Michigan Area Repeater Council
| Bylaws | Standards | Band Plan | Procedures | Resolutions
R. Bruce Winchell – N8UT
Exactly what is Coordination?
Simply put, coordination is a process used as part of Spectrum Management. Spectrum management is the real, behind-the-scenes job of all coordination organizations. Spectrum management is the act of attempting to achieve the most efficient and effective use of available frequencies allocated for a specific usage. The monetary value of Amateur Radio Service frequency allocations is in the billions of dollars. The importance of maximizing effective usage of our allowed spectrum is becoming more important every year. Powerful commercial interests seek to take more and more of our allocations all the time, and if we do not use our spectrum effectively and efficiently, we will lose it.
A coordination statement is a very basic form of a legal contract agreement. Few people realize this fact, just like they do not realize that accepting a cash register receipt signifies the conclusion of a sales contract agreement. The very form you use to make application for a coordination has a contractual agreement at the bottom that states: “Agreement: I certify that I have read and agree to abide by MARC Bylaws, Standards and Procedures; and that the statements above are true, complete and correct to the best of my knowledge.” When a coordination is issued by a coordinating organization, it is offering you a contract. When you accept an offered coordination, you are voluntarily entering into a contract. A contract contains information, or terms, to which the parties involved have agreed to be bound. The MARC, as a coordinating organization recognized by the FCC, offers you the protections of coordination for your repeater in exchange for your promise to keep the repeater on the air and operating properly from its coordinated location and as it is described in the Coordination Statement, your promise to monitor users of your repeater to assure good operating procedures are used, and your promise to report the current condition and configuration of your repeater, in writing, every two years.
A point of some confusion and lots of mis-information, is present in the fact that a coordination between the MARC and a Sponsor (the actual holder of the coordination) is not legally considered “Real Property.” As a result, a contract of the type represented by a MARC coordination, cannot be owned. In the eyes of the Law, anything that is not physical property or intellectual property cannot be bought or sold. A coordination is simply a contractual agreement between two parties and it cannot be bought, transferred directly to a third party, given away, or sold. The MARC ruling documents clearly state that “The Sponsor is the actual holder of the coordination.” You can HOLD a coordination, but you cannot OWN one. There is a very important and distinct legal difference between “holding” and “owning”.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Beware when buying repeater equipment. Coordination agreements are in NO WAY connected or attached to repeater equipment of any kind. Many, many people have been lied to regarding this fact. Anyone who attempts to tell you that his or her old coordination is included in the sale of any equipment is lying to you! Anyone who attempts to sell you a coordination is committing fraud! They don’t OWN it, and therefore they cannot sell it or give it away. A coordination is married ONLY to a specific LOCATION, NOT to equipment or individuals.
What are the advantages of being coordinated?
Let me begin by stating that it is not illegal to own and operate an uncoordinated repeater according to Part 97 of the FCC rules. It is, however, very unwise and quite risky from a liability standpoint, to operate an uncoordinated repeater. Coordination offers you some very important and valuable protections. First, interference complaints between an uncoordinated machine and a properly coordinated machine are always decided in favor of the coordinated machine. This is standard FCC policy. Second, the very nature of the coordination process that must be followed by the Coordinator, assures the best possible protection you can get against “interference” from other coordinated, co-channel repeaters. The Coordinator must follow specific rules that protect your covered territory.
The correct way to become coordinated.
First, don’t put up a repeater and then expect it to be coordinated. The fact that a repeater is operational gives you absolutely zero leverage in getting a coordination. You are more likely to find yourself dealing with a slightly angered Coordinator if you pre-empt the coordination process.
Second, don’t even bother to put in for a Local Class repeater. The MARC has not coordinated Local Class repeaters since 1991, when the members decided that Local Class repeaters were not in keeping with the basic principles of maximizing usage of available spectrum.
You have to go beyond just a basic idea of what you are trying to accomplish. You must have a definite, written plan.
· How much range do expect to cover with your proposed repeater?
· What kinds of equipment are you going to use to achieve this goal?
· How many watts to the antenna will it take?
· What kind of feed line are you going to use?
· What kind of feed line would be the best?
· What kind of antenna are you going to use?
· How high off the ground is the antenna going to be?
· Do you need to run a PL tone?
· What PL tone should you use?
· Where is the repeater going to be located?
· What are the exact map coordinates of that location?
· What is the height above sea level for that location?
NOTE: If you do not have a location absolutely locked in, don’t apply for coordination until you do.
These are all things you must know before you can expect a coordination attempt to be made on your behalf.
Sound pretty daunting to you?
Here is one big secret that no one ever
takes advantage of:
OK, let’s assume you have the above information together.
The next thing you should do, is go to the MARC website and file a request for a new coordination. Fill in every item on the form. If you cannot fill out every item on the form, your plan is not complete. Feel free to put whatever statements you feel are important in the “comments” area. Be sure to put cross streets to your proposed location in the comments area. You can do this in less than ten minutes. You may also print out the form from the website and file by regular USPS mail, but it is not recommended. The use of email and computers now totally dominates the workflow of MARC and the Coordinator. The submission of a paper form is outside of the normal workflow, and slows the entire process down. When you file electronically, a permanent record of your request is automatically created. Paper forms can, and do, get lost.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT send multiple requests. This really confuses things and slows the process to a crawl. When multiples are sent, a search must be conducted to determine which one is the oldest. This is very time consuming. If you are making a legitimate change in your proposal, send a simple email to the Coordinator with that information.
The most important items on the application for coordination are the map coordinates. Be sure to give them in Degrees, Minutes, and Seconds if you can. Give the street address and the nearest cross street(s) to your proposed location. This allows the Coordinator to verify the map coordinates and correct them if necessary, by means of computer mapping programs. If you wish to use a computer map program to determine your correct location, we recommend either Precision Mapping or TopoUSA. The entire coordination process is based on a location. The location must be accurate.
