W3BE'S BE Informed!
Home1.0 W3BE Checklists1.1 RF Safety1.2 Antenna Structures1.3 Quiet Zones1.4 60 Meter Privileges1.5 Take A Paying Job?1.6 Hams At Sea1.7 Imported Radios1.8.0 Reciprocal Privileges1.8.1 For Canadians1.8.2 Reciprocal I.D.1.8.3 More Reciprocal Q&A1.8.4 Hear Something Say Something1.9 Third Party Communications1.10 Incentive Licensing1.11 GEPs and GAPs1.12 Hamslanguage1.13 Visiting Operators1.14 Terms in Part 971.15 Amateur Station?1.16 Licenses & Call Signs1.17 All About Spectrum1.18 Transmitter Stability1.19 Selling Over Ham Radio1.20 Still an Amateur?1.21 Use My Station?1.22 Digi-Standards1.23 No Secrets1.24 Where's My License?1.25 Spectrum Management1.26 A Little Bit Commercial1.27 What is CW?2.0 Ham Needs To Know2.1 VE System Management2.2 What A VE Does2.3 Remote Testing2.4 Get Your Pools Right2.8 GOTA Experience: License Qualifier?2.12 Former Hams2.13 The Hunt for Stereotype W2.14 VE's Universe2.15 More HF for Techs2.16 Can A VE Accept Pay2.17 VEC Supposed To Do2.18 Significance of license2.19 Enough Operator Classes?3.0 Smell Test3.1 Maintenance Monitoring3.2 International/domestic3.3 Excuses3.4 Heed The Rules!3.5 Regulatable3.6 No Broadcasting3.7 Station Records4.0 Which Call Sign?4.1 Self-assigned indicator4.2 Station ID4.3 ID Every 10 minutes4.5 Indicator Schedule4.6 Special Event 1 by 14.7 Non-Appended Indicator4.8 Club Station ID5.0 Alternatives To Exams5.1 VPoD Protocols5.3 Big Red Switch6.0 Constitution Go-By6.1 What Ia A Radio Club?6.2 School Radio Club6.3 Club Stations Control Op6.4 Radio Club Repeater Station7.0 EmComm7.2 RACES7.3 Commercial Communications7.11 Supposed To Be7.12 Emergency Responders & Part 978.0 Repeaters & Part 978.1 Auxiliary Stations & Part 978.2 Remote Control, Telecommand & Part 978.3 Frequency Coordination8.4 Automatic Control & Part 978.5 The Internet & Part 978.6 Beacons & Part 978.7 Automatic Control & Part 978.8 Frequency Coordination & Part 9710.0 Comments in RM-1170810.2 Deceased's Call Sign10.3 A New Era for Ham Radio10.4 New Era Q/A10.5 Four Operator Classes10.6 Novice ArtifactQUIZ



Q. I am aware that there are advocates for a reactivation of the Novice Operator Class as some sort of entry-level license directed toward privileges that a "new generation" of young hams actually want. That would make it a four step operator structure. How many operator classes are enough?

A. The most recent revisit to that question was in WT Docket No. 05-235 In the Matter of Amendment of Part 97 of the Commission’s Rules to Implement WRC-03 Regulations Applicable to Requirements for Operator Licenses in the Amateur Radio Service. Petitions were considered for two and four operator license classes.   

   These petitions were denied. Our regulator stated: We do not believe it appropriate to alter the current number of amateur service operator license classes. Its reasoning was because the petitions did not show not that the current three-class license structure does not meet the needs of the amateur service community or otherwise does not serve the public interest.

Q. Why is it in the public interest to have any amateur operator licensing?

A. The need for a radio station operated by a duly authorized person interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest was decided by Congress. Read The Communications Act of 1934 at SEC. 3. [47 USC 153](2). In the ensuing years, the matter of the qualifications of a duly authorized person has received much attention. It shows no indication of being resolved permanently.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because things change. Ever since radio technique emerged from the telegraphy spark-gap until today, the perception of the role for amateurs fulfilling some lacking public interest needs has changed. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, amateurs were a respected source of radio-telegraphers and vacuum tube-based circuitry technologists. Their home-built apparatus was more or less abreast to that produced commercially. Today, most amateur station apparatus is imported commercially. 

   Most recently, as an example, our regulator reported to Congress on its expectation for us to provide an alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by an emergency.

Q. What is it then that causes so many holdouts to the present three class Tech-General-Extra structure?

A. Getting the answer to that question right is puzzling indeed. It cannot be because of our Section 97.501 qualifying examinations for the basic Technician Operator class license grant; they are far short of the vast privileges gained. Maybe those privileges are just too “old school” for occupying time on one’s modern agenda. On the other hand, maybe the holdouts have done some listening on our ham bands and just don’t want to join in.

For more Q/A on this topic, read How Many Operator Classes Are Enough? BE Informed No. 2.19         

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Click for FCC Hurricane Maria Communications Status Report

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Q. In the aftermath of a disaster where all communications between local hospitals, fire departments, and power companies are totally or partially interrupted, is special FCC authority necessary to install a ham radio repeater for one year or less?

A. No. Any amateur station licensed to a holder of a Technician, General, Advanced, or Amateur Extra Class operator license may be a Section 97.205 repeater station. Section 97.3(a)(22) frequency coordination, however, is recommended.

