The Florida Repeater Council Meltdown

If you are a US licensed amateur radio operator, please take a moment to read the following:
FCC Part 97.205

§ 97.205 Repeater station.

(a) Any amateur station licensed to a holder of a Technician, General, Advanced or Amateur Extra Class operator license may be a repeater. A holder of a Technician, General, Advanced or Amateur Extra Class operator license may be the control operator of a repeater, subject to the privileges of the class of operator license held.

(b) A repeater may receive and retransmit only on the 10 m and shorter wavelength frequency bands except the 28.0-29.5 MHz, 50.0-51.0 MHz, 144.0-144.5 MHz, 145.5-146.0 MHz, 222.00-222.15 MHz, 431.0-433.0 Mhz, and 435.0-438.0 Mhz segments.

(c) Where the transmissions of a repeater cause harmful interference to another repeater, the two station licensees are equally and fully responsible for resolving the interference unless the operation of one station is recommended by a frequency coordinator and the operation of the other station is not. In that case, the licensee of the non-coordinated repeater has primary responsibility to resolve the interference.

(d) A repeater may be automatically controlled.

(e) Ancillary functions of a repeater that are available to users on the input channel are not considered remotely controlled functions of the station. Limiting the use of a repeater to only certain user stations is permissible.

(f) [Reserved]

(g) The control operator of a repeater that retransmits inadvertently communications that violate the rules in this part is not accountable for the violative communications.

Part H omitted because it is not relevant here but you must refer to it if you’re near Arecibo Observatory.

So now we continue.

Photo: hamsexy.com – in the aftermath of the infamous Dayton Volcano

The Florida Repeater Council was originally established to fill a need to facilitate the voluntary frequency coordination between amateur radio repeaters. This ensures that repeaters on the same or adjacent channels do not interfere with the use of one another and promotes more reliable communications using the repeaters.

In addition, as the coordination agency recognized by the American Radio Relay League, they supply their coordinated repeater listings for inclusion in ARRL publications such as the neat little pocket repeater directory books.

Unfortunately, at some point, egos flared, communication broke down, and it became the worst sort of bullshit secret society. (Communication? People using amateur radio are supposed to— communicate?)

I first became aware of this as an ongoing problem as early as 2000. At the time there were a lot of hams active in the Miami-Dade community and the need was there for several good repeaters with countywide and wide area coverage. When the trustees of these repeaters were approaching the Florida Repeater Council for coordination, either nothing would happen… or they would get coordination, but only if they were personal friends of the then regional coordinator, Nilo W4HN. Very mysterious.

In some cases they’d get coordinated to frequencies already in use.

For a while the FRC also had a statement on their website that suggested that uncoordinated operation of an amateur radio repeater was in violation of federal law. This statement is perfectly negated by the actual federal law, which I have included above for your convenience. Read it if you haven’t already. Trust me, FCC Part 97 is the LEAST painful piece of the FCC rules I have ever read. This was removed after a couple of years and I’m not sure exactly when, so I can’t put up a link to it for you to laugh at them with right now. Oh well.

After a couple years of frustration with this, some of my friends who were being repeatedly screwed over by the FRC by not receiving coordination and then having highly, uh, effective, Papertron 4000* repeaters coordinated onto the same frequencies they applied for, they attempted to attend the FRC’s regular yearly meeting at the Melbourne Hamfest to complain and attempt to get this fixed while they were there in person.

Well…. the meeting was also a mere piece of paper, in a sense. The Platinum Coast Amateur Radio Society had assigned them a time and a forum room at the hamfest. As I recall, it was something like Saturday at 2 PM.

Saturday at about 10:30 AM, an announcement went out over the Melbourne Civic Auditorium’s PA system that the FRC meeting was due to begin in five minutes. The forum room was currently occupied with another event, and none of the FRC board of directors were in attendance. 15 minutes or so into the meeting, it was announced where they were—

At a hotel conference room about a half hour drive away.

Needless to say, nobody was very pleased with them for this.

