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BE Informed No. 1.16  

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Of Licenses and Call Signs

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. I have moved to a different QTH and obtained a new call sign. My old license document, however, shows it expiring at a future date. What should I do with it?

A. Your old license document has been superseded. There isn’t any rule requiring you to do anything with your superseded license document. As a result of operator class upgrading, changing of names and mail addresses and the obtaining of vanity call signs, there can be a lot of superseded license documents out there that probably appear valid to those who are not aware of the ULS and the license-by-rule provisions codified in Section 97.5, Section 97.9, and Section 97.107. That could mean there is some risk of having your document fall into the hands of persons who would misuse it in your name or as an altered document. If you don’t want to destroy the document, permanently mark it superseded and keep it secure in your station records.

Q. How, then, does the FCC authorize me as a licensee?

A. You are an FCC amateur service licensee only when the ULS shows that you have an FCC license grant and that you are authorized to have a in Section 97.5 station transmitting on amateur service frequencies.

Q. I have heard that U.S. hams won’t be receiving license documents anymore. True?

A. Not exactly. But you may have to take action if you want to receive a paper from our regulator showing your authorization the next time that you file to renew, upgrade, relocate, or change your name. The FCC no longer routinely mails via the United States Postal Service a paper license whenever your personal licensing data is revised. Our regulator deems the electronic version of your authorization stored in its ULS database as the official “document.” You can also print out paper screenshots of your ULS “document.”

Q. I want a license document directly from the FCC. How can I do that?

A. If you want to also receive a similar paper screenshot by mail from the FCC, you may have to take action. With your Internet-connecting device, access the ULS, log into the License Manager home page, and make certain that your print preference is shown as "Yes - to Receive Paper Authorizations." If not, change it to that setting and click on the screen “Save” button. FYI: The W3BE listing initially showed “No.” The authoritative status of this superfluous paper copy is so far unclear.

Q. How do I log onto the License Manager home page?

A. You will need your 10 digits FRN number (found from a search of the ULS on your station call sign.) You will also need your personal password. If you do not know it, click on the “Contact Tech Support” link, and click the “Reset Password” button to follow the prompts for resetting your password.

   There may still be the temporary link “Change your paper authorization preferences here” superimposed upon a green bar across the top of the License Manager home page. If not, the permanent link “Set Paper Authorization Preferences” can be found in the navigation bar on the left side of the License Manager home page.

   Regardless of your paper/no paper choice, your permissions are – and have been for some years - codified in the rules. Firstly, there is Section 97.5 Station license required. It says in pertinent part: (a) The station apparatus must be under the physical control of a person named in an amateur station license grant on the ULS consolidated license database or a person authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part, before the station may transmit on any amateur service frequency from any place that is: (1) Within 50 km of the Earth's surface and at a place where the amateur service is regulated by the FCC; (more)

   Secondly, there is Section 97.7 Control operator required. It says: 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.

   Always rely upon the ULS listing directly. Assuming this government database is un-hack-able, it should be far more dependable than a paper screenshot. A document may or may not be authentic because forgery seems to have become easier than ever. Also, the ULS should presumably show your most current information. A paper screenshot may always not be current, depending upon when it was printed.

Q. My uncle was a ham in Michigan back in the 1950s. I would like to get his former call sign but he isn't his old self and doesn't remember his call sign.  How can I find out what it was?

A.  The FCC licensee database in the mid-20th Century was before computers took over that work. It was an awkward labor-intensive paper-bounded process. Periodically, Call-Book Magazine would publish the then-current printout, but indexed only by call sign. So, if there is no one who knows his old call sign, your only option is to search, line-by-line, a Call-Book Magazine from that era. Residing in Michigan during the 1950s, it is likely his call sign prefix was W8.

   Contact Radio Amateur Call Sign Historian Pete Varounis, NL7XM, before tossing out any old Call-Book Magazine.  "Pete the Greek" offers us an old amateur station call sign lookup service. He will find a first license date as shown in his extensive collection. E-mail to twelvevdc@aol.com.

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March 3, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions