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Top issues in scanning
Tell us what you think on these issues concerning scanner users

Digital radio systems, Some levelheaded views

In the last few years, The Michigan State Police and the police forces of a few other cities have switched over to digital radio systems, that digitizes voices and then transmitts them making it impossable to monitor on today's scanners. There is some fear in the scanning community that these digital trunked radio systems are going to make the scanning hobby obsolete. I hardly think that Is the case for three reasons.

1) If your community had switched to an analog trunked radio system in the last few years it has been at great expense and nobody will be looking to make another expensive change to a digital radio system. In 1991 the City of Regina, Saskatchewan spent fourteen million dollars on their analog trunked radio system. Over the eight years that the system has been in place the cost to the taxpayers of Regina has been 1.75 million dollars per year. Not very cost effective to change now.

2) With a lot of pressure on governments to keep costs and taxes under control, the millions of dollars that it costs to implement a digital radio system (several thousands per radio) is hard to justify to the taxpayer. The city of Los Angeles is planning to spend over fifty million dollars on a new Motorola Astro digital radio communications system. If I were a taxpayer in Los Angeles I would be rather irate.

The only way I could see a community possably go to a digital radio system is if the existing radio system is more than twenty-five years old and due for replacement. The two major manufacturers of digital radio systems, Motorola, and Ericsson are also major players in the cell phone industry, that is putting out bad press about people with scanners to sell digital PCS cell phones to people who already have analog cell phones. If Motorola and Ericsson use the same selling tactic (who says they won't) then communities will be scared in to buying something they probably can't afford.

3) The Motorla Astro and the Ericsson EDACS systems are incompatible. There is no set standard for digital radio systems. This squabbling over standards is holding back the adoption of digital radio communications. There is a push towards an open standard called APCO Project 25. Motorola and Ericsson's propriatary systems are way too profitable for them to adopt an open standard. If a community goes to a Motorola Astro digital radio communications system then they must go back to Motorola for more radios. Under Project 25 a community with a Project 25 radio system can go to any supplier for radios and therefore get the best price.

Towns, Cities, Counties, States and Provinces are probably are waiting one standard so that they have cross compatible radio communications. For many years to come there will be lots of good monitoring yet to do.

For More Information on:
Motorola Astro
Ericsson EDACS
An Interesting Article on digital radio systems

The Commercialization of Scanning

The emergence of streaming audio over the internet has lead to a number of web sites where anybody at the click of a mouse can monitor police and fire department radio communications from New York, Los Angeles and many other cities. While audio streams into your home computer you also get something else, advertising. While listening to real audio an animated ad banner almost always is seen in the browser window. This could also be seen as what used to be an underground hobby has gone mainstream. The way I see it police/fire departments can use streaming audio web sites as a source of revenue. Ad driven web sites delivering streaming audio of their radio communications can be attractive to cash strapped cities or towns looking for new sources of revenue. If you think about it if a city with a digital radio system can sell an audio feed of their radio communications to an internet company who can put the radio feed on the net as a streaming audio internet feed can sell the banner ads and make a slick profit. Once Cities/towns and states or provinces can get their digital radio systems paid for, reselling radio communications audio feeds mean nothing else than a small profit, giving cities another reason to go to a digital radio system.

