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Do Governmental Entities Ever Establish GMRS Repeaters?


WRTJ223
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The government agencies I work with usually ask volunteer civilians to partner with them, provide the hardware and human capital. I'm not aware of any of them doing it on their own, but my experience is obviously anecdotal. 

 

My team is in process of putting an amateur repeater on the county dispatch tower at the EOC. We are already approved for the antenna and radio install. I am going to see if we can put up a dual band antenna and see if we can co-locate the amateur and GMRS systems there. 

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I don't know that a government entity could even get a GMRS license under the standing rules pertaining to the service. 

Now that doesn't stop them from 'hosting' a GMRS repeater up to and including purchasing of the equipment and the installation work and having a

GMRS license holder as trustee of the repeater.  This happens from time to time with various EMA's that again, cant get a ham license but can provide everything to facilitate a repeater installation and having the local ARES group / ham club put their call sign on it with an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that the equipment can or can't be used for general ham operations until a time where the EMA activates the ARES group and at that point the repeater will be used for emergency communications. 

There is no reason that the same thing couldn't be done with GMRS, the only difference being there are no 'club calls' for GMRS and a specific individual would need to act as primary trustee of the repeater regarding the call sign on it. 

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There are many grandfathered repeaters from the days when business/government could obtain a GMRS license (and they are allowed to renew said licenses, but can not make changes -- in those days they probably only requested one frequency pair for the repeater, if they want to change to a different frequency pair they will have to move to land-mobile channels and get a suitable license for that).

The Grand Rapids 575 is one such repeater. Back in my 1997 GMRS repeater directory the access tone was published with the caveat "for emergency and traveller assistance only". I'm quite certain anyone popping up on it today, asking for assistance, is going to get a lot of yelling from the dispatcher about "use your cell phone to call 911" or some such. The channel seems to be used by downtown parking lot control -- most traffic concerns gate stuck up, gate stuck down, machines not accepting credit/debit cards, machines not accepting cash, etc.

 

 

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15 hours ago, KAF6045 said:

There are many grandfathered repeaters from the days when business/government could obtain a GMRS license (and they are allowed to renew said licenses, but can not make changes -- in those days they probably only requested one frequency pair for the repeater, if they want to change to a different frequency pair they will have to move to land-mobile channels and get a suitable license for that).

The Grand Rapids 575 is one such repeater. Back in my 1997 GMRS repeater directory the access tone was published with the caveat "for emergency and traveller assistance only". I'm quite certain anyone popping up on it today, asking for assistance, is going to get a lot of yelling from the dispatcher about "use your cell phone to call 911" or some such. The channel seems to be used by downtown parking lot control -- most traffic concerns gate stuck up, gate stuck down, machines not accepting credit/debit cards, machines not accepting cash, etc.

 

 

Point well taken. Before going off the rails assuming illegal operation one might have stumbled on a perfectly legal grandfathered system. If it bothers somebody do some research before jumping to conclusions.

Even in the Ham world we have to be careful since Hams only have secondary status on the 70cm band, we share it with the primary user, government. I remember doing a frequency search a while back and stumbled across some public safety frequencies between 420 MHz and 430 MHz. The US Ham band officially runs from 420 MHz to 450 MHz depending on how close you are to Canada, Line-A. The 70cm band is a mine field of various users, technical requirements and restrictions.

 https://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/publications/compendium/0420.00-0450.00_01MAR14.pdf    

https://www.chp.ca.gov/find-an-office/central-division/offices/(420)-bakersfield

https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf00049.html

 

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On 10/3/2022 at 9:40 PM, KAF6045 said:

There are many grandfathered repeaters from the days when business/government could obtain a GMRS license (and they are allowed to renew said licenses, but can not make changes -- in those days they probably only requested one frequency pair for the repeater, if they want to change to a different frequency pair they will have to move to land-mobile channels and get a suitable license for that).

The Grand Rapids 575 is one such repeater. Back in my 1997 GMRS repeater directory the access tone was published with the caveat "for emergency and traveller assistance only". I'm quite certain anyone popping up on it today, asking for assistance, is going to get a lot of yelling from the dispatcher about "use your cell phone to call 911" or some such. The channel seems to be used by downtown parking lot control -- most traffic concerns gate stuck up, gate stuck down, machines not accepting credit/debit cards, machines not accepting cash, etc.

 

 

Yes, there are EXISTING licenses that are grandfathered, and can't be modified that we share the channels with. 

