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Author Topic: Selling "airtime" on ham radio  (Read 105162 times)
AA4PB
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« Reply #60 on: November 07, 2012, 09:24:55 AM »

"(b) The station licensee must designate the station control operator. The FCC will presume that the station licensee is also the control operator, unless documentation to the contrary is in the station records."

It seems to me from the above that the FCC intends that a "pile of equipment" must always have a station licensee in order to be put on the air. The rules don't say that an "owner" can designate a control operator, it says that the "station licensee" must designate the control operator.

Now if some unlicensed person gives me physical possession of his "pile of equipment" then it becomes a part of "my station" and I become the station licensee. That's a little hard to do however if the "pile of equipment" is located somewhere out in cyberspace and I've never seen it or touched it - and maybe don't even know exactly where it is located.

97.5(a) says that the station apparatus ("pile of equipment") must be under the physical control of the station licensee in order to transmit. To me, "physical control" means that I can reach out and put my hands on it. Somewhere out in cyberspace, at the end of an Internet connection, is not under my physical control in most cases.
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K5TED
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« Reply #61 on: November 07, 2012, 05:15:33 PM »

The FCC regulates our station, not how we go about complying with the rules. The owner of the pile of equipment does not have to be a licensed amateur, but in this case probably is. When the lessee of the equipment has his own documentation posted on site as the licensee and control operator, then the station is under his control and licensed to him, albeit remotely, which is stipulated as acceptable in Part 97.

Whether the control and responsibility for operating said station is granted by the licensed station owner, or is assumed by the lessee upon posting documentation to that effect, does not matter. Either way, physical control is now the responsibility of the lessee.

There are no regulations stating that a station licensee must have actual physical possession of the equipment to be used on air, nor that he should have ever even seen the equipment, just that he have control of said equipment, and be responsible for proper licensed operation.

Physical control can be accomplished remotely, as stipulated in the telecommand/remote control rule. The transmitter on/off control can be oeprated remotely by "wireline", which can be accomplished by telephone remote control, as indicated.

The FCC doesn't care HOW you operate the equipment, just that it be operated within the license privilege and that the transmitter can be turned off. There is no licensing for receivers. It's all about the RF Out. It needs to be controlled and on the proper frequency, and within assigned envelope. That's all.



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AA4PB
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« Reply #62 on: November 08, 2012, 05:53:45 AM »

IMHO you are making a real stretch when you say that a person who does not have access to the building housing the equipment, has never seen the equipment, doesn't know much of anything about it can be said to have "physical access" via the Internet and thus qualify as the station licensee.

How would you comply with
97.103(c) The station licensee must make the station and the station records available for inspection upon request by an FCC representative.
if you don't know exactly how to get to the station and don't have a key to the front door??? I'm sure the inspector will want to lay his eyes on the "pile of equipment", not just look at the control GUI on your computer.

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K5TED
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« Reply #63 on: November 08, 2012, 09:45:27 AM »

IMHO you are making a real stretch when you say that a person who does not have access to the building housing the equipment, has never seen the equipment, doesn't know much of anything about it can be said to have "physical access" via the Internet and thus qualify as the station licensee.

How would you comply with
97.103(c) The station licensee must make the station and the station records available for inspection upon request by an FCC representative.
if you don't know exactly how to get to the station and don't have a key to the front door??? I'm sure the inspector will want to lay his eyes on the "pile of equipment", not just look at the control GUI on your computer.



Good points.

Let's use the example of the amateur radio operator who has his HF rig setup for remote operation via iPhone or other smartphone or PC. He's not at home, he may be sitting on the deck of a cruise ship in the Caribbean, or at Dayton showing off to his buddies at the hamfest. How would that scenario be different from the topic being discussed here, minus the equipment lease aspect?

If a ham is at Dayton showing off his remote controlled Flex 5000 on his iPhone, and the FCC inspector stops by the shack unannounced, what happens? If the ham lives alone, then it appears the knocks on the door will go unanswered. If the FCC inspector happens to be at Dayton as well, he'll get to see the control point only.

In the case of this remote control station, we can consider the following:

It is presumed the owner of the pile of equipment, in the lease agreement with the remote operator, has agreed to serve as gatekeeper for the station in the event of an FCC inspection while being operated by that lessee, and for a defined period therafter. Records of operation, i.e. "log" must be kept to track which control operators were at the helm during the period in question.

"97.103(c) The station licensee must make the station and the station records available for inspection upon request by an FCC representative." does not stipulate that the licensee personally must open the door to the shack, only that he must make the requested items available. That can be by proxy. The wording is critical here.

The station is the station and the control point is the control point. 

§ 97.109   Station control. (c) When a station is being remotely controlled, the control operator must be at the control point. Any station may be remotely controlled. states that the control operator must be at the control point, which can be remote from the station.