It's time for the cell phone industry to get a grip

Monitoring cellular telephones, despite being illegal in the United States is immensly popular. Because of this the companies that produce cellular phones and companies that sell cellular phone service are sounding a alarm about people monitoring on scanners claiming that scanner users are invading the privacy of cell phone customers. Since cellular phones transmit on the public airwaves where nothing is private and is therefore can be monitored. The cell phone industry however still has the idea that what ever said on a cellular phone should be protected from monitoring. Instead of scrambling cell phone signals, the cell phone industry has lobbied governments to pass legislation that places restrictions on what frequencies that can be recieved on a scanner. If the cell phone industry was really concerned about the privacy of their customers' calls they would have
  1. Made cell phones operate on frequencies above 1000 MHz, beyond the frequency range of most scanners and UHF tv tuners.
  2. Scramble all transmissions so the very few scanners that can recieve frequencies above 1000 MHz would not be able to clearly tune in cell phone calls.
By getting the government of the United States to pass anti-scanner laws in 1986, 1994, and 1998 the cell phone industry can claim that they did somthing about a problem that dosen't really exist. Now in selling the next generation of cell phones called "digital PCS" the cell phone industry are now using adverstising that makes scanner users look like sleasy people with nothing better to do than listen in on cell calls. The propergandabeing put out by the cell phone industry is giving the scanner hobby a bad image. The public needs to be educated about scanners and to be told about the lies from the cell phone industry are just that- a pack of lies Scanner users have to contact their elected officials to let them know that placing limits on what parts of the radio frequency spectrum can and cannot be recieved is wrong. Scanner users can and should take a stand against bad legislation based on the lies from the cell phone industry.

Scanner Ethics

Just after the election of the Republican Congress in 1994 one of the cell phone conversations of house speaker Newt Gingrich was recorded by a scanner user and the tape was turned over to the media. That incident spawned bills HR 1964 and 2369 that threatened to end the scanner hobby as we know it. The bills were only ammended a few months later so that it was only illegal to listen to PCS phones such as listening to analog cellular phones are now in the United States. The scanner user that taped Mr. Gingrich acted irresponsibly by turning over to the media. The bills that threatened the scanner hobby were a result of this personĘs actions.

In order to keep scanning free from future govermnent over regulation, scanner users must act in a responsible manner in regards to what they hear on their scanners. Curriently the Canada Radio Communications Act allows scanners without any licencing without any limits as to what can be tuned into. Just as long as what is heard is not used for personal gain. This is a well balenced approach to when it comes to scanning. The public airwaves are exactly that public If anybody has the right to transmit on the air with their cellular, cordless phones, two-way radio systems, etc. Then anybody else has the right to recieve it with a scanner. The auctioning of HDTV, PCS etc. licences are undermining a valueable public resource by trying to privatize it. Scanner users must act within the law even though restrictions on what scanners can recieve may be unfair. If you listen in on a local official talking to his honey on the side leave it alone, donĘt tell anyone! and most certainly donĘt try to cash in on what you heard. Do enjoy scanning but donĘt do something stupid that you or the entire scanner community will regret later.

Scanner Users Reporting crimes

Today In Canada scanner users have to keep information they heard on their scanners to themselves. Even if that means keeping information about crimes in the planning as a big secret. Canadian scanner users cannot legally report information to the police about people heard plotting a crime. The Canadian Communications Privacy act of 1994 allows people to plot crimes on their cordless phones, Cellular phones, Two-way radio while the scanner users¹ hands are tied. If a scanner user reports a crime in planning the people involved in the crime comitted or not go free simply because their right to privacy had been violated by a scanner user. Such laws are leading and will continue lead to criminals getting away with their crimes. In 1995 in the United States a murder plot was foiled when A scanner user heard those involved and reported the plan to the police and those in the murder plot were charged and convicted with conspiracy to comit murder and are currently serving 30 year sentenced each.
With a case like that how could anyone defend the right of criminals to plan out their crimes in private when scanner users could be used as an extra set of ears for the police. With the commumications privacy act is putting a muzzle on scanner users that could be used as a resource for law enforcement. What the Canadian govermnent has done to scanner users is dreadful. Meanwhile in Washington D.C. Congress is threatning to pass a new scanner law after House Speaker Newt Gingrich had a coversation taped and turned over to the media. The American scanner law will limit what scanners can recieve.
Now¹s the time that scanner users need to take a stand. Scanner users have to write, call, fax, or E-mail their representatives and senators to tell them how you feel. You can E-mail the president to tell him to veto this legislation. Tell the Government to get out of our scanner hobby.

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