With a population just north of 71,000, the Caribbean island country of Dominica (J7) boasts a modest but active ham radio population. Given Dominica’s vulnerability to hurricanes, the ham radio emphasis often focuses on emergency communication support. In 2017, after Hurricane Maria hit the tiny island, ham radio filled a huge telecommunications gap. Now the country’s telecommunications regulator is asking hams to help formulate new amateur radio guidelines and standards. Dominica’s National Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (NTRC) collected comments until July 12 from radio amateurs participating in a “consultation” (what the US FCC would call a “proceeding”) that could lead to a formal and better-documented set of rules and regulations.
“There is limited guidance for those who seek to utilize the telecommunications media for their own personal use, enjoyment, and fulfilment as hobby, as in the case of amateur radio,” the NTRC said in the consultation document. “Generally, [amateur radio] is self-regulating, and so the involvement of the telecommunications regulator is minimized. Though the amateur radio clubs generally do their best to provide some level of guidance and support to existing and prospective operators, there is great need for a formal and comprehensive set of guidelines and standards for the operation of Amateur Radio Services in Dominica.”
Resources used in developing the draft proposals included ARRL, the FCC’s Part 97 amateur radio rules, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
“A primary source for this document was the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 47, Part 97), due to its comprehensiveness and its informal adoption in certain parts by the local amateur radio fraternity,” the NTRC said. Specific ARRL resources included The ARRL FCC Rule Book; The ARRL Operating Manual for Radio Amateurs, and The ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications. The regulators also looked at Canada’s and Australia’s amateur radio rules. The proposals would provide for three license classes — Novice, General, and Advanced — as well as the licensing procedures for each.
The NTRC held a public meeting via Zoom in mid-June to “highlight and clarify important issues” regarding the consultation. NTRC personnel later met with amateur radio club representatives at the NTRC’s office. Under Telecommunications Act No. 8 of 2000 and its associated regulations, the NTRC oversees compliance with all telecommunication rules in Dominica, including amateur radio. The NTRC also manages amateur radio spectrum.
Following the initial comment period, the NTRC will review the comments and subsequently submit the Revised Draft Amateur Radio Guidelines and Standards document for the comments on the initial comments received. The NTRC will also review these comments and finalize the policy document, taking all views into consideration, to adopt and publish the Amateur Radio Guidelines and Standards document.
Brian J. Machesney, K1LI/J7Y, a frequent visitor to Dominica, has provided considerable guidance and assistance to the amateur radio community in Dominica, especially in the area of emergency and disaster communication. He characterized the NTRC proposals as a “comprehensive documentation of the common-sense practices that have traditionally been followed, with some notable additions.”