But he's asking about what I assume would be a new license, which I don't believe the FCC would grant.  Now that's only based on the regulations as I personally understand them.  But I am far from an attorney, or FCC licensing agent that would be making that final decision. 

It wouldn't hurt to have the entity contact the local FCC field office and ask if they wanted to get a license for community communications and EMCOMM use.  They may well grant it.  But they may not. 

The one difference in part 90 licenses and part 95 licenses is that a part 90 license holder DOES have some level of level of responsibility to the content transmitted on their licensed frequency.  Not sure if that would carry over to a government entity having a GMRS repeater license or not.  But if it did, that would certainly be a deal breaker for them if they were smart.  We have little control over what others say on our repeaters.  We can shut them off if there is an ongoing issue. But we aren't required to be mindful of anything said unless WE are the ones saying it.

 

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Just a point of interest, PIV/CAC cards for government employees and contractors cost more than $35 each and aren't valid as long as a GMRS license. If a government agency really wants to have a GMRS repeater for their staff to use, I'm 100% certain they would pony up the few bucks for the employees to have an individual license to use on the government owned radio.

 

Just a thought. 

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8 hours ago, marcspaz said:

If a government agency really wants to have a GMRS repeater for their staff to use, I'm 100% certain they would pony up the few bucks for the employees to have an individual license to use on the government owned radio.

I think the same logic works for private businesses. Each employee can have their own GMRS license and use the company owned repeater. The one caveat the repeater must be under the control of one of the licensed employees and ID as such.

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For the most part I see no reason a government entity would put up a GMRS system unless it was a public thing thru a CERT team or something of that nature. Government and Public Safety have many other systems they can use and don't require a person to get a license. Our SAR team still has a GMRS repeater at a county park that was provided with funding from a grant via the county years ago. Other than an occasional user its pretty quiet. All park staff use the TLMR system as well as all public safety. 

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On 10/6/2022 at 9:56 AM, gortex2 said:

For the most part I see no reason a government entity would put up a GMRS system unless it was a public thing thru a CERT team or something of that nature. Government and Public Safety have many other systems they can use and don't require a person to get a license. Our SAR team still has a GMRS repeater at a county park that was provided with funding from a grant via the county years ago. Other than an occasional user its pretty quiet. All park staff use the TLMR system as well as all public safety. 

 

I think you're correct. However, the local, state and federal government gets folks like ARES/RACES, REACT and CERT involved  becuse they know that as robust as their system is, it's only reliable on a good day.

 

That said, it's also cheaper for your civilian volunteers to bring their own gear, too. The responsibility of design, purchase and maintenance is covered by us (volunteers).

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Yup long ago our area used hams alot for the stuff. Over the years that has been used less and less. Our SAR team supports 5-6 events a year. One event is managed by the county EMO and we use the TLMR system. All others we use our SAR public safety system and SAR is the IC for the event. All communications are run out of our MCU as well as mapping and FA support. Mostly because we know it works and again we dont run into issues handing a person a portable radio. The other issue they had was hams not showing up and not knowing how to use equipment. We got called in years ago to support an air show and the hams flipped. In the end we had the proper gear and knew the ICS plan and such. Sadly that event went away but we did 2 years of it for them.

 

Its different all over the US. I think clubs that are Public Safety mindful and work with the counties or municipalities normally are used more but some sit at home waiting for the big call and it will never happen. You have to market your service and complete the task when asked or you wont get used.

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26 minutes ago, gortex2 said:

Its different all over the US. I think clubs that are Public Safety mindful and work with the counties or municipalities normally are used more but some sit at home waiting for the big call and it will never happen. You have to market your service and complete the task when asked or you wont get used.

 

 

I think you hit the nail square on the head with this statement. 

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On 10/6/2022 at 9:40 AM, marcspaz said:

 

I think you're correct. However, the local, state and federal government gets folks like ARES/RACES, REACT and CERT involved  excuse they know that as robust as their system is, it's only reliable on a good day.

 

That said, it's also cheaper for your civilian volunteers to bring their own gear, too. The responsibility of design, purchase and maintenance is covered by us (volunteers).

Yes, that is why we are looking into establishing GMRS in our community! It would provide an added modality of communication for citizens who do not have the time to invest to study and pass the ham test. I really appreciate all the help on my question. Still reading thru all the comments. 

