Saturday, October 17, 2009

Do I have to coordinate my repeater?

The title of this post was a search that hit my blog recently.  Now, in order to discuss the topic, I'm going to make a couple of assumptions: first, that the individual in question is interested in American practice (since the IP address in question geolocates to Alabama, I'd say that's a safe bet), and that the repeater in question is an amateur repeater, rather than a commercial one.  (I'll touch on the situations in the commercial services, and in other countries, at the end of the post).

My immediate reaction to the question is, of course, "If you don't know the answer to that question, you shouldn't be running a repeater."  That is, I suppose, a bit harsh of me.  Part 97 is pretty unclear about coordination.  Frequency coordinators are only mentioned twice in Part 97, once in the definitions, in §97.3(a)(22), and once in §97.205, which specifies the special rules that apply to the operation of repeaters.  All §205(c) says is that if one repeater interferes with another repeater, the operators of both stations are primarily and equally responsible for resolving the interference, unless one of them is coordinated and the other is not, in which case the uncoordinated station's operator is primarily responsible for resolving the interference.  That doesn't equate to mandating coordination.  In fact, Part 97 nowhere mandates coordination, and so that's the answer to the question: assuming you're in the United States and you're talking about an amateur radio repeater, you do not have to coordinate your repeater.  Unless you're in an area with lots of repeaters, there's a good chance that not coordinating your repeater will turn out to be no big deal; just pick a frequency nobody is using for anything at the moment and have fun.

Of course, if there are a lot of repeaters in your area there might not be any frequencies that nobody is using.  And even if there aren't, if the local repeater coordinator council is run by a bunch of annoying busybodies (as many of them are), they might arrange for your uncoordinated repeater to "interfere" with a coordinated repeater just to teach you a lesson.  People are, after all, people, and politics are often at their worst when the stakes are the lowest.  Not coordinating a repeater that's intended to serve a large area or large number of amateurs is probably not a good idea, for a lot of different reasons.  But if you're just putting up a small repeater to cover you and a few guys down the street, it's probably not worth the hassle.  And many coordination bodies have gotten way too big for their britches; I think some of them miss the days when coordination was mandatory.

Of course, repeatars in the commercial services have to be coordinated, but then again virtually all uses of commercial frequencies have to be preapproved by a frequency coordinator of some sort.  And the "permissive coordination" practice that US amateurs enjoy is pretty unusual; most other countries have some form of mandatory coordination, either through their regulatory agency directly or through a coordinating body assigned by the regulator.  American hams really have it pretty easy, in comparison.