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Old 30-12-2016, 18:00   #1
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FCC plans to withdraw as accounting authority - affects ship-to-shore comms billing

The US Federal Communications Commission has announced plans to withdraw as an international maritime accounting authority registered with the ITU, and end their practice as default accounting authority in the US. This change primarily affects users of Inmarsat terminals (esp Inmarsat C) and those needing to make an HF or VHF ship-to-shore radiotelephone call.

The FCC had told us they searched their 2016 records, an while there were lots of satellite users taking advantage of this billing service, they found no ship-to-shore radiotelephone users. We asked if there were records or ship-to-shore radiotelephone calls prior to 2016 but they were unable to answer that question.

The advantage of having FCC as a default accounting authority was that you didn't need to sign a contract with them to use it and the service was free until a call was actually made.

International maritime accounting authorities were established years ago as a way of allowing marine telephone operators to bill calls from foreign ships. You wouldn't want to read out your credit card information to a marine operator over the the airwaves! Inmarsat once used this service for billing too but no longer does on newer terminals.

Does anyone still make ship-to-shore radiotelephone calls via a marine operator over VHF or HF??

See the FCC announcement in their Daily Digest released today. They will be seeking comments over the next few weeks (comment deadline has not yet been announced):

1998 BIENNIAL REGULATORY REVIEW - REVIEW OF ACCOUNTS SETTLEMENT IN THE MARITIME MOBILE AND MARITIME MOBILE-SATELLITE RADIO SERVICES AND WITHDRAWAL OF THE COMMISSION AS AN ACCOUNTING AUTHORITY. The Commission proposes to cease operating as an accounting authority for settling accounts for maritime mobile and maritime mobile-satellite radio services.. (Dkt No. 98-96 ). Action by: the Commission. Adopted: 12/22/2016 by FNPRM. (FCC No. 16-179). IB . Contact Dana Shaffer https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/at...-16-179A1.docx
https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/at...C-16-179A1.pdf
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Old 31-12-2016, 05:50   #2
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Re: FCC plans to withdraw as accounting authority - affects ship-to-shore comms billi

I have not made a radio telephone call since I got a cell phone, how many years ago was that?
Yes I know the HF at least works way further than cell, just my experience.
Are there still Marine operators? I thought that went out with collect phone calls?
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Old 31-12-2016, 06:24   #3
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Re: FCC plans to withdraw as accounting authority - affects ship-to-shore comms billi

Cell phones are great....if you don't venture very far offshore.

Beyond that, you're obliged to use a satellite-based system or an HF radio system.

Yes, the famed Marine Operator still exists. Stations WLO, WCL, KNN and KLB on the Gulf and West coasts of the U.S. still operate 24/7 and can place a phone call for you for a modest fee. They operate on several HF frequencies, provide WX and traffic lists, and have a very wide coverage of the oceans.

These stations are operated by ShipComm LLC. www.shipcom.com

From their December 2016 description,

"ShipCom is the United States only 24 hour provider of HF SSB radiotelephone and VHF radiotelephone Ship to Shore voice service. ShipCom stations WLO WCL KLB and KNN are all remotely controlled from Mobile, Alabama where operators are on duty 24 hours per day 7 days per week for radiotelephone Ship to Shore and Shore to Ship calls."

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Old 31-12-2016, 17:30   #4
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Re: FCC plans to withdraw as accounting authority - affects ship-to-shore comms billi

I talked to Rene Stiegler, owner/operator of Shipcom though he's mostly retired now, when we learned FCC planned to go ahead with this. I don't think Shipcom will be affected too much. At least I hope they won't. Ship com is the last public coast station in the US that I am aware of that is still open. I am however concerned about the cruiser w/o SATCOM half way around the world, wanting to make a ship-shore call and discovering it was no longer possible to do so using FCC as a default accounting authority. So many marine operators/public coast stations have now closed, and most mariners cruising on the other side of the world wisely carry SATCOM, that I suspect FCC's action won't have as much of an impact on them as it would have when FCC first raised this over 15 years ago. Nevertheless I'm not certain.

However, I do expect that not a few users of legacy Inmarsat equipment (Inmarsat C primarily since the mini-M, -B and the legacy systems have shut down) will unexpectedly find their satellite terminals barred as a consequence of FCC's pending decision. I hope Inmarsat gives them some warning and a reasonable alternative. Inmarsat is also a US-registered accounting authority so this need not be a problem for their users.
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Old 31-12-2016, 18:39   #5
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Re: FCC plans to withdraw as accounting authority - affects ship-to-shore comms billi

For cruisers in SE Asia, the Western Pacific, Indian Oceans, and Australasia there's still Brunei Bay Radio, providing comprehensive services.

Brunei Bay Radio - HF radio services for cruising SE Asia in recreational small-craft

And, of course, there's something like 700,000 or more amateur radio stations outside the U.S., most operating with English as their mode of communication.

What good is it to contact them? Well, lots actually. You don't necessarily have to communicate directly with a marine emergency station, as was demonstrated again just last week.

The USCG operates a voluntary registry of all ships at sea, AMVER, and has used this very effectively to route commercial ships to distressed vessels. This system was instrumental in saving four sailors and their dog some 290nm off the East Coast of the U.S. on Wednesday by routing a 590ft commercial vessel to pick them up. A phone call to the Coast Guard from anyone, anywhere could well have activated this rescue.

Satphones are great -- when they work -- but HF/SSB is still very much a system you can depend on worldwide to get attention and summon help in a bona fide emergency.

Bill
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