MORE 2020 MACHINATIONS
By Paul Toth-NB9X
It seems I am not the only Amateur Radio operator who OPPOSES the proposed fees recently put forth by the FCC. A scan of the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System webpage shows most of the comments placed on the site since the Comment Period opened last week feel the same way. Many of the comments called the proposed License Application Fee excessive and uncalled for. And they are correct! If you are a licensed Amateur Radio operator reading this and have not commented to the FCC on this proposal, I urge you to do so NOW. Open your web browser and go to http://www.fcc.gov/ecfs . The Docket Number is 20-270. And, as I previously suggested, send a copy of your comments to your elected U. S. House member and your two U. S. Senators. They are the ones who passed the bill two years ago mandating these proposed FCC actions. And they are the only ones who can fix what they have broken.
In the meantime, the FCC announced the results of the first in a series of Spectrum Auctions to open the “C Band” spectrum to 5G Cellular providers and BIG TECH. Among those who will be remitting over Four Billion Dollars for this spectrum are Verizon, the wireless affiliate of DISH Network and Spectrum Wireless. Of course, these folks don’t mind forking over the money because they will make it back many times over once they are on the air.
Also on the FCC’s September Monthly Meeting agenda is a new NPRM to sell off 100 MHz of spectrum between 3.45 GHz and 3.55 GHz. If approved, this NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) will permanently strip the Amateur Radio Service of its 9 cm band between 3.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz with no provision for assigning replacement spectrum, even on a Secondary basis. (..more..)
-September 15, 2020
COMING FOR YOUR MONEY
By Paul Toth-NB9X
You are probably all too familiar with the phrase “I am here from the government and I am here to help”. Enter FCC Docket number MD 20-270 adopted this week by the Commission. Yup, the Federal government is here to help themselves and BIG TECH at OUR expense.
MD 20-270 is a proposal to charge every Amateur Radio operator a fifty dollar fee for every Amateur Radio license application filed with the FCC. Yes, you read that correctly, $50.00, for a new license, to upgrade your license, to renew your license! The justification for this action is the” Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018”, sometimes referred to as the “Ray Baum’s Act”.
This ridiculous, absurd proposal (and I will tell you what I really think about it in a moment) gives the word “chutzpah” a whole new meaning. Over the last four decades, the FCC has abdicated its responsibilities to and for the Amateur Radio Service and every operator who holds a license. This started back in the 1980s when the Commission ceded responsibility for administering Amateur Radio License Exams. (..more..)
-August 29, 2020
NEW WEBSITE NAVIGATION TAB
A new website navigation tab has been added called Information. This tab will contain information about West Central Florida Group and amateur radio in general.
HAM RADIO IRONY
By Paul Toth-NB9X
Ham Radio is usually pretty straight forward. However, two recent events got me to thinking about the IRONY associated with our future.
Event #1 is our current fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.com for the Riverview Site Refresh. BTW, to participate and contribute to our effort to update the two NI4CE Riverview Repeaters, antennas, and associated support technology, just go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/Riverview-Site-Refresh. And a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed so far.
Isn’t IRONIC we must rely on media other than our own to generate the resources needed to IMPROVE our media? That’s because Part 97.113 of the FCC rules that govern Amateur Radio prohibits anyone associated with the management of the repeaters from going on the air and talking about the campaign. Now, if NI4CE was a CLOSED system, I could see some logic to such a prohibition. But NI4CE is open to all licensed Amateur Radio operators, no strings attached. I guess whoever came up with this rule must think the money needed to operate and maintain Amateur Radio technology, be it OPEN TO ALL voice repeaters, RF digital links, or any other Ham Radio resource, must grow on trees. Of course, come to think about it, the rules are written by the same government that doesn’t seem to worry about whether they have money in the bank before they spend it. If the Treasury is short, they just print whatever they need. We, on the other hand, can’t do that. (..more..)
-August 18, 2020
APRS Weather Stations and APRS Digipeaters are
operational at Holiday and Riverview are operational
The NI4CE-11 APRS Weather Station and APRS Digipeater at Riverview as well as NI4CE-14 APRS Weather Station and APRS Digipeater at Riverview is now fully operational. Thanks to Ed Allen and Paul Toth for there work on completing the installations. We can now track Wind Speed and Direction as well as Rainfall at the Riverview site. If you operate on APRS, look for NI4CE-11 and NI4CE-14. Links to these Weather Stations are on the NI4CE Repeater Map & Frequencies page on this website. You can also use the Internet to access data in real time. Go to http://wx.findu.com/ni4ce-11 and http://wx.findu.com/ni4ce-14.
