The FCC Enforcement Bureau issued today an advisory to remind licensees and operators in the Amateur and Personal Radio Services that they may not use radio equipment to commit or facilitate crimes.
Updated – see below for new information.
Issued on Sunday.
Some insurrectionists were using two-way radios to coordinate their attack on the U.S. Capitol. These radios may have been commonly available two-way radios – GMRS, business band VHF itinerant, and Amateur Radio – possibly or probably not licensed. There are tons of cheap two-way radios for sale on Amazon and EBay for example – many of which required licensed users – buy buyers may ignore that.
CNN picked up the story. but produced fiction suggesting insurrectionist, kicked off social media will some how use Amateur Radio as a replacement. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Newsweek has a better and accurate report.
The ARRL, the national association for amateur radio, issued an unusual email blast on Sunday reminding Amateur Radio operators of the services long and proud history in public service, emergency communications, education/self training, and international goodwill. And added a closing paragraph that the ARRL does not support misuse of the Amateur Radio service “for purposes inconsistent with these values and purposes”.
More details follow…
UPDATE January 17, 2021
There is a group called Oath Keepers that fashions itself as a paramilitary group preparing for a coming civil war in the United States. Photos showed the group in operation at the insurrection and their web sites announced their presence. On Jan 17, several people affiliated with this group were arrested.
The main web site for the group has been forced off line. However, they have subgroups in some states and this page, for example, lists information on “recommended” radios including broadband DMR and analog FM two-way radios like cheap Baofeng radios for sale on Amazon, EBay, etc.
This note – originally on the now disconnected Oath Keepers web site – advocated that members buy up any radios they can – including CB, GMRS, FRS, amateur radio – and others. Buy them for themselves, friends – even neighbors. They appear to have had little intention of being licensed.
Members of these groups have shown up in state Capitols – and photos show they have two-way radios.
For those not familiar with radio technology, most of these cheap radios are made in China and are intended, originally, for business usage. However, they are wide band capable radios and they may be programmed for various VHF and UHF frequencies, including business, government, and GMRS and Amateur Radio allocations. Some of the radios use the global Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) standard while some use older analog FM. Regardless, they can be set up on any number of radio frequencies. The DMR radios can be programmed to include encryption – encryption is prohibited in the Personal Radio Services, however.
The FCC’s Advisory
The FCC noted on early Sunday that they have seen many social media posts encouraging individuals to use GMRS, Amateur and other radio gear for illegal purposes.
In recent weeks, several social media groups about Amateur Radio have received a large number of posts asking about being licensed. From their questions, these individuals generally had no knowledge or even incorrect knowledge about ham radio. Some of us are now suspicious these were insurrectionists – and now feel badly about having offered helpful information to them. Obviously we have no way of knowing – except for the unusual number of pop ups asking about how to get licensed.
Youtube now has many “prepper” channels – these are people who think they are preparing for Armageddon – and some preparing for civil war or World War III or IV. Many of them advocate that individuals use Amateur Radio gear and/or get licensed. A potential effect of this is that the long time Amateur community – devoted to self training, experimentation, education of others, public service and international good well – may become overrun with those inclined to commit insurrection and other acts of violence, largely destroying Amateur Radio. This, in turn, could be followed by draconian new regulations or re-allocation of radio spectrum from Amateur use to commercial use.
I have been licensed since age 14. I would not have had the career I had but for my early exposure to electronics, communications, space sciences, mathematics and computer science that came directly from Amateur Radio.
I have communicated to all nearly all corners of the earth (including Antarctica), used satellites (including the International Space Station), have provided emergency communications at many situations include earthquakes, forest fires and search and rescue, and provided public service communications in direct support of police, fire and community groups. I have used voice communications, CW (aka Morse code), digital voice communications, digital position reporting, and digital email-like communications. I have learned to build a variety of electronic projects.
This development – of using unlicensed or licensed radios on Amateur Radio frequencies is potentially devastating to the future of Amateur Radio. At a minimum, this could result in Homeland Security requiring background checks to purchase two-way radios. At worst, if efforts by wackos to infiltrate and take over the Amateur Radio Service gather steam, the government could shut down the 100 year old public service of Amateur Radio.
I am concerned that being a ham radio operator will result in suspicion by others.
How often have you seen in past media reports allegations that, “he was an electronics hobbyist”, “he had unusual antennas on his house”, “he was an engineer”, “he had a flight simulator in his basement”, “he flew radio controlled model aircraft”, “he once held a pilot’s license”, “he has a ham radio license”, “he spends time working in his shop” (all of the above for me).
Unless you are a boring clone of your boring neighbors, you are now going to be suspicious person. Remember, says DHS, if you see something, say something!
Meanwhile I am looking forward to these insurrectionist criminals being sentenced to 10 to 20 years in Federal prison. These are not patriots – they are insurrectionists who attempted to overthrow a democracy. They are fools, morons and idiots and should be treated as such.