air Force Base. I can listen to it on my scanner.

AN/FPS-115 PAVE PAWS Radar at Beale AFB, California

This happens to be a critical long range defense radar, and it happens to be sensitive to the very frequencies the congresscritter wants to sell to finance his idea. Here’s the defense coverage for the USA:

File:PAVE PAWS&BMEWS.png

Coverage of PAVE PAWS is shown in blue. This complements the coverage provided by the BMEWS system in red. Both report back to Cheyenne Mountain Air Base in Colorado.

From Wikipedia:

PAVE PAWS is a United States Air Force Space Command radar system operated by three 21st Space Wing squadrons for missile warning and space surveillance. Operational PAVE PAWS radars are located at:[1]

In addition, two other facilities were shuttered by the Air Force in 1995: Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Georgia (32°34′52″N 83°34′09″W / 32.58111°N 83.56917°W / 32.58111; -83.56917), and Eldorado AFS, Texas (30°58′44″N 100°33′14″W / 30.979°N 100.554°W / 30.979; -100.554).

PAVE is an Air Force program name, while PAWS stands for Phased Array Warning System.[1] PAVE has also been defined as an acronym for Precision Acquisition Vehicle Entry, but that is likely a backronym created to explain the program name.[citation needed] The radar, developed by Raytheon, is used primarily to detect and track sea-launched (SLBM) and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The system also has a secondary mission of detecting and tracking Earth-orbiting satellites. Information received from the PAVE PAWS radar systems pertaining to SLBM/ICBM and satellite detection is forwarded to the U.S. Strategic Command’s Missile Correlation (formerly Missile Warning) and Space Control Centers at Cheyenne Mountain Air Station, Colorado. Data is also sent to the National Military Command Center and to U.S. Strategic Command‘s Command Center at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.

440 MHz crucial to PAVE PAWS radar systems:

In California, we already have a problem on those frequencies King wants to sell due to the PAVE-PAWS system at Beale Air Force Base east of Marysville. Surprisingly, it can receive hams in the San Francisco Bay area – on a 440 MHz. UHF band where I wouldn’t expect that distance – and we have had to reduce power on most of the repeaters in that band to protect the military’s space-warning services. If the band were to be sold, it would not be available for commercial users in much of California, and many parts of the nation for that matter.

Amateur radio operators have already voluntarily shut down repeater systems on 440 band in most of Northern California, because they believe security of our nation is more important:

==============================================================

THE PLIGHT OF 440 AMATEUR REPEATERS ON THE WEST COAST

January 14th, 2010 by hamslife

While the issue of interference between amateur radio operators on the 440 MHz band and the US Air Force Pave PAWS has been resolved on the east coast the restrictions on amateur operations on the 440 MHz band still remains in effect on the west coast of the United States.

If you are not familiar with the issue more information can be seen on the January 8, 2008 post (http://hamslife.com/?p=60) and on the February 1, 2008 post (http://hamslife.com/?p=81 ) of this blog site.

By means of email the Section Manager for the ARRL Sacramento Valley Section, Ronald D. Murdock, W6JK gave an update to ARRL members in the Sacramento Valley Section.

In his email Ron said that on 8 January 2010 he and other ARRL officials were given a briefing by Lt. Col. Cory J. Keepler the commander of the 7th Space Warning Squadron at Beale AFB, CA.  In this briefing Lt. Col. Keepler revealed that the Air Force believes the current restrictions on the local Amateur radio operations has improved Pave PAWS operation and thus will remain in effect.

There is also some other interference which the Air Force has not yet been able to identify.  The Air Force will continue to search for any interference and hopefully will be able to identify all of them.

==============================================================

So if Congressman King’s bill goes through, and the bands come up for sale, what tech savvy company in their right mind would buy the rights to operate on those frequencies knowing full well that our early warning radar system is affected, and they’d very likely be ordered to cease and desist by the Air Force in the interest of National Security?

Can you say “Kingdom of idiots”?

Here’s what the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has to say about this hare brained idea:

HR 607

On February 10, 2011, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, introduced H.R. 607, the “Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011,” which has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which handles telecommunications legislation).  The bill addresses certain spectrum management issues including the creation and maintenance of a nationwide Public Safety broadband network.