The definition of wireline control has been established, and I believe that a landline phone connection fulfills this requirement.

I would presume that the potential custumer of this remote radio service would have enough of an emotional stake in this to take the time to review the station facilities and operational flowcharts and diagrams, antenna patterns, etc.  The information packet would also provide detailed description of the facility location and contact information for the gatekeeper and the phone line control information.

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AA4PB
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« Reply #64 on: November 08, 2012, 11:32:47 AM »

We are talking here about a case where the owner of all of the station equipment has no FCC license. What you want is for each control operator to become the "station licensee" during the time that he is controlling the station. I suppose that if each control operator had a detailed lease agreement, station drawings, log books, and details about how to provide physical access to the station then it might pass muster. My guess is that in most cases that level of coordination doesn't exist.

Back in the day a high school friend of mine had passed his exam and was waiting for his license to arrive. He had purchased his station equipment. I went over and helped him set up the equipment and put up an antenna. I tested and operated the station using my call sign, making a few contacts. The difference here is that I was present at the station and had full physical control over it.

I still think that being the station licensee of a station that you have never seen is a pretty grey area. Now if the owner of the equipment is licensed then he becomes the station licensee and authorizes you to be a control operator that clearly works pretty well.

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N2EY
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« Reply #65 on: November 08, 2012, 01:08:15 PM »

This is just a thought to consider: Making a profit from selling amateur radio equipment - no problem. Making a profit from renting amateur radio equipment - no problem. Making a profit from renting remote access (i.e. air time) to your amateur station for which you are licensed and ultimately responsible may be a different matter ??

It depends on the definition of "station".

Suppose I own a nice cabin in a good location.

I rent the cabin out for money. Legal? Yes!

I rent the cabin out to hams for money. Legal? Yes!

I put some antennas up at the cabin, bring the feedlines into the cabin, and set up an operating desk. I rent the cabin out to hams for money, and they bring their own rigs, keys, power supplies etc.
to use with my antennas. Legal? Yes!

I install a rig, power supply, etc. at the cabin, connected to the antennas. I rent the cabin out to hams for money, and they don't have to drag a rig with them when they visit. Legal? Yes!

I install remote control capability on the rig, so folks don't have to drive to the cabin. Why would it suddenly become illegal to charge money for access?

IANAL, but IMHO the key factor is who is the control operator and whether the charges are for access or for communications. IOW, if it's so much per unit time, that's OK, but if I want to charge so many dollars per QSO, new country, etc, it's not.

Here's another example:

A club is formed with the sole purpose of creating an elaborate station. No club call; operators use their own. Only dues-paying club members are allowed to operate it. Legal? Yes!

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA4PB
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« Reply #66 on: November 08, 2012, 02:23:16 PM »

I agree Jim, that renting use of the station is not an issue. Some of the senarios presented in some posts about the licensing of a "pile of equipment" may however. Consider the following senario:

1) I do not hold an amateur radio license.
2) I set up a station in the U.S. and provide remote access via the Internet.
3) I offer its use for free to any licensed amateur. You tell me your call sign and I give you a password.
4) You operate the station remotely over the Internet using your own call sign. Since I am not licensed I can't designate you as a control operator so I just expect you to become the station licensee during the time you are using it.
5) I won't give you the exact location (street address) of the station.
6) I won't give you a key or other access to the building that houses the station equipment.

Is this legal? I don't think so because you can't accept the responsibilities of the station licensee if you don't have physical access. You have no way of ensuring that the station is operating legally (power output, RFI exposure, etc.).

It would be like putting up a repeater with no trustee and no repeater call sign - everyone just use your own call sign to ID.
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K5TED
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« Reply #67 on: November 08, 2012, 05:23:06 PM »

I agree Jim, that renting use of the station is not an issue. Some of the senarios presented in some posts about the licensing of a "pile of equipment" may however. Consider the following senario:

1) I do not hold an amateur radio license.
2) I set up a station in the U.S. and provide remote access via the Internet.
3) I offer its use for free to any licensed amateur. You tell me your call sign and I give you a password.
4) You operate the station remotely over the Internet using your own call sign. Since I am not licensed I can't designate you as a control operator so I just expect you to become the station licensee during the time you are using it.
5) I won't give you the exact location (street address) of the station.
6) I won't give you a key or other access to the building that houses the station equipment.

Is this legal? I don't think so because you can't accept the responsibilities of the station licensee if you don't have physical access. You have no way of ensuring that the station is operating legally (power output, RFI exposure, etc.).

It would be like putting up a repeater with no trustee and no repeater call sign - everyone just use your own call sign to ID.


Why would anyone pay money to use a remote station that has such shady practices? Why would anyone enter into an agreement to operate a station that has no address?

