WWV Losing funding? What about our 'radio controlled watches and clocks?

Discussion in 'Member News and Views' started by thistledome2, Aug 21, 2018.

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  1. thistledome2

    thistledome2 Registered User
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    See copied article below. Has the NAWCC established a position?

    NIST FY 2019 Budget Would Eliminate WWV and WWVH
    08/11/2018
    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) FY 2019 budget request includes shutting down “NIST radio stations in Colorado and Hawaii” — in other words, WWV and WWVH. Radio amateurs, HF listeners, and others around the world routinely make use of the time and frequency standard signals, which also include propagation information. NIST said eliminating funding currently “supporting fundamental measurement dissemination” would include putting WWV and WWVH off the air for a saving of $6.3 million. The NIST FY 2019 budget request for efforts related to Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science and Measurement Dissemination is $127 million, which, the agency said, is a net decrease of $49 million from FY 2018 levels. The Administration's overall NIST budget request is more than $629 million.
     
  2. Tim Orr

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    Good evening!

    Could you please cite a URL for a source regarding the elimination of WWV and WWVH, so I can pass this along to others?

    Thanks!

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
  3. Kevin W.

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  4. Tim Orr

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    Good evening, Kevin!

    Many thanks!

    Best regards!

    Tim
     
  5. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    I'm guessing the uproar caused by such a shut-down would change some minds about doing it ;)
     
  6. Tim Orr

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    #6 Tim Orr, Aug 22, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
    Good evening, all!

    I saw the note above to the effect that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the USA is considering closing down its standard time and frequency radio stations in Hawaii and Colorado. To avoid a charge of spreading "fake news," I contacted NIST to check this. Here is the response I got:

    ==========================================================================================================================

    NIST has a long-standing history of providing time and frequency services through our radio stations and we appreciate that many people use these services. NIST’s WWV is the longest continuously-operating radio service in the U.S.

    At the same time, the proposed NIST budget for FY 2019 required difficult choices about budget priorities.

    The President’s full NIST FY 2019 budget request to the Congress is available at the link below, including a brief description of why the shutdown of NIST’s time and frequency radio stations is proposed. The proposal includes shutdown of NIST’s three radio stations, WWV, WWVH, and WWVB, which communicates with consumer clocks, watches, broadcasting systems and other devices. It is important to note that no changes to NIST services have occurred, and if the proposal were to be implemented, public notice would be provided.


    http://www.osec.doc.gov/bmi/budget/FY19CBJ/NIST_and_NTIS_FY2019_President's_Budget_for_508_comp.pdf. see page NIST-25.

    Here is a link to the NIST Budget Table for the FY2019 Presidential Request.

    Also, for context, it may be helpful to view links to press releases issued in May and June 2018 by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Committees on Appropriations about the FY2019 budget process.


    ==========================================================================================================================

    There wasn't much I could glean from the 184-page document the NIST spokesperson suggested above. Basically, it says that NIST has been asked to cut its budget in this area by about 20 percent.

    On the NIST website, this turned up ( Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science and Measurement Dissemination ):

    "Illustrative program reductions in FY 2019

    "-$6.3 million supporting fundamental measurement dissemination, including the shutdown of NIST radio stations in Colorado and Hawaii"


    What's the result? If these "program reductions" take place, all of our "Atomic Clocks" and radio-controlled watches will cease to register accurate time.

    They will turn into nothing better than simple quartz timepieces. And some with mechanical displays won't even be that good, because many of these mechanical movements are deliberately designed to run a tad fast, so they can be brought into synchronization by stopping them momentarily (Easier to brake than to accelerate).

    I don't know what we can do about this. My best suggestion would probably be to contact Senators and Congresspersons:

    SENATORS: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact

    CONGRESSPERSONS: https://www.house.gov/representatives

    (If a semicolon appears at the end of the link, delete it before pasting it into your browser. In your browser window, this may show up as " %C2%A0 " after the last word, either "contact" or "representatives")

    I consider this pretty important. Not only does it reflect a dismaying tendency to discount the value of science. It also will render literally millions of clocks, watches and other timepieces nearly worthless. We're not talking a lot of money in the bigger picture of government spending. I see a world in which we'll have no way of knowing the correct time except by looking at a cell phone. If your cell phone is like my iPhone, the only way you'll get the seconds is by looking at the tiny clock icon that's on the phone.

    Best regards,

    Tim Orr
     
  7. glenhead

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    This is bleep politics, pure and simple. It would cause the level of havoc we would anticipate, and there's not a snowball's chance in Hades it would actually happen. Pure clickbait headline from Slashdot - the operative word there is "May". I'm surprised it didn't say "Number six will astound you!" The ONLY thing that could possibly happen from this is the privatization of NIST or parts of it. We'd end up with a TimeX (oh, wait) like we have SpaceX filling the void (and the puns keep rolling, thank you) NASA's funding cuts left behind.