As part of that network, the Bill provides for the allocation of the so-called “D-Block” of spectrum in the 700 MHz range for Public Safety use. HR 607 uniquely, provides for the reallocation of other spectrum for auction to commercial users, in order to offset the loss of revenue that would occur as the result of the allocation of the D-Block to Public Safety instead of commercial auction. H.R. 607 lists, among the bands to be reallocated for commercial auction within ten years of the passage of the Bill, the paired bands 420-440 MHz and 450-470 MHz.

The inclusion of most of the Amateur 70-cm spectrum as one of the replacement bands is a major problem. The 420-440 MHz band is not Public Safety spectrum and should not be included in any spectrum swap of Public Safety allocations.

While the ARRL and all Amateurs support the work of Public Safety and recognize their need for dedicated spectrum which would promote interoperability, the ARRL vigorously opposes HR 607 in its present form. HR 607 is a direct threat to our limited spectrum and the ARRL encourages all amateurs to appropriately voice their opposition to this bill.

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40 thoughts on “Good luck with that, congressman King

  1. I bet he could sell it to Iran, or North Korea, or China… Perhaps he could just sell it to some terrorist organization…

  2. Ther have been a few SBIRs related to upgrades to the long range surveillance. Waveform investgations with wideband in mind, as I recall. I do not remember what their band of interest was (when I saw the postings,) but 440 MHz does not ring a bell. I had some ideas at the time, but no resources to develop them.

    Anyway, my point is that there are ways around narrow band interferers if the signal of interest is wideband. All hope is not lost.

    Mark

  3. This is not too surprising. Democracy works by raising voices, maybe not all the time, but this is one which seems appropriate.

    Message: dig a little deeper before delving into radio spectra.

    There are very good reasons why all countries have a binding agreement related to frequency allocation.

  4. WTF? We hams are the emergency life line of the country. I operate all HF – BUT no way I want to ‘give up’ a single slice of the RF spectrum. These people have no idea what would be involved in this mess. NONE. It’s not like you can put a new XTAL in the rig and you are off to the races. Stupid idea. We hams are under appreciated – until we are the only line of communication in an emergency.

    73!
    WB8YJF

  5. It looks a bit like something a person of a certain age would have in the back of their car to deafen themselves and other road users.

  6. I thought emergency services were just recently given 24mhz when television went digital. what happened to that? Get squandered already?

  7. Terrible – if not surprising – to see the US taking the same attitude to the spectrum as the UK now does – “just another” thing to be flogged off and turned into a commodity for the highest bidder, or given to some politician’s cronies. Last time I checked, we had precisely 1.0 EM spectra, and I seem to remember a time when its utilisation was – as it obviously should be – a matter of technical, not political, discussion.

    Like WB8YJF above, I’m mainly HF-oriented, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value all our allocations, which provide R’n’R and R’n’D space for the sort of people who used to be counted as an asset to society (when we had a society, rather than a “market”). Good luck to all US amateurs in stamping on this insanity once and for all.

    73 de G4ANA

  8. Hmm, and 433 MHz is a free band in most of the world, this would mean the change of harmonizing the USA and bringing 433 MHz into the “free for ISM use” fold would never ever happen.

    And now you have also explained by 433 has such a low permitted radiated power in the US.

  9. Apologies for off topic but just wanted to point out the BBC is particularly worried about the pacific islands because they are more vulnerable due to climate change.

  10. How do you know some company isn’t behind King’s bill? Going for some part of spectrum which the existing players won’t touch due to its national security implications?

  11. for c1ue, who wrote: “How do you know some company isn’t behind King’s bill?”

    Oh, I’ll guarantee you’ve hit the nail on the head there. And this isn’t a partisan thing, *all* of the congressmen on both sides of the aisle are always flogging bills that they’ve been paid (oops, “lobbied”) to bring up. Somebody is standing in the shadows planning to make a fortune if this happens, you and I know it.

    It’s just like the idiotic swirly lightbulb mandate, Phillips and Westinghouse donated *millions* to push that thing through because it’s the best profit making venture either of them have seen in decades. What a deal! Make everyone in the country replace good cheap lightbulbs with expensive junk that burns out in a fraction of the time as the old ones do!

