Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Another Notcom opt-out

A few weeks ago the European Union's Frequency Management Working Group agreed a harmonized specification for Citizens' Band Radio across Europe to include AM, FM and SSB modes. It will now go to public consultation before being passed to national governments to become law. However Ofcom, the radio regulatory authority in the UK, is expected to live up to its nickname of Notcom by saying "no" to allowing AM and SSB, claiming there is a potential for harmful interference to other services. How absurd!

Now some readers may be wondering why a ham radio blog is concerning itself with whether CB users should be allowed to use the AM and SSB modes. After all, if they want to use those modes they could just get a ham radio license, surely? The test is so easy even a child could pass it, and many do. So what's to complain about?

But that isn't the point. The point is this is one more example of how we in Britain always seem to get the mucky end of the stick when it comes to European legislation. We're told we can't opt out of European human rights law that seems to attach more importance to the rights of criminals, rapists, murderers and paedophiles than their victims. But when it comes to something as unimportant as giving a few hobbyists the right to use the same modes as their counterparts across the North Sea, opt out we can. Are we in Europe or aren't we?

If allowing CBers the use of AM and SSB isn't a problem for the rest of Europe then it isn't going to be a problem in the UK. If there was "a potential for harmful interference to other services" then that would surely have been proven by now, since there are plenty of people illegally using SSB on 27MHz already. How many people have been caught and prosecuted for using SSB on 27MHz? Hint: it's a very round number. And if there is a risk of harmful interference to other services from allowing people to use 12W of SSB on 27MHz, why is there no risk from allowing hams to use 400W a few hundred kHz higher?

There is no sound basis for preventing British CBers from enjoying the same frequencies and modes as their counterparts in the rest of Europe, just as there is no sound basis for restricting the use by British radio amateurs of digipeaters and internet connected nodes. It is about time we had a more open regulatory system in this country so that radio users cannot be denied something for false or risible reasons.
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