    Glen
     
  8. shutterbug

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    I know that the satellites used for GPS navigation have atomic clocks built into them and send signals to better GPS units to sync time. Maybe they could be accessed for future use, but as stated, the clocks and watches depending on radio signals will be useless if this happens.
     
  9. glenhead

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    I just read that the 60khz signal used for "atomic" clocks will not be turned off. The only ones they're threatening to defund are the ones you can receive with a shortwave radio.

    Glen
     
  10. Tim Orr

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    Good afternoon!

    I don't know what to tell you: The response in BOLDFACE between the dashed lines came directly from a NIST representative in direct response to a direct question in an e-mail by me to NIST on August 22, 2018. I don't know how it can get any more definitive than that. The NIST website repeats the same statement.

    [EXCERPT from NIST response]
    "The proposal includes shutdown of NIST’s three radio stations, WWV, WWVH, and WWVB, which communicates with consumer clocks, watches, broadcasting systems and other devices."

    WWVB is the station that provides the time signals for "atomic" clocks.

    None of this came from Slashdot or any other website other than NIST's.

    If anyone has a source for the report that the "atomic" clock signal will continue, I would be happy to see it and investigate. I thought I was doing appropriate due diligence by contacting NIST directly.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
  11. glenhead

    glenhead Registered User
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    I stand corrected. I read the budget proposal document the NIST submitted, and they say they'll "discontinue the dissemination of the U.S. time and frequency via the NIST radio stations in Hawaii and Ft. Collins, CO." The statement is tucked into a paragraph about how they'll "reduce programs focused on environmental measurements" and quit "measuring the impact of aerosols on pollution and climate change" and other stuff. The other things in the paragraph are red flags - "Lookie here! If you cut our budget, we're going to quit studying THIS! And we know lots of people think THIS is really-really important! Ha ha haaaa!"

    Again, politics. Privatize it and get it over with. The standards-providing radio signals are another bludgeon they're holding over the heads of the other politicians. The chaos that would result if they suddenly shut down those signals would be amazing to stand back and watch. Go ahead - shut them down - I double-dog dare ya. Then have guts enough to take the full blame for the riots. If it stays part of the guv'mint, shutting down the signal that hundreds of millions of people depend on for their fancy gizmos would guarantee funding. "Oh, you mean we can stop the riots if we give you money for that? Here ya go. Next in line, please!"

    Privatize it. Set up a gofundme page to keep the transmitters turned on. It's not like they're going to shut down the master clock in Ft. Collins - the Internet depends on that. Or they could let the ham radio community take over maintenance of the radios. Heck, I'd drive there to play with them...

    Glen
     
  12. Tom McIntyre

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    I think the master clock is in Boulder. The transmitter is in Ft. Collins.

    We have quite a few great horologists in that area, maybe the NAWCC should take over operating the time signals.

    The problem in doing it commercially is that there is no current direct income from the service. Infrastructure is one of the few really good reasons to have government and taxes.
     
  13. Tim Orr

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    Good afternoon, all!

    Tom is correct. The master clocks (It is actually plural) are not too far from me, on South Broadway in Boulder. The transmitter site in Fort Collins (about 50 miles away), I am told, was chosen because of some extraordinarily good ground conductivity in the soil beneath it.

    When Tom refers to horologists in the Boulder area, he is certainly not referring to me. I suspect people like Dave Cooper (NAWCC Pritchard Award winner), Bill Tapp, Greg Frauenhof, Tim Schulz, Ken Reindel, etc., are more likely the ones he has in mind.

    Here is something from NIST's own website ( All Time, All the Time: Improving NIST Radio ), from 2011:


    "According to the latest estimates, there are at least 50 million radio-controlled clocks in operation (and another few million wristwatches) all receiving accurate time from WWVB's 60 kHz broadcast—and approximately a million new commercial radio-controlled products are sold each year."


    This would be mostly, of course, in the USA, Canada, Mexico, and other nearby locations. My understanding is that similar radio-controlled clock services are, or were, available in Britain, Germany, Japan, and probably other places.

    And I agree with Tom. There is no practical way for any private enterprise to make money off such a service. While I believe the National Institute of Standards and Technology plays a vital role in science, technology and commerce (It is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce), I have strong doubts any private operator could do the job well, if motivated only by profit.

    Best regards,

    Tim Orr
     
  14. shutterbug

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    If this proposal goes through, there's going to be a huge uproar. Especially twice a year when daylight saving time switches. Wait for it :D
     
  15. Tim Orr

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    Good evening, all!

    Turns out there are a lot more devices dependent on WWVB long-wave, low-frequency, 60 khz time signals than just radio-controlled clocks (as if 50 million of those isn't enough!). I will post details as soon as I can.

