The readers always write: What should service shops do?
Last month, the USMSS — a nationwide association of Motorola service partners — submitted a filing with the FCC seeking clarification regarding the rules and liabilities that service shops face when they are asked to work on radio equipment that does not comply with narrowbanding rules. When asked about the situation at the time, USMSS Executive Director Bill Dow told Urgent Communications that service shops were being put in a difficult situation, because some were being forced to choose between following FCC rules or losing business.
"They'll leave one of my members' location and go down the street to someone who says, 'I've got no problem with [adding the non-compliant frequencies],'" Dow said. "It puts us at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace — we would lose that customer.
"Not everybody plays by the same rules. If they're in this business, certainly there is a set of rules we should follow, but unfortunately, not everybody does."
Wondering how our readers felt about the issue, we posted a poll question on our website. As is often the case, our readers responded with vigor. Not only did 241 cast a vote on the subject (see graphic with results), 38 provided comments that varied widely in length and opinion.
Most respondents said that a service shop in this situation should follow the letter of the law, even if it means losing a customer.
"In my opinion, programming the customer's radio would be like selling a gun to a person who knowingly failed their background check," one commenter wrote. "It may be mostly the owner's responsibility to be legal, but why would we willingly aid them in breaking the law?"
But several other commenters argued that keeping the customer happy should be a service shop's first priority.
"One can certainly tell we not only have a bunch of (rats) on here, but a bunch of radio police who don't know much except to jump the gun," one commenter wrote. "If a customer brings me a wideband-only radio … and he wants to put it on GMRS (462), I am going to do it."
"The station licensee is the only one responsible for legal operation of his transmitter, not the repair tech," wrote another commenter. "If the station licensee has requested a change to his equipment that is in violation, he is the only one responsible for the consequences and the one to get a citation. Just have documentation that he requested the change ready if the FCC asks."
But this particular position elicited one very pointed response: "Obviously you don't know the true definition of ethics as long as dollar signs are in your eyes."
Meanwhile, several other commenters opined that while service shops should follow the law and refuse the business, they should not be put in the position of having to enforce FCC rules.
"Is a repair technician really required to examine all documentation associated with a licensee's operation prior to repairing a radio? If the licensee says, 'Make this radio work on my system,' then maybe so," one such commenter wrote. "If, on the other hand, the licensee comes into the shop and asks for specific frequencies and bands, then the licensee bears the responsibility for legal operation.
"Ethics requires us to highlight any issues we identify or suspect — and document we have done so — but we are not enforcers; we are not lawyers."
Upon hearing the results of our unscientific poll, Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) President/CEO Mark Crosby said that he was impressed that 90% of the votes cast called for service shops to follow the letter of the law and refuse service.
Meanwhile, Dow said yesterday that he was pleased with the FCC's order that was released on March 14, expressing support for its clarifications and noting that it provides service shops with methods to contact the FCC with any questions.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.