NI4CE-14 APRS WEATHER STATION
GO FUND ME CAMPAIGN UPDATE
By Paul Toth-NB9X
We have reached the twenty-five percent mark with the Go Fund Me campaign for the updates needed to the NI4CE-Riverview Repeater Site. A heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed so far!
If you have not participated so far, let me offer some perspective on why our goal for this campaign is $4,000.00. The equipment that makes up an operating repeater system falls into five categories:
• Transmit & Receive Radio
• Power Supply
The West Central Florida Group has standardized on ICOM’s FR6000 commercial repeater series. These radios are designed and engineered with both a transmitter and a receiver in a single chassis. We also outfit this repeater with a network controller to enable IP connectivity for monitoring the operation of the radio and enable digital voice operations (with the NXDN repeater).
The Samlex modular power supply is N+1 commercial power supply that drives both Riverview repeaters and provides an automatic battery backup to keep the repeaters on the air when Mains power fails.
Filtering, in the form of a duplexer, is a series of tuned filters to improve receiver sensitivity and keep the transmitted signal from getting into the receiver. Unlike most portable and mobile radios, which either transmit OR receive (half-duplex), a repeater is a FULL DUPLEX device. It transmits and receives simultaneously.
Both repeaters use an internal power amplifier. But many repeaters will also use an external power amplifier to further boost the output of the transmitted signal. This helps overcome filtering and transmission line losses.
Finally, let’s talk about the antenna. Most Hams operate their home station with one or more relatively inexpensive fiberglass antennas that may be installed on a push-up pole or short tower. But when you are eight hundred above ground level, the antenna must survive a much harsher environment, including wind speeds that routinely exceed fifty miles per hour. Commercial-grade antennas can cost five to ten times more than a typical Ham Radio antenna.
The Riverview repeaters are integral to the NI4CE system. They serve Hams in Hillsborough and Pinellas, West Central Florida’s two most populous counties and havens of Deed Restricted properties that make Ham Radio operations even more challenging.
Your tax-deductible contribution will help us give the Riverview site the REFRESH it needs for peak performance. Just open your web browser and go to
-July 27, 2020
THE RIVERVIEW SITE REFRESH
By Paul Toth-NB9X
Managing a resource as large and expansive as the NI4CE Repeaters comes with a set of challenges. One of those challenges is acknowledging that every repeater, every antenna, every power supply and all the other components you will find at each site is a resource with a finite life expectancy. Another reality is some of these components require replacement sooner than others.
We have now arrived at that point in life for the Riverview repeaters. We added the Riverview site to the NI4CE system thirteen years ago in 2007. We have been extremely fortunate all the components that make up each repeater have been more than reliable, particularly when you consider the operating conditions on a platform eight hundred feet above ground. The antennas have been exposed to the constant bombardment from the sun and wind (far greater than what you might think and sometimes EXTREME – as has been the case during the several hurricanes that have impacted us since 2007). And then there is the Salt Corrosion on the exposed metal of the antennas!
So, today, the West Central Florida Group, Inc. has launched a Go Fund Me page to help us address the need to replace the several components that are at Riverview. To help us complete this project, open your Web Browser and go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/riverview-site-refresh
Your donation will help ensure the completion of this important project to maintain the readiness and reliability of the Riverview site. As, as always, your donation is fully TAX DEDUCTIBLE!
We have already received a couple of generous donations. Thank you! But we need to raise an additional four thousand dollars to put us over the top and ensure timely completion of this Site Rehabilitation effort. Your contribution will be most appreciated!
-July 16, 2020
By Paul Toth-NB9X
I was asked recently by a Society of Broadcast Engineers Chapter to put together a presentation on one of my favorite topics, Amateur Radio. The membership wanted to know, among other things:
• WHO can be a licensed Amateur Radio Operator
• WHAT do you need to know to get your FCC license
• WHEN and WHERE can I take the license exam
• WHY would I want to become a licensed Ham
• HOW many different things can I do once I have my license
Hmmm….there is that WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW from Journalism 101 again!
Well, in case you are interested in becoming a licensed Ham or know someone else who is, here are the basics. The WHO is any U.S. Citizen no matter what their age can become a licensed Ham operator. WHAT do you need to know? The Technician class exam requires a basic knowledge of electronics, an understanding of the Part 97 rules (i.e. what frequencies and modes you can use, how often you must identify your station, RF Safety guidelines, etc.) and common-sense operating practices. (..more..)
