Growing concern within the amateur radio community over the proposed closure of WWV-WWVH

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08/21/2018

ARRL members and amateur radio clubs are expressing heightened concern over the inclusion of WWV and WWVH on a list of cuts proposed to the White House National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Budget request for fiscal year 2019. Proposed reductions would also include WWVB’s atomic clock signal used to synchronize specially equipped clocks and watches. Online petitions seeking signatures include a compiled by Tom Kelly II, W7NSS, of Portland, Oregon, who would like to see funding for stations continued. At this point, the line item is only a proposal, not a final decision. That would be up to Congress to decide.

The ARRL is among those concerned about the possible loss of WWV, WWVH and WWVB and suggests that members of the amateur radio community who value stations for their accurate time and frequency signals and other information sign Kelly’s petition and/or contact their members of Congress promptly, explaining how the stations are important to them, beyond government and military use.

Kelly’s petition, which can be signed by US residents, notes that WWV is one of the oldest radio stations in the United States, having been established in 1920. “The station transmits official United States time for nearly 100 years and has been instrumental in the field of telecommunications, ranging from broadcasting to scientific research and education,” her petition reads. “In addition, these stations transmit marine storm warnings from the Weather Service national, GPS satellite health reports and specific information regarding current solar activity and radio propagation conditions.These broadcasts are an essential resource for the global communications industry.

NIST budget request for the full fiscal year 2019 in Congress asks the agency to “cease broadcasting of the U.S. time and frequency via NIST radio stations in Hawaii and Fort Collins, Colorado.” The agency noted, “These radio stations transmit signals that are used to synchronize consumer electronics products like wall clocks, clock radios, and wristwatches, and may be used in other applications like devices, cameras and irrigation controllers.” The specific reduction, which would come from the NIST Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science and Measurement Dissemination budget, would amount to $6.3 million.

In its budget request, NIST said it plans to consolidate and focus work on its quantum science efforts while maintaining essential core capabilities in measurement science research and measurement dissemination, as well as that by eliminating “efforts that have been superseded by new technologies, measurement science, research that falls outside of NIST’s primary mission space, and programs that can no longer be supported due to the deterioration of facilities.

WWV and WWVH broadcast time and frequency information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including time announcements, standard time intervals, standard frequencies, UT1 time corrections, a code BCD schedule, geophysical alerts and marine storm warnings. Transmissions are broadcast from separate transmitters on 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz. An experimental 25 MHz signal is also currently being broadcast. WWVB transmits standard Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) signals on 60 kHz to appropriately equipped timing devices.

NIST public relations director Gail Porter told Tom Witherspoon, K4SWL – editor of The SWLing postwhich has been following developments – that NIST “is proud of the time and frequency services we provide through our radio stations, and understands that these services are important to many people.

NIST Director Walter Copan supported the overall budget request. “This budget request ensures that NIST can continue to work at the frontiers of measurement science by preserving investments in basic metrology research,” Copan said. “Through its constitutionally mandated role, NIST is doing work that only government can do, and delivering an enormous return on investment for American taxpayers. Translating measures into technically sound standards across all sectors enables efficient international trade and US competitiveness.

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