Q. The maximum power will be 300 watts.

A. Careful! Consult a VE-certified amateur operator on this matter of transmitting power. Section 97.13(c) says: Before causing or allowing an amateur station to transmit from any place where the operation of the station could cause human exposure to RF electromagnetic field levels in excess of those allowed under §1.1310 of this chapter, the licensee is required to take certain actions. (1) The licensee must perform the routine RF environmental evaluation prescribed by §1.1307(b) of this chapter, if the power of the licensee's station exceeds the limits. Assuming the contemplated repeater station would transmit on a VHF band, the limit is 50 watts ERP.

   (2) If the routine environmental evaluation indicates that the RF electromagnetic fields could exceed the limits contained in §1.1310 of this chapter in accessible areas, the licensee must take action to prevent human exposure to such RF electromagnetic fields. Further information on evaluating compliance with these limits can be found in the FCC's OET Bulletin Number 65, “Evaluating Compliance with FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields.”

Q. Would the hospital need a call sign?

A. No, but the repeater station and user stations would have to make Section 97.119 station identification announcements: each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions. No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals, or transmit as the station call sign, any call sign not authorized to the station.

   If for some other reason, the call sign assigned to the Section 97.5(b)(1) primary station of the licensee is unsatisfactory to you, you might consider having a VE-certified amateur operator obtain a Section 97.5(b)(2) club station license grant.

Q. If we didn’t have enough hams to provide 24/7 communications, could we use unlicensed operators? We would do a basic training.

A. Yes, under the Section 97.403 safety of life and protection of property (“EmComm 403”) priority situation. It says: No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.

    Our amateur service field day participants utilize a protocol as an alternate to VE-certification as a way for persons to “get on the air” with stations occupying radio spectrum allocated to our amateur service. It popularity seems to have spread to other endeavors: contesting, networks, DXing, and rag-chewing.

Q. The GOTA as used in Field Day operations have licensed amateurs as monitors to ensure correct operation.

A. Then that needs some fixing in order to comport with Section 97.7. It says a Section 97.105 control operator is required:

    When transmitting, each amateur station must have a control operator. The control operator must be a person:

   (a) For whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the ULS consolidated licensee database, or

   (b) Who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part.

    There are no codified provisions for non-VE certified persons to carry out the duties of the  Section 97.105 control operator.

   (a) The control operator must ensure the immediate proper operation of the station, regardless of the type of control.

   (b) A station may only be operated in the manner and to the extent permitted by the privileges authorized for the class of operator license held by the control operator.

Q. I don't know that EmComm 403 would allow health and wellbeing traffic, if there was no "immediate" threat to life or property.

A. So you need a definition of the term immediate. Until that is forthcoming, one clue that we can look to is that our regulator has informed Congress that it expects us to provide an alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by an emergency. This alternative infrastructure is the network of amateur radio operators and their stations that relay messages, build and maintain repeater stations and repeater networks, operate HF message networks to send messages greater distances than are practical with mobile or transportable transmitters, and develop new technologies to improve the reliability of these networks.

   Another clue is codified in Section 97.113(a)(3)(i). It says a station licensee or station control operator may participate on behalf of an employer in an emergency preparedness or disaster readiness test or drill, limited to the duration and scope of such test or drill, and operational testing immediately prior to such test or drill. Tests or drills that are not government-sponsored are limited to a total time of one hour per week; except that no more than twice in any calendar year, they may be conducted for a period not to exceed 72 hours. Should the scope of an EmComm 403 come into question, the system could carry on as operational testing immediately prior to a Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) test or drill. For Q/A on this protocol, read Commercial Communications and Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) Operational Testing BE Informed No. 7.3.

    For more Q/A on this topic, read Isn’t Amateur Radio Supposed to Be for Emergencies? BE Informed No. 7.11

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Q. Our amateur service community organizers seem to want to bring still another segment of the general population into our amateur service community: those persons who are unmotivated to obtain either the expert Amateur Extra, the journeyperson General, or even the basic Technician Class Operator license. Do we really need a new, lower fourth step on the upgrade ladder?

A. Some apparently do think so. There has been a dramatic shift in the makeup of our amateur service community. Through most of the 20th century, possession of an FCC-issued amateur operator license was the respected credential of an accomplished duly authorized person interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest who was proficient in self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations.

   Since then, any operator class other than Amateur Extra is more often the mark of a less-than-fully qualified student operator maybe-maybe not endeavoring to climb at his/her own pace. As of October 2, 2017, there were only 150,173 (18.8% of total) top-of-the-ladder Amateur Extra Class operators while over 50% of our amateur service community were at the first-step Technician Class.

Q. It’s difficult to accept the proposition that a new “entry-level” operator class comprised of folks who aren’t interested enough to obtain a Technician Class operator license would be magically transformed into life-long active seekers of ham radio knowledge.   

A. So it is. And if the easy-to-get Technician is any indicator, a fourth easier-than-Technician operator license class would load up the ULS even faster.

Q. Don’t those of us duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest who want to conduct self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations have any protection from those who aim to tinker with the exams as a means of recruiting more licensees for their own purposes?

A. There is No. 53 of the ITU Radio Regulations (Geneva, 1990) - the essence of which is carried over to the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, then on to Section 2.1, and finally to Section 97.3(a)(4). It clearly defines our amateur service as being intended for bona fide amateurs such as yourself.

Q. There are all sorts of accredited schools, colleges, etc. available for learning. Our regulator is not the Department of Education. It should stick to authorizing persons who have proven their operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee.

A. For Q/A on that topic, read What Does the Possession of an Amateur Radio License Signify? BE Informed No. 2.18.

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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. 

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 Act.)

   (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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