Reaction to Bill 118

Reaction from amateurs across Ontario and from as far away as the US is coming in fast and furious to the provincial government’s decision to ban the use of hand-held devices on two-way radios in mobile installations in three years.

This three-year exemption that applies to the use of hand-held microphones associated with all two-way radios (not just amateur radios) allows us time to either incorporate hands-free devices (a VOX headset or VOX mic on a swivel stand attached to the sunvisor for example would comply with the ruling as would a Bluetooth interface which is already available commercially for one radio at this time) or time to organize and lobby for a permanent exemption.

While we may not agree with the research (or lack thereof) that the government used to make this ruling, we have the next three years to create a more positive outcome.

And, while it is human nature to react strongly, we might stop to realize that this is a great victory for amateur radio. We long feared, based on government staff questions, that amateur radio alone might have been immediately and severely adversely affected by Bill 118 and that commercial radio of all types including taxis and pizza delivery people might have been exempted. That did not happen.

RAC, along with the Canadian Association of Rally Sport, the Toronto FM Society, and individual amateurs including Vince d’Eon, VE6LK/3 and others lobbied long and hard over the last year to convince the government staffers, committee members and the Minister that the use of a hand-held microphone did not contribute to distracted driving and thus should be exempt from Bill 118.

Our position as stated remains the same and we would encourage individual operators to work together to create a united front able to offer well-researched information to help the government understand the error of its ways. So it comes down now to who among us willing to step up and form a working committee??

12 Responses to “Reaction to Bill 118”


  • We have only breathing space I hope this will wake up Ham Community to lobby there MPs and to work with are own ham groups clubs etc. Every one who is not member of RAC Should join now and get active on this and other concerns that effect the Amateur Radio Community
    73. VA3GAK

  • We have only breathing space I hope this will wake up Ham Community to lobby there MPs and to work with are own ham groups clubs etc. Every one who is not member of RAC Should join now and get active on this and other concerns that effect the Amateur Radio Community
    73. VA3GAK

  • How can a 3 year grace period be applied when C118 does NOT apply to two-way radios in the first place? My two-way radio, as is, is not capable of telephone communication, text messages or any other data transmission.

  • Rob;

    Have a look at: http://news.ontario.ca/mto/en/2009/09/ontarios-new-rules-for-hand-held-wireless-and-entertainment-devices.html

    Highlights: (if they can be called that!)

    “The use of hand-held radios by amateur radio operators (who provide assistance, especially in emergency situations such as severe storms and blackouts) will be phased out within three years, to allow hands-free technologies to be developed. ”

    “To help these businesses stay competitive, Ontario is granting a three-year phase-out period for the commercial use of two-way radios, including mobile and CB radios, to allow for hands-free technologies to be developed. ”

    “Hand-mikes (push-to-talk systems) and portable radios (walkie-talkies) may be used in a hands-free mode. This would mean the driver can use a lapel button or other hands-free application as long as the hand-mike or walkie-talkies is not held while driving.”

  • I’ve written to the Minister twice now and all I get back is the same ‘what a wonderful job we’re doing’ letter outlining the legislation. The last letter I recieved indicated that the regulations would be ‘the same as in other jurisdictions’ where this type of legislation has been introduced.

    Obviously, they’ve lied again. You simply can’t trust these politicians to actually read anything you send them. They don’t pay any attention to the actual ‘facts of the matter’.

    I’m willing to help in any way I can to get this over-turned.

  • I think the recent decisions by the Minister are disappointing and in many ways short sighted. Past and present disasters and emergency situations have proven that commercial communications systems are usually one of the most vulnerable services in such instances. One has only to reflect on the ice storm of the 90s. As I drove from Toronto to Brockville to halfway an emergency delivery hydro and cell phone towers were falling like dominos. Satellite phones and other communication media are also undependable in times of severe weather.

    Notwithstanding the above, I think it’s time amateurs took the bull by the horns and work to find solutions to these issues. Its amazing how little gear is currently available for mobile use. VOX headsets are currently only available for handhelds and are mostly ineffective. Bluetooth is very limited and other forms of headsets etc. are clearly not designed with safe mobile usage in mind. I’ve tried almost every Bluetooth solution out there for phones and none of them are impressive to me at this time. Also, do we really want continuous RF this close to our heads. That said, some of the current units may be used with limited effect.

    We (amateurs) need to develop better headsets and microphone systems for mobile use as well as better audio switching systems for use with multiple transceivers. Look at aviation as an example of hands free radio usage. We, above all, should be able to work with this regulation given we have three years to become compliant. Time to break-out the soldering irons.

  • OK, guys – let’s back off the rhetoric a bit! There is no doubt in my mind that having two hands on the wheel is safer than having one hand on the wheel! Therefore notwithstanding the provisions of Bill 118 it would still be in the interests of road safety to have some form of hands-free operation when we are operating mobile.
    One of the biggest issues I see is activating the press-to-talk in the absence of a microphone. There is also the side issue that many mobile radios have function keys on the mic which can be programmed to scan or access memory channels and/or memory banks with one push of a button whereas accessing these features from the front of the radio tends to be more complex.
    The PTT could be overcome with either VOX (not so useful in some circumstances) or maybe preferably a “toggle-on, toggle-off” PTT that would avoid the need to keep the switch pressed during the transmission. Maybe the microphone could be parallelled with the headset wiring to retain functionality of its keys?
    Headsets for amateur transceivers are already available from several sources and there is also an after-market Bluetooth unit that can be used on most transceivers so the genesis of equipment compliant with Bill 118 is already there. As Larry says in his comments – “Time to break out the soldering irons”!!!