Eventually Nilo retired his position as director for our region, and the Dade Radio Club of Miami recommended that I apply for this position. I sent off an email to the president of the FRC (now deceased, listed as deceased but still as president on the FRC webpage and never replaced because they haven’t held elections in over a decade.)

We continued to have no coordinator for a couple of years, and during this time, not only were new coordinations impossible, but existing coordinations wouldn’t even expire if the trustees were not sending in updates or notified the council that they were unable to continue operations! Not to turn this into YET ANOTHER “Miami-Dade sucks moldy donkey nuts” post, but around this era, access to good repeater sites was very rapidly dwindling away to nothing due to property flipping, so there was just almost nowhere to put them. Yet, they continued on forever on paper. (This is what I was getting at with that “Papertron” comment above.) There were PAGES of paper repeaters, especially on the 70cm band.

You can’t take it with you. Or can you?

I heard nothing back for about a day then my phone rang off the hook. I got calls and emails from each of the directors insulting and berating me for daring to apply for this position, as to be qualified as a member of the FRC, I would need to be trustee of a previously coordinated repeater, and by attempting to join incorrectly I was now permanently disqualified from ever coordinating one.

I have never answered a caller with that much FCC part 97.113(a)4 disapproved language before. Here I was politely offering to volunteer to assist in coordination activities and they saw this as if a personal attack. Amazing.

You can see above that there is one actual coordinator listed, Dana. Dana holds ALL the data on FRC coordinations, and he was very difficult to work with. If he left, so did every repeater coordination in the state. And that’s … likely what would happen.

Finally, after the FRC’s dealings got even uglier, an effort was coordinated to bring about reform to the organization. They met at the Orlando Hamcation and pulled some of their old tricks – change of venue AND started the meeting earlier than the published time. What happened there was spectacular — the board of directors decided to eject all members (who were paying dues to be in there!). Since this meeting I’m told they’ve also been searching out the hams who joined the petition for reform and removing their repeater coordinations. This is going to be uhhhh grrrrrrrr-eat for the data they supply to the ARRL.

This is the full meeting on video.


Enhanced audio here.

Sounds like a RAGEQUIT to me.

So where does this leave amateur radio in Florida?

…. The same place where it always was. Loss of a repeater coordination organization actually makes almost no difference. The bands just aren’t that clogged, and there just aren’t that many places to put up repeaters, so with a bit of due care, hams can work together to avoid interference between their repeater systems. If you’re not sure if a pair is in use, listen to it for a while, at least with a good mobile radio (driving to the top of a tall parking garage can help).

And, for that matter, if you have an active repeater – PUBLISH IT! There are several directories that are community based.
RepeaterBook.com and RadioReference.com should be used, among others. If you run an open repeater and it uses CTCSS access, set the ID to tell listeners which tone to use, or follow the standard for your area. To be honest, while the little pocket books from the ARRL were neat, their use and relevance has faded nowadays.

And don’t send your contact information to the FRC if you don’t want angry phone calls. Been there, done that, laughed my ass off at them behind their backs.

7 thoughts on “The Florida Repeater Council Meltdown”

  1. I knew this for a long time. I have had discussions with other who really are ignorant of this. Thank you for posting the real thing.

  2. Ham in Bradenton can hear some type of repeater on 146.415 and it also transmits on 146.490 at the same time. Im not sure where it is coming from.
    We have a group that talks on 146.420 simplex and the signal on 146.415 sometimes bleeds over onto 146.420 simplex. Im trying to find out where those signals are coming from. Maybe a digi repeter or some other system nearby. Strange it is on these two simplex freqs. Does anyone have any ideas what system it could be?????

    1. Oh heck— the ARRL bandplan does not suggest repeater outputs in that range AT ALL. Inputs, yeah, not outputs.

      Are you hearing FM voice or digital? Shouldn’t be APRS, that’d be at 144.39.

      My best guess is it’s something badly malfunctioning and the use of radio direction finding techniques would be advisable to try to identify its source. It could also be an intermod problem, but with a simplex group, if many stations are hearing it, you may be able to quickly get a rough idea of where it’s coming from.

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