Q. Has incentive
licensing been effective?
At least there have been no outcries about our ineptitude like those heard from our 1964-era military, legal, manufacturer,
academia, and civil defense critics. For some background on this topic, read What Was Incentive Licensing? BE Informed No. 1.10.
Q. Is incentive licensing still the
Yes. Section 97.1(c) still says that our regulator has designed its rules and regulations in Part 97 so as to provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art. Various provisions consistent with this commitment are codified throughout the document.
They are most notably in Section 97.301 where transmitting frequency bands are made available to amateur stations according to the class of license grant held by
its Section 97.105 control operator, be it Technician, General, Advanced, or Amateur Extra.
Caution: FCC amateur service licensees should be
aware that our regulator has informed Congress that it has tasked our amateur service with an awesome responsibility. It expects
us to provide an alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by an emergency.
Q. The most persuasive incentive for advancing
one’s skills may be that offered by the Section 97.3(a)(11)(i) sequential call sign system.
A. Exactly. Therein, the call sign is
selected by the FCC from an alphabetized list corresponding to the geographic region of the licensee's mailing address and
operator class: Group A for Amateur Extra, Group B for Advanced, Group C for General, and Group D for Technician. Read
sequential callsign system.
A call sign, therefore, can
indicate to listeners how far the Section 97.103 station licensee has advanced his/her skills in the communication and technical phases of the art. Such recognition of one’s achievement
can be a very meaningful incentive to an amateur for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of
Q. Does that also apply
for a vanity call sign?
Yes. Section 97.19(d) says: The vanity call sign requested by an applicant must be selected from the group of call signs corresponding to the
same or lower class of operator license held by the applicant as designated in the sequential call sign system.
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Q. Ham radio has been transforming in recent years. It has become a social media with some very earthy
chit-chat, indeed, being transmitted. I am beginning to wonder if ham radio is still regulatable.
A. If you are referring to ham radio being
regulatable according to Part 97, you may be expecting too much. Those rules are intended for radio spectrum usage by legitimate Section 97.3(a)(4) amateurs: persons interested in self-training, intercommunication, and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, i.e.,
duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
It should not be surprising, therefore,
that the codified rules may be deemed overly burdensome to phone operators not holding predominately this unique interest.
Strong language message over-the-air intercommunication between amateurs pursuing their interests in self-training and technical
investigation obviously was not foreseen by our early 20th Century regulators. Their perception seems to have been
a settled amateur service community of technology-inquisitive telegraphy-skilled operators.
Q. Profanity seems to have become prevalent on some bands. Has that probation
There has been no recent amendment to Section 97.113(a)(4). It continues to prohibit the transmission of obscene or indecent words or language on all of our ham bands.
As with other facets of our culture, however, it does seem that stronger language has become fashionable generally.
Q. The band where potty-mouth talk is most prevalent
seems to be 75 meters, with 40 and 20 meters next. 17 meters seems to have become the antisocial-free band.
A. To keep the rules abreast of practice,
maybe the Section 97.113(a)(4) prohibition on the transmission of obscene or indecent words or language should be amended to apply only certain bands. Then
a G to X rating system could be developed to forewarn listeners who are offended by such language and parents who do not want
their children exposed to such language.
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Q. How did amateur radio come about?
A. As radio technology
began its emergence at the dawn of the 20th Century, our pioneering advocates successfully argued that small segments
throughout the radio spectrum be set aside as non-commercial preserves for exclusive use by persons interested in self-training,
intercommunication, and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, i.e., duly authorized persons interested
in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
Q. So, what happened?
A. In the early 1940s, our amateur service community contributed to our World War
II effort a very-much needed resource of telegraphers and radio technologists. We also had to give up all of our radio spectrum
allocations for the duration.
In the early 1950s, over the strong objections of amateur service community organizers, our regulator rewrote its rules with
the intent of providing an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in five principles. Those expectations
still reside in Section 97.1 even though their implementation commitment may be suspect. It also established a government-managed Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) that is supposed to utilize amateur stations and control operators on limited shared/appropriated amateur service
spectrum. All of our amateur spectrum was subsequently opened to RACES.
