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FCC liscensing changes

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is all in black and white.
Read and understand as you will.
Just the facts.

Happy New Year!

73, Scott

NEWINGTON, CT, Dec 30, 1999--Amateur Radio will get a new look in the new
millennium. The FCC today issued its long-awaited Report and Order in the
1998 Biennial Regulatory Review of Part 97--more commonly known as "license
restructuring." The bottom line is that starting April 15, 2000, there will
be three license classes--Technician, General, and Amateur Extra--and a
single Morse code requirement--5 WPM.

"We believe that an individual's ability to demonstrate increased Morse
code proficiency is not necessarily indicative of that individual's ability
to contribute to the advancement of the radio art," the FCC said.

Besides drastically streamlining the Amateur Radio licensing process, the
FCC said its actions would "eliminate unnecessary requirements that may
discourage or limit individuals from becoming trained operators,
technicians, and electronic experts."

Although no new Novice and Advanced licenses will be issued after the
effective date of the Report and Order, the FCC does not plan to
automatically upgrade any existing license privileges. The
ARRL had proposed a one-time across-the-board upgrading of current Novice
and Tech Plus licensees to General class, but the FCC declined to adopt the
idea. This means that current licensees will retain their current operating
privileges, including access to various modes and subbands, and will be
able to renew their licenses indefinitely.

Starting April 15, 2000, individuals who qualified for the Technician class
license prior to March 21, 1987, will be able to upgrade to General class
by providing documentary proof to a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator, paying
an application fee, and completing FCC Form 605.

The FCC's decision not to automatically upgrade Novice and Tech Plus
licensees means the current Novice/Tech Plus HF subbands will remain and
not be "refarmed" to higher class licensees as the ARRL had proposed. The
FCC said it did not refarm these subbands because there was "no consensus"
within the amateur community as to what to do with them.

As it had proposed earlier, the FCC decided to lump Technician and Tech
Plus licensees into a single licensee database, all designated as
"Technician" licensees. Those who can document having passed the 5 WPM
Morse code examination will continue to have the current Tech Plus HF
privileges. "If documentation is needed to verify whether a licensee has
passed a telegraphy examination, we may request the documentation from that
licensee or the VECs," the FCC said.

In addition to reducing the number of license classes from six to three and
eliminating the 20 and 13 WPM code tests, the FCC also will reduce the
number of written examination elements from five to three, authorize
Advanced Class hams to prepare and administer General class examinations,
and eliminate Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) station
licenses. RACES will remain, however. "After review of the record, we
conclude that we should eliminate RACES station licenses because RACES
station licenses are unnecessary for amateur stations and amateur service
licenses to provide emergency communications," the FCC said.

Under the new licensing scheme, there will be four examination elements.
Element 1 will be the 5 WPM Morse code exam. Element 2 will be a
35-question written test to obtain a Technician license; Element 3 will be
a 35-question written test to obtain a General license, and Element 4 will
be a 50-question written test for the Amateur Extra license. The FCC has
left it in the hands of the National Conference of VECs Question Pool
Committee to determine the specific mix and makeup of written examination
questions. Current Amateur Radio study materials remain valid at least
until the new rules become effective in April.

The FCC's new licensing plan means someone will be able to become a ham by
passing a single 35-question written examination. The plan also simplifies
and shortens the upgrade path from the ground floor through Amateur
Extra--especially since amateurs will only have to pass one Morse code test.

Elimination of the 13 and 20 WPM Morse requirements also means an end to
physician certification waivers for applicants claiming an inability to
pass the Morse code examination due to physical handicap.

The effective date provides a window of upgrade opportunity for current
Advanced licensees. Between now and April 15, current Advanced holders may
take the existing Element 4B, a 40-question test, giving them credit for
having passed the current Extra written examination. Likewise, holders of a
Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) for Elements 3B
or 4B dated on or after April 17, 1999, will be able to qualify for General
or Amateur Extra respectively when the new rules go into effect on April
15, 2000.

The FCC disagreed with the League's suggestion that it undertake a
restructuring of operating privileges along with licensing restructuring.
"We believe that in light of ongoing discussions concerning implementation
of new and more modern communications technologies within the amateur
service community, we should accord the amateur service community an
opportunity to complete such discussions and possibly reach a consensus
regarding implementation of new technologies before we undertake a
comprehensive restructuring of the amateur service operating privileges and
frequencies," the FCC said in its Report and Order.

In its amendments to Part 97, the FCC's Report and Order refers to a "Club
Station Call Sign Administrator," something that does not exist under the
current rules and which was not explained in the R&O itself. An FCC
spokesperson said the Commission plans to issue a Public Notice soon to
explain the program and to solicit qualified entities to serve as call sign
administrators for club station applications.


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