Rappaport Suggests National Security Risks with Amateur Radio Violations
Wednesday, November 21, 2018 | Comments

A wireless expert says the FCC is putting national security at risk by not enforcing amateur radio rules.

The FCC’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) 16-239 attempts to remove a limit on the baud rate of high-frequency (HF) shortwave transmissions. In an ex parte filing, Theodore Rappaport, Ph.D, told the FCC’s chief technology officer (CTO) Eric Burger the FCC should first address ongoing rule violations to proper usage of the amateur radio service — specifically, the use of obscured, private messaging, which is forbidden in Part 97 rules and creates national security concerns, as well as other violations.

“If allowed, NPRM 16-239 would perpetuate the current violations and would authorize obscured transmissions of unlimited bandwidth over the global airwaves, further increasing the danger to our national security, since these transmissions cannot be intercepted or eavesdropped by other amateur radio operators or the FCC,” Rappaport’s filing said.

Rappaport is the founding director of NYU WIRELESS, a professor at New York University (NYU) in three different schools and a leading expert in 5G technology.

The filing said public records clearly show how the evolution of undocumented, proprietary transmission technologies such as PACTOR and Winlink, ARDOP, Winmor, STANAG and other HF transmission schemes that use controlling software have created a national security problem in the amateur radio service. Third parties, including other ham radio operators or the FCC listening stations, cannot intercept and decode over-the-air transmissions when used in the popular automated repeat request (ARQ) mode.

“In my personal conversations with FBI and FCC officials, they admit they also are unable to readily decode these types of transmissions,” Rappaport said. “In my discussions with vendors of amateur radio equipment, they tell me that they are concerned about purchases of amateur radio equipment by criminal cartels, and that they believe it is happening daily.”

Rappaport urged the FCC to recognize the danger of NPRM 16-239 and address Part 97 rules to remove this type of obscured communication and other ongoing violations, before it enacts NPRM 16-239.

Rappaport copied Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Rep. Morgan Griffith on the FCC filing.

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