ARLB096 FCC restructures: Three license classes, one code speed.
Thursday 30 Dec 1999 21:20:46 EST

The FCC has issued its long-awaited Report and Order on amateur licensing 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.

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. The FCC said it may request documentation from a licensee or VEC to verify whether a licensee has passed a telegraphy examination.

The FCC action also authorizes Advanced Class hams to prepare and administer General class examinations, and eliminates Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) station licenses. RACES will remain, however.

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 Technician exam; Element 3 will be a 35-question General exam; and Element 4 will be a 50-question Amateur Extra exam. 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.

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

The FCC disagreed with the League's suggestion that it undertake a restructuring of operating privileges along with licensing restructuring. The Commission said it wanted to give the amateur community a chance to ''reach a consensus'' regarding new technologies before it tried to restructure amateur operating privileges and frequencies.

A copy of the entire Report and Order (FCC 99-412) is available at:      or

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