Both ham and CB Radio allow individuals to communicate with others via select radio frequencies. Tight rules governing both services mean that you can’t use a ham radio to answer a CB radio call because the FCC doesn’t allow modified equipment to be used in the CB radio bands.
Ham radio allows transmissions on a variety of bands that the Federal Communications Commission has set aside for amateur radio use. In the US, the high frequency bands ham radio operators are permitted to use are the 160, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, and 10 meter bands. CB radios operate in the 11 meter band. While CB radio frequencies fall between two ham radio bands, ham radios cannot transmit on 11 meters.
Ham radio operators must obtain a license in order to operate their radios, whereas CB radios require no license. The FCC mandates that all CB radios be certified by the agency itself (see ref 2 § 95.409): ham radios do not have this certification. While some ham radios may be able to listen to the frequencies set aside for CB radio, they will not be able to transmit. This means a CB call cannot be answered with a ham radio.
Methods exist to modify a ham radio so that it transmits on CB radio frequencies. These instructions can be found on the Internet, although FCC rules make this process illegal. Only licensed radio amateurs are permitted to make modifications to their equipment per FCC rules, but are likewise banned from modifying certified CB radios. Similarly, modifying a CB radio to operate on nearby ham radio frequencies is also illegal and voids its certification.
Use of either CB or ham radios for use that is not consistent with FCC rules puts the operator at risk of monetary fines and/or loss of operating privileges. Under FCC rules, each violation can carry up to a $10,000 fine (up to a maximum of $75,000) and in some cases a prison term of up to one year. The FCC does levy these fines: in 2012, a CB user in Alaska was fined $12,500 for causing interference to air traffic control using non-certified equipment.
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