Radio Rules & Regulations

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

Before we get into how radios operate, or sometimes don’t operate, we need to understand where our government stands on rules and regulations. At this point right here, right now, it doesn’t make any difference what you think or feel about the government. I wrote a piece recently about the government is the enemy, and I still feel that way, but they are the government, they have the big stick and we are slaves to their dictates. So let’s try not to upset them any more than necessary.

Here are the basic rules governing the type of radio communication that we are interested in participating in. To be fair, there are reasons we have rules. They are not just there to punish us and limit our activities and freedom, and they’re not always the product of some tyrannical government. Many rules involve safety. You don’t want to fry your little girl’s brain by being stupid. You don’t want to burn your house down. You don’t want to interfere with other frequencies and maybe cause a plane to fall from the sky, or a pipeline valve to open at the wrong time. So, there are rules and they do have a reason for being there. 

DON’T BE STUPID. Don’t try to prove to your buddies that you are the most stupid in the group. Radio can be fun, entertaining, it is a tool, you can use it for business, emergencies, it’s a great hobby. You will hear me say frequently, DON’T BE STUPID. If you are offended by that, get over it. We all do stupid things.

If some of the information I put out is wrong, please let me know. That is not my intent. Let’s get started.

Below is a link to Title 47, Chapter 1, Subchapter D. This link will take you to the rules that you and I need to follow. Open up this link and we’re going to take a look at it.

Ok. Follow me here. Look down the list and you will see Part 90 and Part 95 and Part 97. This is where we will spend our time. You will notice Part 96 says Citizens Broadband Radio Service – this is a different frequency range than CB radios. The CB radios that we will be talking about are under Part 95.

A brief overview to start with. Part 90, or sometimes called commercial radio. That little Baofeng that you have in your hand? Take out the battery, look inside the radio, and it will probably say Part 90 certified. This applies to police departments, fire departments, ambulances, a lot of public service activities and private business. Can you listen to these frequencies? Absolutely. Can you transmit on these frequencies? Sometimes. If you are with, or affiliated with, an agency that gives you the authority to transmit on these bands or frequencies, then yes, you can transmit. 

Example. You are with a volunteer fire department. Your Baofeng radio, if programmed correctly, will transmit on these frequencies. If the authorizing entity gives you permission to use this radio on a specific frequency, then yes, you can use it to transmit. 

Can you use it to transmit on unauthorized frequencies? Absolutely. This is a case in point where you are trying to prove how STUPID you are. Do not mess with an ambulance call, running hot, to a crash scene just to cause confusion. Let me reiterate here. THIS IS STUPID.

By the way, if you are authorized to use your handheld on any of the above mentioned bands, and your kid gets a hold of it and decides to go play with it, remember, you are the adult, they are the kid.

Moving on. Part 95. This is the general concern for the vast majority of people. So click on that 95 from the link you opened above. You will see Subpart A, which is General Rules for Personal Radio Service. Scroll down a little farther, Subpart B, Family Radio Service, FRS. 

Skip Subpart C, unless you’re into remote control, which a lot of guys are. 

Subpart D, CB Radio Service. You will notice it is called CBRS.

Subpart E, General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS.

GMRS and FRS are the frequencies preprogrammed into the handheld radios that you buy across the counter at sporting goods stores. 

Skip Subparts F, G, H, I.

Subpart J, Multi Use Radio Service, MURS. MURS is a group of frequencies that you might want to consider along with GMRS, FRS and CB.  Your Baofeng will transmit and receive on all of these frequencies except CB. To transmit on the CB frequencies, you will need a CB radio. Later on, we will cover stuff like VHF, UHF, HF, 2 meter, 11 meter, AM, FM, and SSB which are things you will eventually learn, but right now we’re talking about rules. 

Ok. Scroll back up to Subpart E, General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS. Look down the list just a couple of items and the third category down is licenses. Go down a little bit farther at 95.1761 and you will see GMRS transmitter certification. Your Baofeng radio is NOT certified to transmit on GMRS frequencies. Will it? Yes. Is it illegal? Listen very carefully here. Is it illegal? YES. Make no bones about it, you are using an unauthorized radio to transmit on an unauthorized frequency. 

Ok. A parable here. Can you buy a car that will go 100MPH? Yes, you can. If the speed limit is 35MPH, and you are driving 36MPH, are you breaking the law? Yes. If you drive 96MPH in that same 35MPH speed zone, are you breaking the law? Yes. Which one will get you the most attention? 36 or 96? If you choose to use your commercial radio, your Baofeng, which is Part 90 certified, on the GMRS frequencies then you are violating the law. Do people do it everyday? Absolutely. Is it illegal? Yes. It is illegal to drive 36MPH in a 35MPH speed zone. It is also illegal to drive 96MPH in a 35MPH zone. Can you buy that car that will do 100MPH? Sure you can. Can you buy that radio that will transmit where you shouldn’t be? Yes, you can.

Another example. If the power limit is 4 watts and you are using 5 watts, that is illegal. If the power limit is 4 watts and you are using 100 watts, that is also illegal. Which one will get you the most attention? Do people use these little radios everyday for unauthorized transmissions? Yes. Is it illegal? Yes. So is driving 36MPH in a 35MPH. CB radios are a perfect example. There are people that run power everyday on CB radios. I think the power limit for a CB is 4 watts AM. But some guys run 1000 watts and it’s not uncommon at all for people to run 50 watts. Illegal? Yes. Common? Yes.

