What if the repeater system in question was coordinated by some “alternate” group that seemingly sprung up out of nowhere?

  1. Yes that happens, and Texas is not the only place where it happens. We had that occur several years ago here in Oklahoma.

    ORSI while still technically in existence was in a state of disarray due to some repeater politics going on. Another group called ORCG sprung up, and started coordinating repeaters at least for the trustees that recognized them. After some time ORSI got our act together, got some folks to calm down a bit, and got back in the business of frequency coordination. The people behind ORCG then decided to shut down, and ORSI is today the recognized coordinator for Oklahoma.

    Now part of the problem is with the FCC’s loose definition of a coordinator and the use of the word “voluntary” in all of this. The FCC views Amateur Radio and Radio Amateurs overall as a self-regulating self–policing entity and they like it that way, and they only want to get involved as a last resort. This approach has been very successful overall for around 100 years, so it’s not time to go messing with it now!

    However, they (FCC) have been quietly at times and at other times not so quietly doing some things to corral the repeater coordination monster just a little. Not quite open range anymore, but it still gets to roam on a 500,000 acre ranch if you understand what I am saying. Some of the things they go by to determine who is really operating a coordinated repeater and who is really a coordinator.

    1. Whether they should or not, they give some credence to the “ARRL Repeater Directory.” This doesn’t have any kind of legal precedence, but the FCC is probably starting down that path through adjudication of case law. In other words the courts haven’t told us not to, so we continue to do this and if we do it enough, then the courts will probably not stop us.
    2. They look and see who the surrounding areas are recognizing as the coordinator for a given area. Usually it’s on the state level, but some states have legitimate recognized multiple coordination bodies, because of having major metropolitan areas, or coordinators that specialize in certain bands or certain operating modes.

      Here in Oklahoma ORSI right now sticks strictly to coordinating FM voice repeaters, and giving some recognition to digital voice repeaters. We leave packet and APRS alone, and we don’t get into doing anything with IRLP and Echolink systems operating on the recognized simplex frequencies.

    3. The FCC gives a lot of weight to band plans, especially the ARRL band plans, but also recognize band plans that deviate a bit from ARRL’s where large groups of amateurs in a given area recognize that band plan. Violating a band plan and causing harmful interference to those observing a band plan is not considered “good operating and engineering practice” and therefore a violation of Part97.
    4. Regional and attempts at some sort of National Coordination organization are another factor. ORSI affiliated with the Mid-America Coordination Council also known as MACC. Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri were also MACC states. Texas was not.

      MACC grew into a very large body of frequency coordination groups, and attempted to morph into a national organization called the NFCC, National Frequency Coordination Council. I perceive that MACC mainly worked to help its members set relatively uniform technical standards, and make it easier for coordinators to communicate with each other when cross border issues arose.

      The NFCC went further, their goal we to even say who was a coordinator and who wasn’t. They also wanted backing from the FCC. The FCC at first was a backer of the organization, but they mainly desired a “single point of contact” for frequency coordination issues in amateur radio. They have this with other services such as broadcasting and public safety.

      Not all state and regional coordination groups joined the NFCC, a previous ORSI administration was very adamant about not joining the NFCC unless we were forced to in order to be recognized as a coordination body. Present administration took a wait and see attitude.

      I haven’t found any MACC activity since 2005, and the first effort at forming the NFCC failed. The FCC refused to enter into a memorandum of understanding with them based on some legal technicality. One thing was that the FCC also wanted to see the ARRL bless the NFCC, which kind of sort of happened. The last thing I heard about the NFCC the original board disbanded, but a new group took over. Which I believe came out of the mostly successful MACC organization, but I still don’t think it has really gone anywhere.

    5. Where is the ARRL in all of this? Therein lies the truth, the FCC would like a single point of contact for amateur radio frequency coordination, that is true. However, they do not want some organization that might be in some ways implying they are a junior FCC, or Near FCC, or Like the FCC. It is plain from what I see is that the FCC would like for the ARRL to take the ham repeater coordination beast on.

      However, the ARRL does not really want this hot potato dumped in their laps. First of all they say that taking on a part of the amateur radio exam system, cost them money. Then they saw a potential for legal liability in this area.

      Quite frankly repeater club politics get nasty. We’ve had a taste of it here in Oklahoma, and there are even bigger problems in Texas and California.

      The ARRL is asking for some sort of protection from legal liability that Federal agencies have, when in their (ARRL) view that they are performing a governmental function.

      Now I’ve already stated that repeater frequency coordination are privatized in at least the broadcasting industry and public safety. I assume that to be the case for land mobile as well.

      So while I understand the League’s concern on this, I also understand why the FCC and Congress are reluctant to grant this exemption. Although I know at least in some states, many lawsuits have been threatened, and some have actually been filed. Their have been death threats, obscene phone calls, and I have even witnessed one coordinator’s birth legitimacy be publicly questioned in Oklahoma.

      Now I do see the ARRL being pulled into this by the FCC through the back door. With the FCC at least giving the “ARRL Repeater Directory” some recognition as an authoritative document and giving some legal status to band plans. Also the FCC gives some special status to ARRL since the League with the largest membership of any amateur radio organization is said to represent a significant percentage of the amateur community.

      A couple of years ago I did hear something about the ARRL was proposing to create a web-based central repeater database that local frequency coordinators could use as a one stop shop in order to get clearance from surrounding areas. It’s a wonderful idea, and would be a time saver, but it hasn’t happened yet and I’ve heard nothing more about it.

      I do know that the ARRL has toughened their policy on who they will accept listings for the “Repeater Directory” from in the last two or three years.

      So will their ever be a “super-coordinator” like the NFCC or ARRL? Will the definition of a coordinator be tightened up by the FCC? The former I really don’t know, the later I do believe is happening slowly but surely. Not so much with definitive rule makings by the FCC, just their stricter way of interpreting the rules as they stand.