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Another tool in the toolbox....I know many AUXComm/Emcomm/support elements that assist government agencies and private industry at all levels that have thought about bringing GMRS into the fold. Right now HF is big with the push for DHS SHARES, a program to link sites across the country via HF and data over these links during large disaster situations. GMRS is also on the table, but the first step now is still to get workers back into the office. My employer has 54 cities linked via radio across the nation (Motorola Astro/Trbo and analog conventional, Kenwood NXDN sites, and HF Radio over Internet Protocol), but if there were a real incident, it would still be only the few that are already at work and near one of the radio stations. Covid proved that, and I and my crew were in the office every workday as the federal government considered our public safey and fire interop with 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points to be critical. That was the reason I went and purchased a GMRS call sign and joined this site, so the station in my building would then be able to also use GMRS.

As other have said, government GMRS is most likely through a user that ends up as the conduit for the service, and may bring their own gear, or have some provided. In my own use case, what this meant was for one person at each site to get licensed for GMRS, DHS Shares registered, AFMARS license, amateur licenses, FEMA ICS trained, and anything else to make it realistic to have these government affiliations. Then each station made sure to separate the commercial company comms and the interop radios. It is a little odd to see GTR8000 repeaters racked in a corner, and high end Motorola and Harris radios on a bench, and then go to the other end and see Yaesu, Icom, Kenwood, and SGC tuning equipment for the amateur side in a support role. 

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7 hours ago, PACNWComms said:

Another tool in the toolbox....

That's why I got my GMRS license besides the fact it was cheap at the time, $70 for 10 years. I had another GMRS call before this one when it cost $85 for 5 years. Never used it so I let the license expire. When the cost dropped, and in particular the term increased to 10 years, I got back into it again. Now that's it dropped to $35 it's basically a no-brainer.

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One of the other things that I haven't seen discussed here is the fact that government entities typically have a number of licensed LMR frequencies already that could be used.  Part of those being Public Safety frequencies that they would have somewhat exclusive use of in their jurisdiction.  So the jurisdiction would need to own and maintain a cache of radios for this purpose or require registered volunteers to acquire radios for the frequency band in use and get an MOU from the jurisdiction indicating they had permission to have that channel or channels programmed in their radios.  And this can be anything from VHF or UHF single repeaters to trunked system radios.  I personally have programmed system radios for a city we do work for that issue radios to established neighborhood watch groups. 

Point is, I am really not sure WHY a government entity would NEED a GMRS license as they have other resources available that are exclusive use.

 

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2 hours ago, WRKC935 said:

So the jurisdiction would need to own and maintain a cache of radios for this purpose or require registered volunteers to acquire radios for the frequency band in use and get an MOU from the jurisdiction indicating they had permission to have that channel or channels programmed in their radios.  And this can be anything from VHF or UHF single repeaters to trunked system radios.  I personally have programmed system radios for a city we do work for that issue radios to established neighborhood watch groups.

Point is, I am really not sure WHY a government entity would NEED a GMRS license as they have other resources available that are exclusive use.

 

I suspect the need to supply radios to volunteers is why Kent County is still using the analog fire dispatch -- volunteer fire mostly used /scanners/ to hear the dispatch, they didn't even have 2-way capability until they reported for duty. County isn't going to suddenly issue digital/trunked/encrypted radios just to put volunteers on the statewide system.

As for second point -- these days a government entity can't even obtain a GMRS license (but is permitted to renew any that they possessed prior to the regulations changing -- hence the activity on the Grand Rapids .575 frequency; mainly downtown paid parking lot stuff).

 

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All of these responses are very helpful. Thank you!!! So, I guess this begs the question, is there a workflow document somewhere for us to install install our own repeater? Im noticing the GMRS repeaters seem to be connected. Ive been focusing on my ham skills and am now switching back to learning GMRS. Goal:  We want to be able to communicate across our community if we get another ice storm here in Texas and the phone lines go down again. Thank you again to all who are helping me! 

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5 hours ago, WRTJ223 said:

All of these responses are very helpful. Thank you!!! So, I guess this begs the question, is there a workflow document somewhere for us to install install our own repeater? Im noticing the GMRS repeaters seem to be connected. Ive been focusing on my ham skills and am now switching back to learning GMRS. Goal:  We want to be able to communicate across our community if we get another ice storm here in Texas and the phone lines go down again. Thank you again to all who are helping me! 

How large is "our community" (distance, not population), and what type of environment (flat, mostly open fields, or lots of concrete/steel multi-story buildings)?

(presuming the GR 575 is using similar specs as in 1997, it has a 50W output feeding a 6dBd antenna to produce 200W ERP, on a near 800ft tower belonging to the city -- as is the grandfathered repeater, in 1997 it was available to public for /emergency/ use only. On a good day, the 6" Midland mag-mount on my rust-bucket can receive it from ~20 miles away).

