[W5SFA] Ending encrypted data nonsense on our ham bands

Jim Scarbrough jrscarbrough at sbcglobal.net
Tue Nov 5 09:05:47 CST 2019

Fellow SFA’ers,


I have never before been moved to take a stand on a ham radio issue but I’ve also never before seen the ARRL cave to the interests of a commercial entity (namely WINLINK Global Radio Email) over the interests of our hobby.  As members, they gladly accept our money to represent us but they are, IMO, clearly failing us now.


Two very basic things we learned as new hams are jeopardized by this questionable behavior:

*         The most basic philosophy that ham radio is different than all other radio services in that we are self-policing.  We are therefore granted a very special relationship with the FCC, one that is clearly placed in jeopardy by this reckless behavior.

*         No “codes or ciphers” or “encryption” may ever be used, as among other things it would obviously eliminate our ability to self-police the service.


The issue is that WINLINK, in competition with other commercial entities, offers a “private email service” primarily catering to yacht owners using encrypted data OVER THE HAM BANDS.  Their competition does not use the ham bands.  Their competition pays for their air time.  WINLINK claims a breakthrough in efficiency by using compression to appease those that might object, but they SELL “privacy” to their users.


How do they get away with what would appear to be such a clear violation of long existing Part 97 Rules?  They make an outrageously narrow interpretation of the rules that they believe state that encryption without the intent to encrypt is not encryption.  All with the ARRL’s blessing.  As parents, we wouldn’t allow such backtalk from our children, but this is exactly what has been going on for years.  They further argue that it’s not even encryption, rather it is “compression with a proprietary algorithm and key”.  I for one do not recognize the distinction.  The issue is that these compressed transmissions cannot be decoded in real time over the air like ALL OTHER transmissions on ham radio.  The result has been numerous egregious documented rule violations.  


What is not the issue:

*         Analog vs. digital.  There are multitude of efficient digital modes that can be monitored in real time over the air with virtually zero incremental hardware investment and minimal investment in time and effort.  No rule violations there. This is all about ending commercial exploitation of OUR ham bands which is setting a precedent for others to follow.


Anyway, Ted N9NB, has done the heavy lifting for us to end this nonsense.  He has filed a PETITION FOR DECLARATORY RULING, requesting that the FCC definitively end this razor thin loophole in the Rules.  The more comments filed in favor of this petition, the more likely the FCC is to prioritize and favorably rule on it.  I’ve attached Ted’s recent email on this topic which contains a link to the petition itself.


Should you be willing and inclined to file a public comment, here’s the link to do so:   <https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings> https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings

I recommend selecting EXPRESS COMMENT and I’ve highlighted the required fields.  It shouldn’t take more than two minutes out of your day.  

The only information you will need to do this that isn’t obvious is to type “16-239” in the Proceeding box.



Thank you for your time and consideration,




+ + +



From: Alan Brown [mailto:k5ab at centex.net] 
Sent: Monday, November 04, 2019 7:33 PM
To: Ted N9NB <tsrwvcomm at aol.com <mailto:tsrwvcomm at aol.com> >; Dan White <hdwhite at charter.net <mailto:hdwhite at charter.net> >

Subject: Re: Hi Alan


Howdy Ted,

I am aware of the effort of NYU to request a Declaratory Ruling with the FCC.  I think this is GREAT!!!  The management of Winlink Global Radio Email has for years been deceptive to the public about the type of commercial business they provide within OUR amateur radio bands.  The truly sad reality to me is:  First, the ARRL is almost fully in favor of this commercial use of OUR amateur radio bands.  And second, the general apathy of the average licensed radio amateur on this subject.  In my humble opinion, for well over ten years now, Winlink Global Radio Email has been in competition with several other commercial email providers which use non-Ham Band frequencies, BUT WINLINK GLOBAL RADIO EMAIL uses Ham Band frequencies instead of commercial frequencies!!!!  UFB!!!!  

So, yes, I plan to comment in support of the FCC to have a fresh look at the existing FCC rules, and how they are being ignored by one huge user known as Winlink Global Radio Email.  

I hope some of my radio friends will see a need to comment as well.  

When I have attended Ham Radio Clubs, and asked the members if all transmissions within the Ham Bands should be transparent (versus obscured in any way).  I have always seen that 100% of those given this question respond the same.  They KNOW that Ham Radio is ALWAYS supposed to be transparent!!!  The other side of this coin is that they are almost always NOT aware of the commercial traffic that Winlink Global Radio Email has promoted for more than ten years!  And why do they not know this?  For two reasons: First, Winlink Global Radio Email has been using obscure transmissions which are NOT transparent.  And second, the ARRL has been aware of this condition for years, and has done nothing to stop it!!!!  UFB!!!  The organization that is supposed to be protecting ALL RADIO AMATEURS has failed us, and has teamed-up with an outside influence that is NOT interested in accepted uses of OUR Ham Bands.

Thanks for your relentless support for Amateur Radio, Ted!  My hat is off to you, my friend!

Very 73,




On 11/4/19 9:59 AM, Ted N9NB wrote:

Dear Alan: 


You have been a vital and active part of our efforts to make ham radio open and transparent. 


Finally, the FCC has heard us and is seeking comments on a rule petition we have made. Now more than ever, we need your help and that  of all  other hams to take time to write the fcc in support of the NYU petition for data transparency and openness.


 I seek your immediate help in taking a moment to file a public comment at the FCC, and to  alert other Hams of the urgent need to write in to express your support for NYU’s petition to the FCC to keep ham radio data modes open and accessible for all, with hopes the openness improves STEM and student engagement.


See this story about the NYU petition at this link, and below the link you will find simple instructions of how to file a comment at the FCC ECFS commenting system - we really need you and others, now more than ever. It’s our one moment to move the hobby forward! 


Please file a comment to the FCC in favor of the NYU data transparency petition, and spread the word. We need as much as support as we can muster right now for all open transparent data , Thanks ted N9NB 




Instructions to file:


Thanks in advance for your support of the NYU ham radio petition. We really need you and others to write to the fcc, stating your credentials and reasons for why NYU’s petition for openness and transparency must be supported and enacted  by FCC.


We need you and anyone you know to speak out in favor of the NYU petition and openness and transparency for STEM, and for the culture and future of ham radio.


Go here and enter “16-239” in proceedings, it should pull down”amateur baud rate”.


 <https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings> https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings


Fill out your name and Information, and please let me know when you do. Please spread the word to all you know, and please file in favor of the NYU Declaratory Ruling to ensure openness. You can google “Wireless girl” if you need more detail on how to file.

73 es thanks- ted n9nb 


Sent from smartphone, please excuse typos

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mail.w5sfa.org/pipermail/w5sfa_w5sfa.org/attachments/20191105/f2c651aa/attachment-0001.html>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: image001.png
Type: image/png
Size: 51225 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://mail.w5sfa.org/pipermail/w5sfa_w5sfa.org/attachments/20191105/f2c651aa/attachment-0001.png>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: image004.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 38486 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://mail.w5sfa.org/pipermail/w5sfa_w5sfa.org/attachments/20191105/f2c651aa/attachment-0001.jpg>

More information about the w5sfa mailing list