Breaking the Rules
PLEASE NOTE THIS DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT CONDONE, ENCOURAGE, OR OTHERWISE PROVIDE ANY HELP with violating FCC Radio regulations. The following information is for reference to be used by those who wish to avoid or correct the mistakes common among some “problem” operators, or in the case of modification data, for conversion of radio equipment for use by licensed operators in other bands. I will not answer emails with questions regarding any of this information, or requests for similar data (in other words, if it ain’t here, I ain’t got it).
As with anything in life, pushing the envelope is risky if you are an expert, dangerous if you have some knowledge to work with, and just plain stupid (and often fatal) if you don’t know what you are doing, or are careless about how you do it. Radio is no different, especially CB. You can often commit rule violations (most of which fall under CB Rule #13, above) on CB and get away with it – but the more stupid you are about it, the quicker you’ll be busted for it. But also be aware that even using your head, there is still a risk involved with breaking the rules, no matter how careful you are; i.e., “shit happens”. For those who insist on pushing the limits, or want to see what bone-headed things their CB buddy next door is doing, here are some of the more common “cheats” that people use on CB Radio, along with the smart way to do things and the dumb way to get caught doing each:
|THE “CHEAT”||STUPID WAY||SMART WAY|
|DX or “Skip” Communication(Talking with stations over 160 miles away)||This one is hard to screw up, but some manage. Aside from having the bad luck of living next door to an FCC monitor station, about the only other way to fall foul in this one is to broadcast personal information that identifies you, while you are doing it.||Never give out your exact address (many operators narrow it down to a county or nearby major city) or full name. If you wish to exchange QSL cards to confirm the contact, use an email to exchange mailing information, or get a post office box that lets you give out an anonymous PO Box number to the person on the other end.|
|Excessive Power Output||Using bad, poorly adjusted equipment (either in the CB or an external amplifier) is a sure way to get busted for causing interference. Or using ridiculous power levels, especially at a fixed Base Station.||If you are going to insist on using a “tweaked” CB and or a linear amplifier, make sure you are using tuned equipment. If you don’t know how to do this or know someone who does, then don’t use high power – unless you enjoy paying fines and losing equipment. CB radio has frequency harmonics in bands that are very quickly noticed when interfered with – Television being the most notable. Equipment out of tune will interfere with all kinds of radio/TV systems. High power levels can easily place stray audio signals on any audio equipment in the neighborhood: stereos, VCRs, and other home electronics to name a few. The quickest way to having the FCC down your throat is to hook up your Brand X Afterburner linear amplifier and blitz your neighbor’s Sunday afternoon Football game.|
|Excessive Antenna Height||Make sure you plant a monster antenna “farm” high in the air so that it destroys your neighbor’s pristine view of the sunset, or overhangs his yard.||Again, this is a no-brainer, and one you have to play by ear. A lot of us LIKE having that antenna farm, and that’s fine as long as your station is legal. BUT…. if you are over the line, whether it’s the antenna height rule or some other infraction, drawing attention by irritating your neighbors is something to avoid. If they are fine with your DX Skyscraper Antenna scraping the clouds, then fine. But if they aren’t happy with it, and you wish to run a little power or do other illegal things, you had best avoid putting an 80 ft tall signpost on your house that says “come get me!”|
|Internal Radio Modifications||Have your CB tweaked up by that guy you met at the flea market, then hop on the radio and enjoy the extra power, and crank the microphone modulation up. Maybe even play with the “funny channels” he added in for you!||When your radio was built, it went thru a procedure called an “alignment”. To simplify what this does, it basically ensures that all the parts of the radio are in tune with each other. It is often possible by using a tuning screwdriver or soldering iron in the right spot to change various settings in your radio: power levels, modulation limiting, frequency ranges. But doing this without re-performing an alignment afterward can cause all sorts of problems. It’s similar to being in the shower with the hot and cold water set just right at a certain water pressure. Turn UP the pressure on the Hot Water, and you have to match it with the Cold Water, or get scalded. An improperly aligned radio is often out of tune and causes interference to other CBs and even other radio services. Make sure a “tweaked” radio is done by someone who knows how to do it right, and then test it for stray signals as much as possible. If neighbors mention any odd TV or radio issues, DO NOT IGNORE THEM, FIX THEM.|
|Out Of Band Operation||Make sure you pick the perfect frequency to spend hours jawing with a buddy away from the noisy legal channels; you know, somewhere in the middle of a popular Ham band, or on the remote pickup frequency for a local radio or Tv station! Most of the CB’ers who get busted with this one were clueless (or were too lazy to check) that legitimate users often have reserved frequencies just a little outside the CB band.||This is one area you are playing with fire, especially in today’s RF spectrum battles. Aside from Ham bands nearby, there are frequencies in use by remote broadcast pickups, commercial licensees, and even the military. If you keep careful track of these (they change occasionally) and know exactly what you are doing, you can probably take advantage of this, but otherwise, you’re asking for it.|
|Sound Effects (bells, beeps, whistles, echoes)||After spending a minute or two trying to get someone to talk to you, spend the next 30 minutes using these sound effects to make sure everyone notices you enough to NEVER talk to you.||Smartest thing to do with sound effects is to never use them. A possible exception is using what is known as a “roger beep” that gives the NASA style beep when you complete a transmission (unkey the microphone), which is useful is high-noise environments. Other than that, you only succeed in letting everyone know you have a 10 year old’s personality.|
|Advertising (Political or Commercial)||Tie up an already busy channel letting everyone know about your garage sale. No brains involved to do this.||Not only illegal, but boring. A no-brainer.|
|Rebroadcasting||Let everyone listen to you favorite CD or FM station via your microphone, regardless of how lousy the song or garbled the modulation is.||technically, ANY rebroadcasting is wrong (except emergency traffic), but there are circumstances where it might be very useful to rebroadcast communications from another system (such as GMRS, etc) for informational purposes. Common sense should prevail here.|
|Criminal Activities, Obscene Language, Transmitting A False “MayDay”, Deliberate Interference (keying radio or playing music to block others from using a channel, or to mess with TV or radio reception)||Any of these acts are a sure ticket to jail or a fine if you are caught, since they attract angry attention from not only CBers, but the public in general. Don’t be stupid, and don’t do them, at all.||There is no “smart” way to do something this screwed up.|
So, all of that said, what is the most important thing you can do to stay out of hot water? The answer is very simple: DON’T PISS PEOPLE OFF. Be courteous and use good judgement in your operations, and most likely the FCC will never know who you are, regardless of what you do.
|Remember: A Pirate’s Treasure is his ‘Booty’! – Cap’n Swoop|