Q. When did it veer away from bona fide amateurs?.
A. In 2005, our U.S. amateur service community organizers re-directed
their constituency ambitions toward the general citizenry. In RM-10870, our Section 97.519 volunteer-examiner coordinators petitioned our regulator to make our amateur service radio available to as many citizens as possible. When the FCC denied
the petition and confirmed the status quo, our VEs reacted by abruptly replacing the Element 2 question pool with a less-demanding edition. The result has been exceptionally effective in changing our demographics - our citizen/Technician
Operator class now comprises about half of our amateur service community.
In effect, our very own amateur service community has brought about a reallocation
of its own making. Our radio spectrum has been self-repurposed into a social media for as many citizens as possible to openly
chitchat about nothing of importance. For this usage, the examinations are all but meaningless.
In 2012, our regulator reported to Congress that our amateur service offers an alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by (an)
emergency. Note that our regulator did not deem the potential for amateur radio being of sufficient value in emergency
response situations such as to warrant additional allocations of radio spectrum for that specific purpose. Nor did it open
up any government spectrum for amateur stations to utilize for doing such government work. Nor did it withhold any of our
amateur service spectrum allocations from this activity. Our amateur service communications, in effect, became but secondary
on our own spectrum. Read It’s All About $pectrum - What Is Our Purpose Now? BE Informed No. 1.17.
Furthermore, it made available our amateur spectrum to Section 97.103 station licensees or Section 97.105 control operators for the purpose of participating on behalf of employers in emergency preparedness or disaster readiness tests or drills and
operational testing immediately prior to such tests or drills. Read Commercial Communications and Section 97.113(a)(3)(i)
Operational Testing BE Informed No. 7.3.
Q. So why wouldn’t
all hams want to comply with the rules?
just do not respect our amateur service enough to care what the rules say. Others may consider Part 97 to be inconvenient to comply with, and being sluggish in staying technologically abreast of consumer electronics
For still more reasons, read Collection
of Excuses – A WIP compilation of reasons for not complying with our amateur service rules BE Informed No. 3.3.
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Amateur radio is
as old as the radio art. Intended as a non-commercial radio service for hobbyists, it has become a tradition-encrusted, largely
unstructured, “hear and be heard,” two-way world-wide social media. It relies upon control operators – peer-certified
in the U.S. - performing properly certain duties that are deeply rooted in mid-19th century telegraphy communications. The
rules were translated from legalese into plain language over a generation ago. They have been amended from time-to-time as
our regulator has deemed necessary, with the expectation of us offering an alternative to the commercial communications
infrastructure impacted by (an) emergency.
Read the Rules - Heed the Rules!
Our ham radio is an internationally
recognized hobby. It is comprised of millions of amateur operators worldwide who must know how to cause or allow their amateur
stations to transmit properly. We utilize electromagnetic radiation technology that knows no political borders. We are, consequently,
subject to wide ranging domestic and international regulation. A working knowledge of the relevant rules is essential to not
endangering ourselves, our families, or our neighbors; and to not disrupting other radio communications.
What are the penalties for violating the rules?
(a) If the FCC finds that you have willfully
or repeatedly violated the Communications Act or the FCC Rules, you may have to pay as much as $10,000 for each violation, up to a total of $75,000. (See Section 503(b) of the Communications
(b) If the FCC finds that you have violated any section of the Communications Act or the FCC Rules, you may be ordered to
stop whatever action caused the violation. (See Section 312(b) of the Communications Act.)
(c) If a Federal court finds that you have
willfully and knowingly violated any FCC Rule, you may be fined up to $500 for each day you committed the violation. (See
Section 502 of the Communications Act.)
(d) If a Federal court finds that you have willfully and knowingly violated any provision of
the Communications Act, you may be fined up to $10,000, or you may be imprisoned for one year, or both. (See Section 501 of
the Communications Act.)
[48 FR 24890, June 3, 1983, as amended at 57 FR 40343, Sept. 3, 1992]
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