Obviously, for this to work, there has to be a certain level of compliance with common sense practices. I'm pretty sure the intent of the remote radio provider is to actually become a successful endeavor, not some fly-by-night radio porn site shunned by the ham community in general and probably immediately confiscated by the FCC. With precise business procedures and adherence to the letter of the rules, this could be successful.

As to the pile of equipment, if the owner of such holds no amateur license, and nevers keys the transmitter on-air, then he can't possibly "transfer" control, since control would require a license. The control is assumed by the lessee the first time he keys the transmitter with his callsign on the rented equipment.

If a fellow ham lends you a radio, does he have to first transfer control of the station to you, on-air? What if the fellow ham rents the radio to you? Is he guilty of profiting from your traffic? What if you rent the radio and never key it up? What if you only use it to listen to shortwave stations? It's still a ham radio, and could possibly be used to transmit something somewhere... What then? If? If?

HRO, AES, Gigaparts and all the other ham radio stores don't "transfer control" of the equipment you buy, even if it's used. They sell it. You buy it. Some require a callsign. That doesn't ensure anything. You are responsible for what comes out of the antenna. Likewise, when you enter into the lease agreement with the remote radio site, you would assume responsibility for what comes out of the antenna. When your lease is up, then you are no longer responsible.

NOW... the owner of the equipment will need to be very careful in accepting users, since a violation could result in confiscatory action.

I'm sure these entrepreneurs have taken this into consideration, and the lease agreement will be more than an internet credit card transaction and boom, you're on the air.

As I see it, the rules are built on prescribed practice, not hypothetical opportunities to break rules. The pile of equipment analogy is simply for example. The reality is these remote radio sites are more than likely owned by licensed hams who will indeed be able to transfer and accept control, and they may well also periodically check in on things to see if everything is running well. I would, if it were my business.

That's just my interpretation. In my opinion, this could work and is legal.
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AA4PB
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« Reply #68 on: November 09, 2012, 06:05:14 AM »

I think when a dealer sells you a radio they do indeed transfer physical control of the radio to you. It now belongs to you and you can put it on the air as part of your station - your are the station licensee. If someone loans you his transceiver for two weeks and during that time you have physical control over it then you are the station licensee and can operate it under your call sign.

What I am questioning is the case where someone gives me remote control access to his station via the Internet. I don't have physical control of the station - all I can do is operate it remotely. Certainly I can be the control operator. The question is can I also be the station licensee, operating the station remotely using my own personal call sign, when I don't have physical access to the equipment (i.e. I can't put my hands on it)? I maintain that I can't meet my obligations as the station licensee if I don't have physical access to all of the station equipment.

I guess the practical question then boils down to whose call sign do I use to ID that remote station, my own personal call sign or that of the real station licensee (or both)? I maintain that because I am only the designated control operator I should ID with the call sign of the station licensee (followed by my own call if I wish).


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K5TED
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« Reply #69 on: November 09, 2012, 11:00:11 AM »


I guess the practical question then boils down to whose call sign do I use to ID that remote station, my own personal call sign or that of the real station licensee (or both)? I maintain that because I am only the designated control operator I should ID with the call sign of the station licensee (followed by my own call if I wish).


This is probably the most contentious point in the discussion. After all, the ideal scenario of using a remote base is that one would treat it as if he were sitting right there at the console.

So, if the station is owned by a licensed ham, then the typical internet remote base indentification procedure would likely be sufficient. Most if not all internet remote base stations require you periodically, i.e., "10 minute rule" identify using the control operator callsign, and something to the effect "operating through [licensee callsign] remote in [transmitter location]. This sort of identification would not be particularly cumbersome in a rag-chew scenario.

Contesting. Now, here's the $64,000 question...

PART 97--AMATEUR RADIO SERVICE--Station Operation Standards Sec. 97.119 Station identification.

All Stations:  (a) Each amateur station, ..., must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions. No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals, or transmit as the station call sign, any call sign not authorized to the station. .........

When calling CQ in a contest, would one have to do the whole "[CQ CQ control op callsign] operating through [station licensee] in [BFE]? That would be extremely cumbersome. Or not. It depends on the operator style. It certainly would reduce the number of actual CQ calls per minute.

This could be a limiting factor on the popularity of these remote base systems for contesters.


This brings me back around to the definition of "station". Is a "station" the aggregate of equipment poised and ready to transmit, or is a "station" only when it is operated by a duly licensed amateur operator.

§ 97.3 Definitions.
(a) The definitions of terms used in part 97 are:

(5) Amateur station. A station in an amateur radio service consisting of the apparatus necessary for carrying on radiocommunications.

