FCC & AIS B, time for action!
I’m sorry to report that the state of FCC approval for Class B AIS may be even worse than reported last month. Today an industry source told me that even though all the Commissioners have been briefed on the Amendment and none expressed reservations, or even asked questions, it has somehow gone onto what’s known internally as the “wait and see list.” Apparently the only force that might move it along is encouragement from concerned citizens like us. So here’s my draft email to the Commissioners:
Dear FCC Commissioners,
I understand that the “Amendment of the Commission’s Rules Regarding Maritime Automatic Identification Systems” (Docket 04–344) is now on the FCC Items on Circulation list, and I write imploring you to review and sign this Amendment as soon as possible.
I have been going to sea for over forty years—both professionally and recreationally—and I feel that the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is the most important advance in marine safety since radar. The Amendment before you is the one remaining step before U.S. boaters can benefit from the Class B form of AIS.
Class B transponders are now being used in many countries, and there have been no reports of problems I’m aware of (I cover marine electronics for several magazines and also at www.panbo.com). I have also tried a Class B transponder myself—outside U.S. waters—and found that it worked well, usefully providing my vessel’s position and ID to ships in our vicinity, and vice-versa.
I further understand that all the Class B transponders whose distribution awaits the FCC Amendment have already been approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, which, in fact, asked the FCC to expedite its approval. I believe the Coast Guard sees Class B transponders as valuable both for collision avoidance and also for Homeland Security. I strongly agree.
Finally, I’d like to point out that—perhaps unlike some regulations before you—signing this Amendment will enable a free market, not restrict one. Thousands of boaters are anxious to purchase Class B AIS units, and several worthy manufacturers have them stacked in warehouses ready to ship. Please let the U.S. Class B AIS market begin.
Sincerely, Ben Ellison, Camden, Maine
The email is a work in progress, at least until tomorrow morning, and your edit suggestions are welcome. Better yet, use it to draft your own email and send it via this link which should initiate an email to all 5 FCC Commissioners. If that doesn’t work, their individual email addresses are listed here.
And what’s this screen shot below? By pure coincidence, yesterday I tried out a very unusual—you might even say “pirate”—AIS transponder that’s catching on amongst some blue water cruisers. It’s not approved by the FCC or any agency, and could conceivably cause problems amongst other transponders, but it’s attractive because it’s available and inexpensive. My point: the appeal of pirate hardware might be considerably diminished if the FCC would let the legitimate AIS industry progress by opening the huge U.S. market.