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Radio rule change could affect local farmers

County on track

Staff writer

Farmers will be among the businesses and agencies affected by a federal rule change regarding radio frequencies, Marion County Emergency Management and Communications Director Michele Abbott said Monday.

In order to allow more radio operators, the Federal Communications Commission ruled in 1999 that licensees must switch to narrow-band frequencies by 2013. The change will roughly double the number of usable frequencies, Abbott said.

Terril Eberhard, of rural Peabody, is one of many farmers in Marion County that operate business band radio systems. He has about nine radios among his trucks and implements. He was not surprised that more frequencies were needed.

“I can see that, because there is an overlap,” Eberhard said.

He said his radios can be programmed, but he was unsure whether they could be programmed to meet the new standard. If compliance is too costly, he will drop the radios and use only cell phones. He uses cell phones for quite a bit of operations already.

Other agencies affected by the change include schools, public works departments, and emergency services, Abbott said. Marion County fire, law enforcement, and ambulance services are well on their way to compliance.

Marion County has replaced outdated and broken radio units with ones that can be programmed for narrow-band use over the past five years. Abbott also has received grants to speed up the changeover.

“I think that we’re in a really good place,” Abbott said.

Reprogramming units is the biggest obstacle remaining for the county, she said. That will become a coordination issue.

Last modified Jan. 6, 2010

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