If you are within city limits, you will need to study the zoning regulations... Many cities in my area limit antennas (top) to 35ft above ground (unless one is in a rare four story building [there may be one or two in town center, having been built before zoning laws were a common matter] where it may be 10-25 feet above the roof). 35ft is about the equivalent of residential power lines/poles. The only exception in my town is for /AMATEUR/ antennas -- permitted 75 ft above ground if the lot is large enough that broken tower won't damage neighbors' property. GMRS is not Amateur -- so 35 ft max unless you can get a zoning exemption for a taller tower.

If you are in a flat, sparsely populated, region -- you can probably get by with just 5W HTs used outdoors (my aluminum siding and metal roof cause strong attenuation). Note that going from 5W HT to 50W mobile (10dB increase) will probably only double the distance you can reach -- a good (gain) antenna might be more economical. Repeaters gain their distance mostly through antenna height and antenna gain.

You'll need a repeater controller that can handle making ID announcements (per the regulations, the only situation in which a repeater does not need an IDer is when ALL users are operating under one license [which means the "immediate family" category] AND said users properly ID with that license's call sign -- IE: a private repeater not accessible to the public). Also, a strict reading of the regulations requires that there be a designated control operator monitoring who can shut down the repeater if it goes wonky (stuck on transmit, etc.), or has some abusive user tying it up. Remote operation is permitted, but that likely means using some other means to contact the repeater and issue commands (if an abusive user -- you might not be able to override them from your own radio so DTMF commands over GMRS channels may not be usable).

 

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  • 1 month later...

So, there is nothing that prohibits a governmental entity from putting up a repeater ... correct? If it is for citizens to have weekly nets to practice for emergencies such as in mine with floods or occasional winter freezes which nock out everything including phone communication. The public would request permission for the tones to access the repeater. 

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8 minutes ago, WRTJ223 said:

So, there is nothing that prohibits a governmental entity from putting up a repeater ... correct? If it is for citizens to have weekly nets to practice for emergencies such as in mine with floods or occasional winter freezes which nock out everything including phone communication. The public would request permission for the tones to access the repeater. 

If said government entity has a grandfathered GMRS license (and maybe not even then -- if their license didn't specify a repeater [back in the day I believe such had to be declared on the license application], no changes are permitted) -- the FCC no longer issues licenses to organizations/businesses/etc.

If they don't, the repeater will have to use the license of some individual person acting as the trustee of the license -- that individual would be responsible for the repeater's operation. The trustee will likely be an employee (possibly who ever is already in charge of tech stuff). If they leave, the government entity will have to find a new trustee (with different license) and update the repeater ID system.

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22 minutes ago, WRTJ223 said:

So, there is nothing that prohibits a governmental entity from putting up a repeater ... correct? If it is for citizens to have weekly nets to practice for emergencies such as in mine with floods or occasional winter freezes which nock out everything including phone communication. The public would request permission for the tones to access the repeater. 

Wrong. 
95.305(e) No person is authorized by this section to operate a United States  Government Radio station. 
 

95.1705(a) Eligibility 

(1) Individual licensee

(2) Licensee’s family 

(3) Licensee May allow anyone to communicate an emergency message 

(4) Grandfathered licensees (which includes governmental units allowing its employees).

 

So, no, there’s no current way for a government unit to setup and operate a repeater. 

I greatly abbreviated the sections above, but I don’t think that changed the conclusion. 

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17 hours ago, Sshannon said:

Wrong. 
95.305(e) No person is authorized by this section to operate a United States  Government Radio station. 
 

 

17 hours ago, Sshannon said:

I greatly abbreviated the sections above, but I don’t think that changed the conclusion. 

95.305(e) doesn't exclude state and local governments -- but the rest would restrict them to grandfathered licenses... Such as the Grand Rapids 575 repeater (which is not "public" though  did post a CTCSS tone for /emergency/ use [back in 1997 repeater guide]). https://wireless2.fcc.gov/UlsApp/UlsSearch/license.jsp?licKey=195998

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I could anticipate a government entity granting a person or radio club money or material to establish a repeater used for government supported public service purposes, but it’s clear from the scope of the current regulations that only individuals can be newly licensed.
I completely agree that grandfathered government entity licenses exist. Whether those license holders could now establish a new repeater for their government purposes I haven’t studied. 
Under the current rules, can a government entity build a repeater and require its employees to become licensed so they can operate it?  If they can, so could a commercial corporation or a political group. I don’t believe any of those cases is consistent with the scope or purposes of GMRS. 

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