Wireless Ship Act of 1910
The Wireless Ship Act was passed by the United States Congress in 1910, requiring all ships of the United States traveling over two-hundred miles off the coast and carrying over fifty passengers to be equipped with wireless radio equipment with a range of one-hundred miles. The legislation was prompted by a shipping accident in 1909, where a single wireless operator saved the lives of 1,200 people.
The Act did not alleviate the problem, existing at the time, of interference between multiple users of the radio spectrum. In fact, by mandating increased use by shipping, it may well have exacerbated the problem. There was already an ongoing conflict between amateur radio operators and the U.S. Navy and private companies. Amateur radio enthusiasts regarded the new medium as a wide-open new frontier, free from government regulation and corporate influence. They fought against government and corporate encroachment in many ways, including by sending fake distress calls and obscene messages to naval radio stations, and forged naval commands sending navy boats on spurious missions. It was this, in addition to the public outcry after the sinking of the RMS Titanic and an international convention agreed in London, that caused Congress to replace the Wireless Ship Act with the Radio Act of 1912.
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