? is an assortment of equipment, properly connected and certified ready for FCC compliant transmitting on amateur bands, indeed in amateur radio service, in the absence of actual transmission by an FCC licensed operator

(13) Control operator. An amateur operator designated by the licensee of a station to be responsible for the transmissions from that station to assure compliance with the FCC Rules.

? is an assortment of equipment, properly connected and certified ready for FCC compliant transmitting on amateur bands, indeed considered a "station" requiring a handoff by a licensee, or is it just equipment waiting for a licensed operator to assume control
 
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KE2TR
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« Reply #70 on: November 19, 2012, 08:26:42 AM »

I find this whole post about all you hacking bunch of hens complaining about the rental of a Big Station funny. Have any of you built a station at your own qth that can compete in the major DX contests and win, I think not cause if you did you would know the extream amount of work, time and what it takes out of your family's life to do so. I have done it on a small scale and believe me it can sometimes cost allot, not just in your pockets but your relationship with your significant other, you guys have no idea but because some guy who lives in the city, cannot put antennas up can rent a big station and whoop your ass is the big deal here. Oh sorry, you old school old farts don't like that the guy didn't build it from scratch and the reason he can do it is he wiped out his credit card, well there have been many big stations built that the owners just sit back and watch the hired crew put everything together and all that guy has to do is throw a switch and operate, I would bet that pisses you all off too. These are different times and were dam luck to still have the privilege to use our HF bands, heck the way I see this hobby we will be lucky of we have our bands for another 10-15 years cause at that time all you old farts will pass on and there just is not the new blood in this hobby to keep it going. The way some of you guys complain about every new idea is self deafeating anything that is new in this hobby so take a good hard look why your complaining or we will loose what we now enjoy, some of you guy's gotta get a life and let others live there own.
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K2GWK
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« Reply #71 on: November 21, 2012, 12:04:56 PM »

What I want to know is what N1CX will do next if the FCC says it's legal.
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WD4ELG
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« Reply #72 on: November 21, 2012, 07:20:13 PM »

K5TED, I like the description you gave.  This raises a good point on which I am confused, and I would appreciate your clarification (and others as well). 

If you will allow me to use you and me in an example to help me understand and learn....

Let us say you have a rocking, DX chasing ham shack.  TH11DX or one of those huge OptiBeam monsters on a 200 foot tower.  Then we get the word that OH2BH, Martti is headed back to Scarborough Reef for one last DXpedition before retiring.

No way am I going to work BS7H with my dipole and 100 watts with the pileup.  So I ask you (oh please oh please) may I come over to your shack to work "the reef?"  Say you do know me, we had some 807's at Dayton last year.  And I tell you I'll repay the favor...I'll pay for the replacement ring rotor for your 40 meter yagi at 100 feet on that tower since it burned out in September.  I NEED BS7H for Honor Roll.  You say sure, not needed to replace the ring rotor.  I insist, because without your generosity I am not getting BS7H.  (The scenario here is that I am exchanging something of value for the access to airtime from your QTH)

QUESTIONS: How do I sign when calling BS7H while sitting in your shack?  Can I just use my callsign?  Do I need to do the full "control operator" ID thing?  Is this legal, exchanging something of value for access to airtime from your shack?

Now let us extrapolate.  I am in NC, and it is not practical to travel to your QTH in San Antonio.  But you say "hey, I can do an internet setup and let you work him from wherever you are"  I say "Actually, I will be on the road and staying in a hotel in the evenings, to this is AWESOME."  You say "No problem."  I still insist on replacing your ring rotor, because I want BS7H REALLY BAD.   (The scenario again is that I am exchanging something of value for the access to airtime from your QTH, but I am accessing it remotely)

QUESTIONS: How do I sign when calling BS7H while sitting in your shack?  Can I just use my callsign?  Do I need to do the full "control operator" ID thing?  Is this legal, exchanging something of value for access to airtime from your shack and accessig it remotely?


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WD4ELG
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« Reply #73 on: November 21, 2012, 07:21:28 PM »

Sorry for the typo.

The second question should have been:

QUESTIONS: How do I sign when calling BS7H while sitting IN MY HOTEL ROOM?  Can I just use my callsign?  Do I need to do the full "control operator" ID thing?  Is this legal, exchanging something of value for access to airtime from your shack and accessig it remotely?

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AA4PB
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« Reply #74 on: November 21, 2012, 07:39:38 PM »

The FCC has stated that Internet remote is no different than using a very long mike cable, as far as they are concerned. The same rules apply.

What doesn't seem right to me in either senario is that you could operate the station using your call sign and take DXCC credit for working BS7H. What station location would you use on the QSL card? The remote station location or the location of your hotel room.

How about the situation where you use a 2M ht to repeater to Internet link to a DX 2M repeater and work a nearby station. Are you able to claim a 2M DX contact for DXCC credit?
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