If your transmission interferes with someone else’s activity. Example. Their television signal, telephone service, an intercom system between a baby’s crib and a parent’s room. Legal or illegal, you need to stop transmitting and make appropriate adjustments. Here is a case where using too much power, and this is not a joke, you can fry your little girl’s brain. No joke.

Another topic. Amateur radio. On that same list you have there, it’s Part 97. Amateur radio is a different ballgame. I will call it ham radio. If you get your ham radio license, this does not give you the authority or permission to transmit on any band or frequency that is not ham radio. Some ham radio operators are sadly delusional and believe that they can operate on unauthorized frequencies. This is not the case. As your learning curve increases, you will learn that CB frequencies come between two common ham frequencies. Can you use a ham radio to transmit on a CB frequency? Yes, you can. Is it illegal? Yes. Do not kid yourself that you get special privileges with a ham radio license.

One other sensitive topic. If you do choose to get your ham radio license, and you violate any of the above mentioned rules and regulations, you can lose your ham radio license FOREVER. Something to consider. Can you have a ham radio and a CB radio sitting right beside each other? Yes. Can they use the same power supply, coax and antenna? Yes.

Okay. For the brand new guys, a lot of information here today. I use my handheld, my mobile radios and my ham radios everyday. We use them on our little farm here and I use them to communicate 40-50 miles via use of a repeater. Everything that I do is legal. I have my ham radio license and I follow the rules. By the way, that little Baofeng radio is 100% legal on ham frequencies. That’s what I use everyday.

Understand the rules. If you choose to go outside of the rules, that is your choice. If you go a little bit, or a whole lot, that’s your choice. Let me finish on a negative note here. If you mess around on frequencies where you shouldn’t be, let’s say aircraft frequencies, and you think that your government is incompetent and stupid, then you will very quickly find out who is REALLY STUPID. These guys will track you down and shut you down, and rightly so. This is the same government that can send a missile thousands of miles and pinpoint a target to precise accuracy, whether it’s launched from submarine, aircraft or ground based, monitored via satellite by a person sitting at a console in an air conditioned office. Never underestimate the power of the government. They are very good at what they do, and you do not want them breathing down your neck. DON’T BE STUPID.

Next time things will be on a more positive note, so let’s start having fun.

We’ll talk more later.  73,  Frank

7 thoughts on “Radio Rules & Regulations

  1. Hi, Tim. I always feel like Wilson saying that. Moving on.Tim, I am a retired educator. If you are enthusiastic about what you are doing, your boys will be also. Ham radio involves electronics, electricity, several areas of physics, not to mention the bonus of radio history, and let's not forget math. The educational opportunities are limitless. The cool part is, you can all learn together. Actually, your kids will pick it up quicker than you will. Many a boy scout camp has taught a ham radio class in the morning and that afternoon the majority of the kids pass the Technician's test. I recommend downloading the free Romanchik Technician manual, purchase and download the General manual, and you and your boys study these together. The Technician and General are both on the same intellectual level, just more information. Some will disagree with this, and it's normally adults that disagree. Most adults have a tremendous fear of failure, therefore they make things more difficult than they need to be. Some kids have a fear of failure, many don't.Do the practice tests on, they are free. When you go to take the test, as long as you continue to pass tests, there is no additional cost for the next one. In other words, take the Technician, pass it. Take the General and pass it. There is no additional cost. The Extra test is a different ballgame entirely, the learning curve increases sharply, but if you pass the General, it doesn't cost you anything to take the Extra. There are some amazing things you can do with radio involving kids, and it will give you something to do with them. Besides that, it's fun. It's healthy. It's clean. It's a highly respected, useful hobby. Tell your boys that girls like smart people, trust me.If you are enthusiastic, your boys will be, too.Best of luck. I'll put out another post in a couple of days. An engineer, eh? It's too late in the night to make any train jokes, so I'll leave it be.73, Frank

  2. PS – figured I'd just start listening and playing with simplex communications locally; get the GMRS license off the bat.Tim

  3. Buying one that comes with extras including a cable for programming, will try the free software (watched a few youtube videos on this). Reading through your series on becoming a HAM and will likely go through some free online tests. Found the webpage for my county ARRL club. Most of the basic material I'm comfortable with (I'm an engineer, so have been exposed to some of the material before). May get my sons (almost 14 and 15.5) into it as well. The cost of the radio with the extra's is $38, the basic (radio, battery, charger) is $25. Figured I'd get one of each and experiment. Tim

  4. Hi, Tim. The UV-5R+ is my recommendation, but there are other choices. Be sure this is what you're comfortable with. These radios come blank. How are you going to program them? The manual is a little iffy on programming. Some folks use Chirp, some use the RT System. Before you buy, research.What about your ham radio license? Take care. 73, Frank

  5. Hey Frank,Thanks for addressing the additional questions I raised. I have an amazon card from work, Baofengs going in the cart!Best Regards,Tim(fromOhio)

  6. Hi, Leigh. I am one of those that rebels against rules and even some of the radio regulations I think are foolish. But when playing around in the wrong place can cause an automatic valve on an oil pipeline to open, then it's not the same as sneaking in a couple of extra watts of power. Being rebellious and be stupid are vastly different.Thank you for reading and thank you for your comment. Frank

  7. It is a lot of information but I can see why it's important. I know some folks like to rebel against rules, but these rules are just common sense.

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