Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Good Idea

Rules Change Sought to Permit Encryption of Emergency Communications:
The FCC is inviting public comments on a proposal from a Massachusetts ham to amend the Part 97 Amateur Service rules to permit the encryption of certain amateur communications during emergency operations or related training exercises. On June 7 the FCC accepted for filing a Petition for Rulemaking http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7022424684 (RM-11699) from Don Rolph, AB1PH, and put it on public notice. It will remain open for comment until July 8. Rolph petitioned the Commission in March to suggest an additional exception to §97.113, which currently prohibits "messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning."
At this time, ham radio operators are only allowed the use of encryption in satellite uplinks or to control remote devices. As noted above, "encoding" ham transmissions to "obscur{e} their meaning" are prohibited. This has caused problem during emergency and disaster response when hams could not transmit, for example, patient medical data, due to HIPAA requirements.   I would imagine that, following something like the Boston Marathon bombing, there may have been a point when law enforcement might be in a position where hams would be the quickest way to get critical intel out, but the fact that anyone with half a C-note can go to Radio Shack and get a scanner that would let them play Junior NSA would cause them to reconsider.

Lots of nay-saying in the comments to this post on eHam. "Slippery Slope"!  And, from a Commonwealth ham, "International Aggreements!"

Look, the ham radio community in the USA has been largely self-policing for years. It should not be a complicated matter to write a small change to the rules that would allow this.  And maybe we'll never need it, but would you rather Gramma die because the only people available to transmit critical information in the aftermath of an emergency or disaster were hams, and no one asked them?

1 comment:

Fake Dan Lyons said...

I disagree. Please see http://hams.com/encryption/ for my argument.

- Bruce Perens K6BP