    While it still would be good to contact your Representatives and Senators, someone has also created a petition. You can find it here:

    Maintain funding for NIST stations WWV & WWVH | We the People: Your Voice in Our Government

    There is also an excellent technical article with numerous comments here:

    NIST FY2019 budget includes request to shutdown WWV, WWVH, and WWVB

    If you think private industry will take this over, dream on. Never going to happen. And, at $6.3 million, this system is pocket change for our government.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
  16. shutterbug

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    The real problem is probably not funding, but a fight for existing wave lengths. With cell phones now using radio frequencies, the remaining ones are in short supply, and on the block. I believe that's what happened to analog TV as well.
     
  17. Tom Wilcox

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    Is there SOMEWAY the NAWCC could take this over and charge for it to cover the costs?
     
  18. shutterbug

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    With out a way to know who owns radio controlled clocks and watches, I don't see a way to charge for it. The only way would be to come up with an entirely new system, and hope that manufacturers would jump on the wagon.
     
  19. Tim Orr

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    Good evening, all!

    By the way, if we assume about 150 million taxpayers in the USA, the $6.3 million to be saved by cutting WWV, WWVH, and WWVB services, which amounts to a lot more than just time signals, but also standard frequency signals, radio propagation forecasts, etc., etc., etc., we taxpayers will be saving about a nickel apiece per year (on average, irrespective of our tax brackets or incomes).

    Assuming about 50 million radio-controlled clocks, that's about 13 cents a year each to keep them showing correct time.

    Seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to me.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
  20. FDelGreco

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    This is how we might do it if we were to take over.

    First we'd encrypt the broadcast signal. Then users would have to buy an app from the app store that is downloaded to their wi-fi hot spot in their home or office. The app rebroadcasts the decoded signal. Obviously, when you leave home or the office your wristwatch won't get the signal but would be updated when you return. We would make money on the app.

    Frank
     
  21. Kevin W.

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    I for one would not mind paying a reasonable fee for the service.
     
  22. Tim Orr

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    Good afternoon, all!

    Jim Price of the Wichita chapter (#63), sent this notice today. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL), an association of amateur radio operators, has joined others in decrying this shutdown of a vital service over a piddling amount of money ($6.3 million in a budget of over $4 trillion, maybe 0.00014 percent):

    Concern Rising within Amateur Radio Community over WWV-WWVH Shut Down Proposal

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
  23. Tim Orr

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    Good evening, all!

    I am weak on some technical issues: Is there a way for a cell phone app to transmit a continuous 60 kHz signal, as is required by most of these radio-controlled clocks?

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
  24. glenhead

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  25. shutterbug

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    I'm not so sure. They have apps that tune things, and apps that purport to chase away mosquitoes and other insects. I think it might be possible to duplicate just about any frequency (if that's enough).
     
  26. MartinM

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  27. glenhead

    glenhead Registered User
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    I did my best at staying away. I really did. Time for a healthy dollop of Truth.

    There's a reason I said "no" about this being handled with an app. I'm an Extra-class amateur radio operator who spends his daylight hours messing with cell phones.

    The broadcasts you can get on 5, 10, 15, etc. mHz aren't relevant to the devices that use WWVB for their "this is what time it is" signal. That signal is broadcast at 60 kHz. Ok, yeah, so maybe you can get a smartphone to generate a 60kHz signal. All you'd have to do is add a separate antenna and a separate transmitter into the phone. (The ones that are there now are incapable of generating or propagating a signal at that frequency.) Good luck finding any cellphone manufacturer that will do that. They have enough problems with battery drain as it is.

    The 60kHz signal itself isn't the important part. The data that's sent out in that 60kHz signal is what's important. Yeah, so you could generate that data with a smartphone. And you could tie it in with the time algorithms on the phone so it puts out a self-accurate representation. The local devices that rely on that signal could then sync to it.

    A big problem is that "local" devices aren't quite so local when dealing with lower frequencies. A 60 kHz penetrates really, really well. Walls, floors, ceilings, trees; nothing is going to do much to attenuate a 60 kHz signal. I'm sure there are others who remember listening to KOMA radio on AM 1520 (kHz) at night. KOMA is out of Oklahoma City, and you could bring it in all over the nation after dark. You can still get an AM radio signal from well over a hundred miles away. Contrast that against an FM signal in the 100 mHz range. You might get a hundred miles in really good propagation conditions; it usually peters out before 50. The lower the frequency, the better it penetrates. That's why they can use ELF to communicate with submarines under water anywhere on earth.

    Why does this matter? Your 60 kHz signal is going to conflict with your next-door neighbor's 60 kHz signal and all the other 60 kHz signals within several blocks if not miles. Good luck finding a device that has enough signal selection and filtering capability to choose from fifty or sixty signals that are slightly off.

