The ARRL Board of Directors will look into the use of electronic balloting systems "to augment paper balloting for ARRL elections." The Board instituted a hybrid paper and electronic balloting process in the fall of 2012, which was popular among those who took advantage of it, but overall voter participation declined significantly. In 2015, the Board's Ethics and Elections Committee decided to return to using solely paper ballots. The Ethics and Elections Panel said continuing changes in technology, the acceptance of remote meetings, and significant advancements in voting processes since then have made electronic balloting worth a second look.

"Electronic balloting is now in common use among professional organizations," the Board said. "Using electronic balloting would be of benefit to members who find paper ballots difficult to use. Providing electronic balloting as an alternative to paper balloting may result in a cost savings to the organization and decrease delays and potential conflicts over delays of paper ballots. It is likely, also, that the use of online balloting will be attractive to younger members who are more accustomed to online transactions."

The Board directed its Administration & Finance Committee to investigate the state, cost, and availability of commercial electronic balloting services as a member-selected alternative to paper ballots distributed and collected via the postal service. The committee will report back to the Board within a year.

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) has announced that seven schools or host organizations selected for the July – December 2021 contact window have moved forward planning process to host a scheduled amateur radio contact with a space station crew member. ARISS’ primary goal is to engage young people in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) activities and raise their awareness of space communications, radio communication, space exploration, and related areas of study and career possibilities.

ARISS is now working with hosts to complete acceptable equipment plans that demonstrate their ability to carry out the ham radio contact. Once their equipment plan is approved by the ARISS Technical Mentors, the final list of host schools/organizations will be scheduled as their availability and flexibility match up with contact opportunities offered by NASA.

The schools/organizations are:

  • Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tarwater Elementary School in Chandler, Arizona
  • Museum of Science & Technology in Syracuse, New York
  • SpaceKids Global and Girl Scouts of Citrus in Winter Park, Florida
  • Illinois Wing Civil Air Patrol in St. Charles, Illinois
  • Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC
  • Savannah River Academy in Grovetown, Georgia.

This year, ARISS is celebrating 20 years of continuous amateur radio operations on the ISS. 

UPDATED 2021-01-12 @ 1902 UTC: Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne has scrubbed the Wednesday launch date and now says it will launch no earlier than Sunday, January 17. The vehicle will carry the AMSAT/Vanderbilt RadFXSat-2/Fox-1E CubeSat into space. The LauncherOne vehicle will carry 10 other satellites. RadFXSat-2/Fox-1E carries an inverting linear transponder, with uplink at 145.860 MHz – 145.890 MHz, and downlink at 435.760 MHz – 435.790 MHz. Telemetry will downlink on 435.750 MHz. More information is on the Space Launch Now website. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service/AMSAT-UK

ARRL will file comments in firm opposition to an FCC proposal to impose a $50 fee on amateur radio license and application fees. With the November 16 comment deadline fast approaching, ARRL urges members to add their voices to ARRL's by filing opposition comments of their own. The FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) MD Docket
20-270 appeared in the October 15 edition of The Federal Register and sets deadlines of November 16 to comment and November 30 to post reply comments, which are comments on comments already filed.

The NPRM can be found online at, https://tinyurl.com/yyk8f2yp .

ARRL has prepared a Guide to Filing Comments with the FCC which includes tips for preparing comments and step-by-step filing instructions. File comments on MD Docket 20-270 using the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).  The instructions can be found online at, http://www.arrl.org/FCC-Fees-Proposal .

Under the proposal, amateur radio licensees would pay a $50 fee for each amateur radio application for new licenses, license renewals, upgrades to existing licenses, and vanity call sign requests. The FCC also has proposed a $50 fee to obtain a printed copy of a license. Excluded are applications for administrative updates, such as changes of address, and annual regulatory fees. Amateur Service licensees have been exempt from application fees for several years.

In a January 5 Public Notice, the FCC requested comments on whether the current 14 Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) are sufficient to facilitate the efforts of their accredited Volunteer Examiners (VEs) in administering amateur radio examinations, or whether up to five additional VECs should be authorized. The ARRL VEC is the largest of the 14 VECs in the US. Comments are due by February 5, and reply comments are due by February 19. After Congress authorized it to do so, the FCC adopted rules in 1983 to allow volunteers to prepare and administer amateur radio examinations, and it established the system of VECs and VEs.

“VECs introduced consistency into the volunteer examiner program by centralizing accreditation of volunteer examiners, coordinating the dates and times for scheduling examinations, and managing the various administrative tasks arising from examinations,” the FCC said. Authorized VECs may operate in any of the 13 VEC regions but must service at least one region. The FCC pointed out that some VECs now offer remote examinations.

The FCC's decision to delete the amateur service from the 3.3 - 3.5 GHz allocation sent a chill down my spine. The message is clear: we must use our super high frequencies (SHF) or risk losing even more access. There is ever-increasing demand by our served partner agencies for higher speed data, digital voice and image transfer, the kinds of data rates that are made possible by the greater bandwidth afforded by our access to the SHF spectrum. There are many forward-thinking amateur groups around the country that are exemplary.

The 5 cm amateur band was recently used for filing a wildfire report - on September 8, 2020, two hams in the Puget Sound region of Washington State were watching the live camera feed from the Mt. Baldy HamWAN site and spotted and reported a wildfire in the surrounding forest. The Ham Wide Area Network is a system of commercial microwave radios tuned to the 5.65-5.925 GHz amateur radio band. Data speeds between the link sites vary depending on the path, but speeds four orders of magnitude faster than 9600 baud packet is common. Video cameras with PTZ control have been added to many of the link sites.