Because there has been a lot of discussion about
our repeaters lately, I thought I would dedicate a little pro bono time (that
means free) to repeaters. So grab a cup of coffee and read on:
Maybe you are one of the few that actually thinks they might want to own and operate a repeater. First, I would suggest you seek professional help from your local mental health clinic and then, if you still want a repeater, make sure your bank account is not anemic, because it soon will be!
Legally speaking, what is required you ask? Subsection 97.205 of Part 97 of the Federal Communications Rules states "Any amateur station licensed to a holder of a Technician, General, Advance or Amateur Extra Class operator license may be a repeater." That means if you have a Tech ticket or higher, go see Joe WG4JOE, and tell him to order you the biggest and baddest Motorola repeater ever built and hoist an antenna! Hang on. Not so fast, because it ain't quite that simple.
Repeaters, while not specifically required by FCC rules, are subject to a voluntary coordination plan. In Georgia, that means coordinating your repeater through SERA (Southeastern Repeater Association). Hey, if it's not required by the FCC, why bother? Because Subsection 97.205(c) states that when two repeaters cause harmful interference with each other, both stations are equally and fully responsible for solving the interference problem, UNLESS the operation of one station is recommended by a frequency coordinator (SERA) and the operation of the other station is not recommended by a frequency coordinator. In that case, the non-coordinated station has primary responsibility to resolve the interference. So, if you choose to not coordinate your repeater, that is perfectly legal, but if another repeater station complains about interference from your repeater station, your have the burden of solving the problem, which probably means reducing power, using a directional antenna or shutting down entirely. If you are uncoordinated, you can't even request that the other station employ a CTCSS tone board, even if you agree to buy the board and pay for installation. Bottom line: Do it right the first time and only cry once. If you have any questions about coordination of a repeater, contact Terry Jones, W4TL at email@example.com or Pete Seabolt, N4KHQ at firstname.lastname@example.org . Both of these guys are with SERA. They are easy to talk to and will do whatever it takes to get you on the air, maybe not with the frequency pair you want, but on the air nevertheless. So now let's assume that you are up an going with that one million megawatt Motorola repeater you got from Joe. What happens if some yo-yo decides to play George Carlin's "The Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" on your repeater at 3:00 am one morning? Will the FCC S.W.A.T. Team descend upon your home, interrogate your family, lock you up and shoot your dog? Probably not, but I assure you the FCC will not be amused. What do the rules say? Subsection 97.205(g) states that a control operator (translation: the broke guy that owns the repeater) is not accountable for inadvertently transmitted transmissions that violate Part 97 of the Rules. In other words, you do not have to stay awake 24/7 listening to the repeater for violations, but if you hear a violation while in progress, it is your responsibility to shut down the repeater or otherwise stop the violation (no jamming please!). If you hear of a violation while you were not listening, you have a responsibility to use due diligence to stop further unlawful transmissions. Again, you do not have to stay awake 24/7, but you do have to make some effort, even if it means temporarily taking the repeater off the air. Of course, you should notify the FCC of any violations you are aware of being carried out on your repeater, other than very minor violations such as someone identifying themselves every 12 minutes instead of every 10 minutes (See 97.119(a)). Common sense, believe it or not, does play a role in the law.
That's it from the wide world of radio law, so carry on and stay legal.
de Bill K4WDN