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USA WWVB station (for Multi-Band 6) faces possible shutdown

August 23, 2018

Multi-Band 6 is a useful feature on many Casio timepieces that allows a watch to synchronize the time with atomic clocks by receiving information from radio waves. There are five radio transmitters that provide this service throughout Japan, Europe, and China, and one in the U.S.A. The U.S. station is located in Fort Collins, Colorado, and is known as the WWVB station which is run by a government entity, the National Institute of Standards and Time. This station is now in danger of being shut down in proposed NIST budget cuts for 2019. The shutdown would also possibly include the WWV (the country’s oldest radio station in continuous operation since 1920) and WWHV shortwave stations that broadcast time, frequency, and emergency information.

Casio products are not the only ones that will be affected by a shutdown, as there are many other consumer, professional, industrial, and scientific products that utilize this technology and service. Wired called the WWVB “The Most Important Radio Station You’ve Never Heard Of” in 2013. It’s hard to imagine the government wanting to end this seemingly essential service but that is exactly what we are looking at.

The WWV, WWHV, and WWVB stations are not mentioned specifically by name in the full proposal or the summary, but in reviewing the proposal ARRL.org reports “NIST’s full Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request to Congress calls for the agency to ‘discontinue the dissemination of the US time and frequency via the NIST radio stations in Hawaii and Fort Collins, Colorado.’ The agency noted, ‘These radio stations transmit signals that are used to synchronize consumer electronic products like wall clocks, clock radios, and wristwatches, and may be used in other applications like appliances, cameras, and irrigation controllers.'” So it seems clear that the WWVB station is being targeted by this proposal and that the WWV and WWHV stations are likely targets as well. At this stage, the cuts are just a proposal and will need approval from Congress before being implemented. As to why the NIST wants to shut down the radio stations, it apparently believes they are no longer essential and are becoming obsolete due to newer technologies.

If you feel that the NIST radio stations should remain in operation, we suggest contacting your local Member of Congress. There is also a White House petition to maintain the WWV and WWHV funding.

The complete NIST Fiscal Year 2019 Budgest Submission To Congress can be found here in PDF format. (Warning: 34.9MB PDF file)

Sources: swling.com and arrl.org (thanks to tomchicago and GaryK30)

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