    End of dollop. Now the opinion part.

    This whole thing has done exactly what the NIST meant for it to do. It has caused an explosion in a whole bunch of consumer communities. There are now many petitions and fill-in-the-blank forms to send to your Representatives and Senators and blah blah blah. I'm waiting for the nationwide candlelight vigil.

    As has been pointed out, the money required for this is less than a poot in the Federal windstorm. The NIST is going to go in and say, "See? We told you we're important. If you don't want us to kill this and freak out your constituents, we need the funding for all these other programs, too. Shall we begin the fiscal dance?"

    Politics.

    73
    Glen, the skeptical curmudgeon
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  28. MartinM

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    Glen,
    I'm no stranger to this kind of thinking. It's the same place all "Use it or lose it" budgets come from.
    Cal Fire is doing it in California after they enacted an illegal tax ($117 from every household that's not several miles within a large urban area.), collected it for three years and subsequently lost it due to the outrage. They may need to pay it back to those who protested by survived their onerous and unadvertised protest process.
    So now, their SOP is to quickly contain small fires to 85% and let them smolder at that point for several days rather than putting them out, sucking up all the budgeted money so they can demand more. I shudder to think that some of the lives we've lost this fire season were due to such political shenanigans when they got overconfident..
     
  29. shutterbug

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    Lets not let this turn into a political discussion guys. Not allowed here ;)
     
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  30. Tim Orr

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    Good afternoon, all!

    Thanks, Shutterbug! I agree wholeheartedly.

    These are public services, offered at no charge at present (unless you consider your tax dollars, which I previously reported at about a nickel per year per taxpayer). Some, by virtue of propagation are available mostly only in the USA and maybe Canada and Mexico. Others are available worldwide, depending on propagation and your receiver and antenna. Most of the services offered by NIST via broadcast are valuable and worthy things, including WWVB's time signals.

    A friend (who has much greater knowledge of such things than I) suggested to me, " ...perhaps ham radio guys could build a low power 60khz mesh network rebroadcasting GPS controlled time signals." I confess I don't know quite what that means, but I believe the guy who said it does.

    I do not think, until totally new receiver clocks and watches are designed and built, there will be any revenue model that can support such broadcasts. As Glen pointed out, the difficulties with an app would probably preclude success. Even then, I think it's a problem: If you bought a watch or clock, would you also buy some sort of annual subscription to the service, like to Sirius/XM? Or would you buy a lifetime subscription as part of the price of the clock or watch? And I guess it would be transferable if you sold the watch or clock?

    I do not see NIST's selling off or giving away its transmitter and other facilities. Besides, who would buy them? And how would the new owner interface with NIST to get the time, frequency, propagation information, etc.? Would they have to pay NIST for these things? Or could they cut back service to time signals only, which presumably, they could derive from GPS? And how would the new owner make any money off the service? By offering radio commercials inbetween time signals? Would a Wikipedia contribution model work? I get begging notices from them all the time. Sometimes, I even contribute.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
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  31. Tim Orr

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    Good afternoon, all!

    Perhaps some good news: One of my friends in Tennessee sent a letter to Representative Jim Cooper, who responded that he is well aware of this possible shutdown and opposes it. Cooper says, speaking of the reliance we have on GPS and its vulnerability to attack and sabotage:

    "We do have systems to back up GPS if a satellite went down. One system in place for mitigating the disabled or destroyed GPS signals are the radio stations operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These stations’ send out low frequency signals that can be received inside buildings and serve as an important backup, allowing millions of clocks to be set either manually or automatically.

    "The Trump administration is trying to eliminate this critical backup, even though these stations are one of the few defenses we have to prevent a catastrophe. Congress rejected the President’s cuts last year and is poised to do so once again this year." [Emphasis mine.]

    I realize there are some who may resent the intrusion of specific politics into this thread. However, please bear in mind that I am making a direct quote from the Congressman's letter. NIST's own documents, cited above, reveal that these cuts were not NIST's desire or idea.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
  32. Tom Wilcox

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    What other groups are protesting, and how many members do they each have? Could we contact their presidents and have a discussion on a possible new series of partnerships, potential new members and new revenue source?
     
  33. Tom Wilcox

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    Yes to subscription service.Yes to possible advertising revenue. What will NIST do with all their assets? Bargain Price or donation might be reasonable to pursue. Don't know much on this but can see the connection to our being the premier time organization, the exposure and good will gained, huge potential new member base, new areas for further donations, one of our members was responsible for creation of GPS (good tie in), AND our first big step into representing the future of timepieces and sciene and technology on timekeeping. A HUGE statement about the relevancy of the NAWCC to the future. A HUGE credibility statement as well as to our importance and need for continued existence.
     

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