W3BE'S BE Informed!
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BE Informed No. 2.13      

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What Will Be

Stereotype W?

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. I read where our amateur service community is no longer saddled with the stereotype of a ham radio operator being a grumpy, older guy in his basement with a big tower and antenna in his backyard talking to other parts of the world. Now it is a lot of people — mainly in the 25-40 demographic — who are very intrigued by learning electronics as a skill set and they're turning to ham radio to learn basic fundamental electronics. They earn a Technician license and get a $100 handheld radio that allows them to communicate with people in their general, local area.  It's a way for them to serve their community in times of need - not just during disasters, but during public events like races, parades, things like that. What are today’s ham radio stereotypes?

A. Our United States amateur service community seems to currently be comprised of three major categories:

   Stereotype X: Modern Ham less than 25-year tenure. 364,000 Technician Class operators -“Mainly in the 25-40 demographic - who are very intrigued by learning electronics as a skill set and they have turned to ham radio to learn basic fundamental electronics. They have a $100 handheld radio that allows them to communicate with people in their general, local area. It's a way for them to serve their community in times of need — not just during disasters, but during public events like races, parades, things like that.” They are amazed to find that ham radio electronics is just a matter of memorizing answers from a book and looking at ads for unaffordable imported radios. Have heard something of hamfests. Irked at learning new HTs are now $30. Long range objective: Get a working battery for the HT tomorrow or maybe next month; possibly even a mag mount next year. 

   Stereotype Y: Pre-retirement ~25 to 40-year tenure. General and Amateur Extra Class – mainly in the 41-65 demographic. Looking forward to hamming all day, lunching with other retired hams, Caribbean cruising, finally getting that cranky club repeater working right, and going south for the cold months. Attends local hamfests. Objective: Positioning to get a good call sign now held by a certain aging Stereotype Z.

   Stereotype Z: Over-the-hill 40+ year tenure. Old school. “Grumpy, older guys in their basements with big towers and antennas in their backyards talking to other parts of the world.” Advanced & Amateur Extra Class – mainly in the 66+ demographic. They have caches of old radios and war surplus in their man-caves. Only emerge between DX-peditions and for lunch with other stereotype Zs. Have blown their 401Ks on linear amplifiers and those big towers & antennas. Still irate over incentive licensing and no-code. Fondly remember ham conventions and flea-markets. Hoarding all of the good call signs. Objective: Keep on hamming: “That stereotype Y SOB will have to pry this 1-by-2 from my cold, cold hands.”

Q. Some amateur community organizers are advocating a new entry-level license class. It would have a more targeted examination with limited privileges that would attract a new generation of amateurs.

A. Stereotype X Technician Operator class is the most populated segment of our amateur service community. There are about as many Technician Class operators than there are all of the other classes combined. They are doing exceedingly well right now. They have proven they are qualified for:

all Section 97.305 emission type privileges;

maximum 1500 watt Section 97.313 transmitter power privileges;

all Section 97.201 auxiliary station privileges;

all Section 97.203 beacon station privileges;

all Section 97.205 repeater station privileges;

all Section 97.207 space station privileges;

all Section 97.209 earth station privileges; and

all Section 97.211 space telecommand privileges.

   They also enjoy Section 97.301 station transmitting frequency privileges in some or all of the amateur service bands HF, VHF, UHF and above.

   In fact, the only privileges they are not authorized are serving as Section 97.507 examination-preparing volunteer examiners and Section 97.509 examination-administering volunteer examiners, certain Section 97.301 station transmitting frequency privileges in the MF amateur service bands and in certain HF segments, and access to Groups A and B call signs.   

Q. Some amateur community organizers are advocating a new entry-level license class. It would have a more targeted examination with limited privileges that would attract a new generation of amateurs. What will it be?

A. Generalities abound, but specifics for that are hard to pin down. The trend seems to be toward a Stereotype W youth-oriented amateur operator class less-demanding than Technician Operator class, maybe something like this:

- Below 17 years of age;

- Expected to obtain Technician, General, or Amateur Extra Operator class license grant sometime before age 17;

- Non-programmable throwaway VHF/UHF radio five watts or less;

- Radio must be exempt from all FCC equipment authorization procedures;

- Use only radios commercially-manufactured in Asia;

- No home building of transmitters permitted;

- No secondhand radios permitted;

- Radio may include HAM/FRS/GMRS/MURS channels;

- Radios supplied by FEMA;

- Radios must be yellow in color with the term EmComm stenciled in bold red;

- Radio must not have any sharp edges;

- External RF power amplifier not supposed to be used. Each such amplifier capable of providing more than 50 watts PEP to an antenna must be bold red in color and bear a depiction of the Jolly Roger skull and crossbones;

- Must use repeaters or simplex;

- Expected to participate in the GN Docket 12-91 network alternative to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by an emergency, if not the next one, maybe the one after that;

- Seven correct answers out of ten question examination and 2 hours of GOTA experience, or five correct answers and 4 hours of GOTA;

- Eligible to serve as Amateur Volunteer Maintenance Monitors;

- Eligible to prepare and administer examinations to future Stereotype V hams anticipated for year 2024, Stereotype U for 2029, and Stereotype T for 2030.

- Ham clubs and/or the VECs will issue licenses and maintain database.

Q. So, how do we get that ball rolling for that?

A. It is already rolling. Our U.S. amateur service community organizers are currently pursuing a licensee expansion initiative. In RM-10870, our Section 97.519 volunteer-examiner coordinators petitioned our regulator to make our amateur service accessible to as many citizens as possible. There are still other initiatives underway.   

   One initiative, for instance, is to bypass our VEs' examinations and facilitate persons to experience firsthand actual amateur radio intercommunicating without licensure. Such activity helps dispel the very notion of the need for any examination. The availability of sophisticated imported amateur station apparatus virtually eliminates the antiquated necessity for user operating and technical skills.

Q. We want to expand our amateur service community by introducing our youth and as many other citizens as possible to our hobby. Exams scare off a lot of folks.  People don't learn to drive a car from memorizing multiple-choice answers from the owner's manual; they practice driving a car. Likewise, the Get-On-The-Air experience we provide to unlicensed and under-licensed persons is superior to training currently being received from book study. GOTA faci1litates immediate hands-on training by Elmers at actual transmitting amateur stations. What rule amendments would be necessary in order for GOTA training to become our license qualifier?

A. Our amateur service community seems to have embraced the GOTA protocol. One approach would be to require the VEs to give examination element credit for GOTA experience. There is already Section 97.505 Element credit that provides the fitting rubric. Just add an additional element credit for GOTA training. 

Q. The radio spectrum belongs to all citizens. The only reason for the exams is to give the VEs a brief rush of importance and get into hamfests free. There should be one - and ONLY one - class of ham license. It should authorize all possible privileges, including broadcasting and conversing with any citizen, anywhere, anytime, using any mode. I want to support the VECs' efforts for a Citizen amateur operator license. How can I contact them?

A. You can refer to the NCVEC site and take it from there.

Q. What are the requirements for a ham license today?

A. In places where the FCC regulates, an applicant must pass an Element 2 pencil-on-paper examination. The multiple-choice questions therein represents what it is that our Section 97.507 examination-preparing volunteer examiners deem the most minimal operational and technical qualifications required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee holding any FCC-issued amateur operator license. 

 Q. What must a Tech do to become qualified for the privileges being currently denied?

A. He or she must memorize some more answers to our VEs' multiple-choice questions.

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September 14, 2016

Supersedes all previous editions