-July 11, 2020
By Paul Toth-NB9X
If you are a Star Trek fan (and, yes, I have been for a long time), the chant of the Borg is probably etched into your consciousness. “We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”
The Borg were more than a bit heavy-handed with their assimilation process. While each species they brought into the fold added something to the collective consciousness, the end goal was the same: the creation of a singular, homogeneous society.
Amateur Radio, too, has an assimilation process. It is a completely voluntary one that begins the day a prospective operator begins studying to pass the Technician License Exam. Once the candidate has achieved that goal and has their FCC license in hand, the process continues as the new operator begins the exploration and discovery phase of their assimilation. What do I want to do, to achieve with my new license privileges? How do I get there? Who can help me along the way? Where do I go to get what I need to get on the air? The WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW of Ham Radio (sounds like Journalism 101). But getting answers to those basic questions will enable any operator to lay a strong foundation for full assimilation into the Ham Radio Society. (..more..)
-July 9, 2020
By Paul Toth-NB9X
One of the things the CoVID-19 pandemic has caused many of us to consider is our own mortality. While humans are a species that is self-aware of our own demise, many of us rarely think about it, even when we pass certain age milestones that increase the odds we will pass into the great beyond. CoVID has made many of us, particularly those of us over the age of sixty think about our mortality a lot more.
But it may be more than our own self-existence that may be at stake in the age of the enemy we cannot see, at least not without a microscope. Amateur Radio may also be facing its demise, thanks to this little critter. You see, Amateur Radio, for all the good things it brings to life and our society, has one potentially fatal flaw: It is, by design, self-sustaining. Here is what I mean by that.
Yes, it is true. Any United States citizen, of any age, any ethnicity, and any socio-economic background, can become a licensed Amateur Radio operator. With very few exceptions or limitations, you can become a Ham. The process is quite simple. (..more..)
-May 25, 2020
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More pertinent articles about Amateur Radio and Repeaters are located under the Articles navigation tab.
One or more websites may be intermittently streaming the NI4CE repeater system audio. None of these sites are affiliated with the West Central Florida Group, Inc. or our ni4ce.org website. The West Central Florida Group, Inc. has not authorized these streaming websites and has no control over the content, quality or availability of the audio product being streamed.
NI4CE Operating Code
The NI4CE Repeater System provides all licensed West Central Florida Amateur Radio operators with a “regional” communications resource to advance Amateur Radio commitment to public service and encourage fellowship among all operators.
The NI4CE System serves all or parts of fourteen counties. It is a shared communications resource for the over twenty thousand Amateur Radio licensees who live here and the hundreds of visitors who join us annually. When using the NI4CE System, the West Central Florida Group, Inc. asks you to:
• Keep your transmissions as brief and to the point as possible. Please keep the Total Run Time for each QSO to ten minutes or less. Remember, there are many other operators waiting to use the repeaters.
• Please leave pauses between transmissions, particularly when there is weather in the region that may be severe.
• Please observe FCC Part 97 Rules at all times, particularly the provisions of 97.113.
• Transmit power in Florida is limited to 50 watts in Florida.
• Please turn off special features including WIRES and other “sounders” that may delay your communications. Kerchunking is frowned on.
• Observe the “Golden Rule”. Common sense, courtesy and respect is contagious!
If you have an NXDN Digital Radio, Talkgroup 65000 can be used to connect to the NXDN Worldwide Network.
Here is the information the National Weather Service is most interested in knowing during any SKYWarn ACTIVATION ON on the NI4CE Repeater System:
• Winds of 35 MPH or higher
• Rainfall of two inches or more in an hour
• Hail of any size
• Weather caused damage
• Street closures
During Tropical Weather Events, Barometric Pressure data is also helpful.
Keep reports SHORT AND CONCISE. During bad weather, repeater time is valuable. Think about what you are going to say before you say it. Avoid unnecessary comments and verbiage.
It is requested that you NOT report non-severe weather, such as “It’s cloudy with light rain” or “the rain is letting up here”. The National Weather Service has radar and knows where it’s not raining. Reports such as this tie up valuable repeater time.
When reporting severe weather activity, please provide your Amateur Radio Callsign, your National Weather Service SKYWARN ID (if you have one), the location of your report and an approximate time of the severe weather event (if other than NOW).
Please turn off any “Roger Beeps”, “WIRES” signaling or the use of DTMF tones as they will interfere with your report.
OUR CORPORATION ID NUMBER IS 65-1061382. OUR CHARITABLE REGISTRATION NUMBER IS CH 16854.
A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE 800-435-7352 WITHIN THE STATE OF FLORIDA. REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE OF FLORIDA.
REGISTRATION INFORMATION CAN BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES AT www.FloridaConsumerHelp.com