  12. When you fill out your application to be a Congressperson, the first question to answer is: Degree of cluelessness (check one) — 1. complete 2. total 3. all of the above

  13. Stupid idea? No, on the contrary, it makes perfect sense. Actually, let me rephrase that. It makes perfect sense once you realize that the politicians (both parties) who run this country have NO ethics, patriotism or sense of guilt. Anyone who thinks this sort of plan is the result of stupidity has not been paying attention. This sort of plan is what you always get when you place very bright, completely self interested, sociopaths in charge.

  14. Worth noting that this Pete King has a history of supporting actual terrorists: the Irish Republican Army.

  15. Are there any companies in King’s district that would directly benefit from his proposal?

  16. Thanks Anthony,
    When there are catastrophes /emergencies such as today in Japan and perhaps Hawaii and other places, no one utilizes frequency bands better to deliver emergency communications and save lives than ham radio operators. We’re always ready we redundant antennas and transceivers that we pay for ourselves!
    Doug K4LY

  17. Though 70 cm in Europe is limited to 432-438 MHz, you all have our deepest sympathies… With politicians like that, who needs terrorists?
    -s

  18. I certainly hope this was not classified information. Particulary showing that gaping hole in the southern coverage.

  19. This story would have never made the headlines if it wasn’t for the fact that involves some one the lefties have started to target.

  20. I guarantee that the only communications functioning in the Japanese disaster zone are HAMs who will do their usual sterling duty coordinating information as always, those who are running on gensets and batteries.

    We also have exercises each year preparing for just this sort of disaster, even in Toronto and other ‘safe urban centres’.

    The sale of frequencies is a giga-buck industry so it attracts a certain type. It is one reason why N America has such crap cell phone service and high prices and phones that don’t work anywhere else.

    When disaster strikes the US, who will be in action on all frequencies? That’s right.

    73’s
    Crispin in JT-land

  21. Dollars to doughnuts, wouldn’t it be typical for them to effectively force out the amateurs altogether? After all, like the Internet, these people talk freely and the government has little control over them. So, take away their bands, it’s simple.

  22. That installation looks wicked-awesome. How close do you have to be to make popcorn? ;)

    Rep. King strikes me as a well-meaning, but not always completely informed individual. He likely has no idea what the importance of this band or HF operators are, either unintionally through his own ignorance (“Amateur radio? Like those kits back when I was a kid? Pfff. Nobody does that anymore. Kids have their Wii’s now.”), or intentionally by someone behind the scenes looking to profit.

    Everybody’s allowed to have bad ideas. Acting on them is another thing, as is being stubborn when shown just how bad that idea is, and forcing it through anyway.

    If nothing else, King’s fun to watch on TV when he’s arguing with Rep. Weiner.

  23. “I certainly hope this was not classified information. Particulary showing that gaping hole in the southern coverage.”

    It would be foolish for an unfriendly country to assume that PAVE PAWS and BMEWS are the only systems we have. You might only see a hammer hanging off of a carpenter’s loop, but that certainly isn’t the only tool in his possession.

  24. If the “D” Block had commercial value, then why did the previous auction for it fail? It failed when the communications industry was flush with cash, pre-crash – how can any honest valuation of it equal the pieces being offered up.

  25. E2-C (mini AWACS aircraft) or perhaps a Customs service P-3 using the APS-145 UHF RADAR:

    Spectrum analyzer obs of same RADAR; note the rotation rate:

    .

  26. I should add: This was observed in/about the DFW area … apparently training missions are conducted or Homeland Security employs patrols of some nature involving the APS-145 RADAR (or follow-on RADAR) on the E-2 or P-3 airborne platforms over the contiguous lower 48 …

    .

  27. This is typical of what politicians do when government spending has been completely out of control, pure and simple. It is the same sort of thing that I have seen many a time when an individual spends completely out of control. Sure enough, the vital truck and construction equipment of a carpenter has to go on the selling block just to pay the bills.