  • Really, what is all the fuss about? Many hams already use headsets with their base stations, with a PTT switch on the floor. Surely with a little ingenuity, a PTT switch can be designed to mount on the steering wheel, where BOTH hands are supposed to be while driving anyhow. Now, if the government wishes to allow a tax exemption to cover the cost of these headsets……………….
    However, having said this, let us consider the ramifications for a First Responder. Now he not only has to stop the vehicle and get gear out of the back of the vehicle but he now has to have somewhere to place the infernal headset, unless it is equipped with either a damn quick-disconnect or is wireless to his radio – not good choices when mere seconds can mean the difference between life and death.
    No, our government has dropped the ball on this one.
    Glenn Killam VE3GNA STM Ontario

  • Now that I’ve ‘cooled off’ a bit, I’ve been able to put a few points together to show just how stupid this law is as it relates to amateur radio operators. Most of what I’m referring to here applies to VHF and UHF mobile radios. HF is another story.

    1) Hand held microphones as used by police, fire, ambulance, AND amateurs are ‘close talking microphones’ also known as ‘noise cancelling microphones’.

    They’re called that for a reason. In a vehicle traveling on the road, background noise will be as loud as the person speaking if the microphone is not very close to the speaker’s mouth. This isn’t acceptable. That’s why we use the microphones we do.

    2) Most of the time, in a mobile amateur installation, the hand mic is hung up on its hook on the dash, or it sits in the lap of the operator. You don’t hold the silly thing all the time! You pick it up, press a button you don’t have to look for, speak (usually brief if moving), release the button and drop the hand mic back into your lap. I think you’ll agree that that’s the way most hams do it. It’s the way it was designed to be used.

    3) We all agree that distracted driving IS a problem. But the EXPERTS agree that it’s not what’s in your hand that’s dangerous, it’s what’s in your mind! You HAVE to pay attention to the road FIRST. I’m 63 now, and have been a licensed ‘ham’ since I was 15 years old. I built a mobile rig for my dad’s car and used it from the time I was 16 and earned my driver’s license. In all that time, I’ve never even heard of an accident caused by a ‘microphone’!

    4) Hanging a microphone from my sun visor would be legal if I used a foot switch. Which do you suppose is more ‘distracting’? I’ll have this ‘thing’ I either have to look around, or I’ll have to keep reaching for it and swinging it over in front of my mouth to speak while I fumble around looking for a foot switch….or my hand mic?

    5) Many amateur radio clubs, and individuals have, on their own time and expense have built a network of repeaters and links that are ‘world class’. The emergency communication skill of amateurs is well documented. The public service record of ‘hams’ is outstanding. If we are not allowed to use our radios in the manner for which they were designed, what incentive is there for amateurs to continue to invest hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in a mobile installation? What’s the purpose of repeaters in the first place?

    6) Again, we all agree that some are simply not capable of driving and using a cell phone. I can’t understand anyone who ‘texts’ while driving. There should be a ‘stupid law’ to cover that one. The ‘hands free’ answer doesn’t quite measure up either. Many will resort to those things you stick in your ear. It is ‘hands free’ and I expect ‘legal’. However, you now have someone who’s half deaf! They may not hear that police siren coming up behind them. Again, it’s what’s in your head that counts. I suspect that listening to a heated discussion on the radio that you’re interested in could be ‘distracting’. It’s what’s in your head and you can’t ‘legislate’ that.

    Mr. Bradley was a teacher. He should know that.

    7) If hand mics are THAT dangerous then why on earth would we allow the police, fire and ambulance operators use them? Are their lives worth less than ours?

    I believe we have to work with the Ontario Trucker’s Association and whatever organization there is for Taxi companies. As amateurs, we’re only a few thousand strong and the government feels they can ignore us and we’ll just ‘go away’.

    I also urge every ham to WRITE YOUR MP! Tell them about what we do and how dumb this is.

    73 to all

  • I guess that should have been MPP

  • Just a thought – we have been concentrating on the hand-held microphone aspect but no-one has commented on the issue of displays being readable by the driver. Since the display on a mobile rig is not essential to the safe operation of the vehicle, would we technically be in violation of the law even if using hands-free?
    The quasi-channelized operations on 2m/440MHz would be less of an issue than HF mobile, I would think, since the latter typically requires tuning a VFO across the band and making other adjustments.

  • Hm-m-mmm….re-reading the section on the ban of hand-mic’s, it comes under the heading “Commercial Drivers.” Now, hams are NOT commercial drivers so are we indeed affected by the ban?

    Furthermore, under the heading “Emergency Resonse Personnel” it states: “The use of HAND-HELD RADIOS (emphasis added) by amateur radio operators…. will be phased out within three years, to allow hands-free technologies to be developed.” So again, are amateurs using a conventional mobile rig affected?

    Just food for thought….

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