What does NOT make a difference in gaining coordinated status.
ARES/RACES and Skywarn hold absolutely no importance in the coordination process. Expressing such needs in your application will gain you no favor. Nearly every request we receive states such a dire need. We don’t care what you intend to properly use a repeater for. We are only concerned with whether or not we can coordinate the configuration you describe, at the location you specify. We know that this stand grates on some people and organizations, but please understand that the entire coordination process is part of Spectrum Management. Spectrum Management has no concern with what kind of traffic repeaters carry, or what kind of organization uses them. Spectrum management and the coordination process is concerned only with Location and Station Configuration. Our job is to get clear, efficient, maximum coverage and usage out of available spectrum by squeezing in as many quality repeaters as possible.
Finding a frequency pair.
The easiest way to find an open pair is to put what band you want in the appropriate spot on the application and let the Coordinator find one for you. Buying repeater equipment that is set up for a specific pair, moving it, and expecting to be coordinated for that pair, is nearly always a fatal error. It is also rare that an applicant actually finds a pair on his own that will work. One of the reasons for this is that the exact coordinates for existing repeaters are known only to the MARC and the repeater Trustees. A pin, a measured piece of string, and a ruler on a State Highway map cannot begin to match the accuracy of a computer loaded with all the proper coordinates from the MARC database. Another factor is that not all coordinated repeaters are listed either in the ARRL Repeater Directory, or the MARC website. This is at the request of some of the repeater trustees/owners. Yes, there are private repeaters and it is a legal usage. Repeaters that have a delinquent reporting status at the time our data is sent to the ARRL for inclusion in their Repeater Directory are not listed in that publication. There are some uncoordinated machines that we know of that are also not published anywhere.
NOTE: There is a common misconception that because a repeater is shown in Red on the website, that it is automatically going to be de-coordinated and that the pair is going to be immediately available for re-coordination to someone else. This is not true. It is merely a statement of when we last received a report for that machine. It’s a reminder. It’s an attempt at public embarrassment, to get the Trustee to act. It usually works, eventually. IF the MARC Coordinator and the MARC Board decide to formally de-coordinate a repeater that is actually not on the air, the total process takes at least 7 months before the pair becomes available. If the Coordinator and Board decide to use the Automatic Withdrawal of a coordination for report delinquency, as allowed in the Standards, there is also a grace period involved. We prefer to use de-coordination only as a last resort. A de-coordination process can be stopped at any time by the offender bringing the situation into compliance.
What happens during the coordination process?
Here are the steps the Coordinator must take in a coordination process.
How long will it take?
As you can see, there are a lot of steps that must be followed. The time it takes to reach a “yes” or “no” decision regarding possible coordination is dependent on a lot of variables. Depending on how much time the volunteer Coordinator has, and how long it takes to get answers back from the adjacent states, (the two largest variables) it usually takes less than a month. However, if you are in the SE or SW quadrants of the Lower Peninsula, it can take considerably longer. This is because there are often a number of frequencies that are open inside Michigan, and it takes time to process the entire list with the adjacent states. The adjacent state coordinators like to see a single frequency on an NOPC. They will sometimes consider two possibilities, but refuse to consider long lists of possibilities all at once.
What are the odds of gaining coordinated status?
The answer to this depends on where you want to put the repeater and what band you are interested in.
Take a State highway map and draw a line between Frankfort, above Manistee on the West coast, and Harrisville on the East coast. Above this line there are a few remaining possibilities for coordination on all the bands. This is closing up very quickly. There have been a great many repeaters coordinated recently in that area. This is an area where a 220 or 6m machine is almost a shoo-in, because the Upper Penninsula has no repeaters on either of those two bands, and Wisconsin separation mileage increases with the narrowing of the Lower Peninsula land mass.
Now draw another line following M46 from Sandusky on the East to Whitehall on the West. The area between the northern line and M46 has virtually no possibility of coordination on two meters or 440. There are still some openings possible on 220 and 6m. The closer you get to the West coast, the more the odds increase against you, regardless of band.
As of June, 2003, two meters is closed below M46. There is nothing available anywhere. The 440 band is very close to being closed in that same area. In the SE quadrant, there is virtually nothing available on 220 440, or six meters. I expect that the SE quadrant will very soon be closed to any further new coordinations below 900mhz. The SW quadrant is also nearing saturation. The SW quadrant is nearly impossible to coordinate on any band, because of the absolutely huge numbers of repeaters on all bands within 100 miles in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. It takes an enormous amount of time and the patience of a Saint to work a coordination request in this quadrant, and 99% of all coordination attempts fail.
What is the future of Michigan coordination?
I have watched the bands rapidly become saturated for over 4 years. I see people realizing that the 2m, and 440 bands are almost no longer available for new coordinations anywhere. I see a strong interest in 220 and 6m and it will not take long for those bands to reach saturation as well. In some places, they are saturated already. This leaves us with 900mhz and up. There are very strong indicators that this is where the action is going to be in the near future. The MARC is currently developing band plans for those UUHF bands and there are coordination requests for several 900mhz and 2.4ghz repeaters awaiting action right now. The ultra-ultra high frequencies are where the bulk of future new coordinations will be made.
The lower bands will basically become maintenance areas for the MARC, even if application of new technologies allows shorter co-channel separations. At shorter co-channel separations, the problem of clearing the adjacent states is still going to exist. The adjacent states are all using shorter co-channel separations now, they generously apply their shorter distances to our NOPCs, and we still cannot get anything past them 95% of the time. If we ever shorten our distances inside Michigan, it won’t make a difference in the SE and SW quadrants or up our West coast, and that is where most requests for new coordinations originate.