    It would appear that there has been no attempt to prioritize by actual need as opposed to desire. Once again, typical of government . . . do nothing until a huge emergency appears, then everything has to be done at the same time.

    I don’t expect a politician to know much beyond how to get elected to political office, so I always attempt to find out who the advisors of a politician are before I cast my ballot.

    Rather than bitching about this, perhaps it would be a wise thing to do to to quickly form a group of technical experts and prepare a well written document explaining why this should not be sold, and snail-mail it to Peter King, one which is not chock full of technical terms, but simple language.

    Worked for me when I was a Division Engineer and then Director of Public Works for a city in SoCal. Simple explanations in terms a politician could comprehend.

  28. There have been commercial interests wanting to get their hands on the 70cm allocation for years.

    However, they have a difficult path to follow to actually achieve that.

    I believe that the US constitution forbids “taking”, so there would have to be adequate compensation paid to:

    – Military contractors for the investment in equipment and design for products operating in those frequency ranges.

    – Ham radio operators for their existing radio equipment rendered useless/illegal.

    – Ham radio manufacturers for their investment in existing products, and stocks of those products.

    – Various satellite operators to replace satellites using up/down links in this band (not just ham satellites).

    Then there is the little problem of the international agreements to which the US is a signatory, designating these frequencies as amateur radio frequencies (even on a secondary basis).

    The The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council seems to agree that this is a hair-brained scheme too: http://www.arrl.org/attachments/view/News/57518

    Philip – K7UF

  29. //Rather than bitching about this, perhaps it would be a wise thing to do to to quickly form a group of technical experts and prepare a well written document explaining why this should not be sold, and snail-mail it to Peter King, one which is not chock full of technical terms, but simple language.//

    Great idea – and then in response set up a counter group of ‘experts’ to claim that your group of experts are either lying or just after government hand-outs or are anti-privatisation leftist radicals. Then as your “simple language” will neccesarily have glossed over some technical subtleties, pounce on those as scientific errors/propaganda. Then get a big petition together of thousands of ‘scientists’ (will keep that criteria vague) who disagree with you in some vague way without ever really dealing directly with the issue. And then on top of that publish Slaying-the-Radio-Dragon which will claim that all that fancy-schmancy science about the electro-magnetic specturm is all wrong anyway and it doesn’t matter because the sun is made out of magnesium.
    Lather, rinse, repeat :)

  30. I’m not the least surprised that congressman King comes up with that utterly stupid proposal. He is not a “well-meaning, but not always completely informed individual” as “reason” wrote in his post, but he is an ignorant, xenophonic bigot as the muslim hearings he is initiated cleary show.
    PS to poster Soren OZ1JGF: 70 cm in Europe runs from 430 t0 440 MHz!

  31. I always go nuts at even the suggestion hams should surrender ANY spectrum. Hams have pioneered the spectrum now populated by the military, the cell phone industry and all the other largely unnecessary gadgets (e.g. wireless you name it). 440MHz is damn near “main street” in the UHF ham community. I almost always use a 70cm frequency to access our statewide repeater system (which is GREAT). I can work more than the entire state of NM (the 5th largest geographically) on 440 MHz with 5 watts on a handheld from my livingroom. Many of the repeaters involved have 440 MHz links. I’ve only been a ham for a little over 20 years but I have witnessed first hand the invaluable service we provide to the community during times of disaster. I wonder if Rep King has any idea of the number of 440 MHz ham rigs that are out there.

    73 de N5UHD

  32. You know this guy’s just getting scarier and scarier. He’s also the one who’s pissing off all of Islam with his hearings. Why does he get to have these hearings? Because he’s the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. And he’s trying to dismantle defenses… *headdesk* depending on who buys that particular band with a little flexing you could almost make a case for treason right there…

  33. Regarding the question:

    “…. what tech savvy company in their right mind would buy the rights to operate on those frequencies knowing full well that our early warning radar system is affected, and they’d very likely be ordered to cease and desist by the Air Force in the interest of National Security?…”

    Well, GE seems to be playing both ends of the stick. I’m sure they would take a stab at it.

    As for the auctioning off of spectra crucial for national defense… and ballistic missile detection… that doesn’t seem to be a problem for many of our “elected” officials.

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