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The FCC’s proposed fee for amateur licenses is drawing quite a bit of attention across the state, and I wanted to offer some clarification and suggestions concerning the commissions public comment process.
In 2018, congress passed the Ray Baum Act. This is a huge piece of legislation that addresses a wide range of FCC oversight areas. One of the things buried in this law is an order that the FCC restructure their schedule of fees for licenses and charge amounts based on the actual cost of processing. The FCC completed that work and has proposed a new fee structure.
We are fortunate to have been exempted from license fees for several years now. If further legislation is not enacted, it looks like ham radio operators will be paying some kind of fee in the years ahead. The FCC is simply doing what the congressional legislation ordered.
Fortunately, we do have an opportunity to possibly influence the FCC to reduce the proposed $50 fee. The FCC has opened a period of public comment, and all hams can go online and make their voice heard. The more amateurs who do this, the better chance we have to get the fees reduced.
When making your online comments to the FCC, I would suggest you focus on three specific things:
1. Amateur radio operators provide a valuable service to the public by providing communications services during disasters and other emergency situations. We bear the cost of purchasing our own equipment and invest in many hours of training to prepare for emergency communications to serve the public good. Considering this, the proposed $50 fee should be reduced.
2. The automated nature of the FCC’s processing of amateur radio licenses means less expense to the commission. Volunteer Examiner teams across the country work with the ARRL and other organizations to test applicants and do the administrative tasks associated with licensing, and this is submitted to the FCC electronically. This process keeps the FCC’s cost of issuing an amateur radio license low, and considering that, the proposed $50 fee should be reduced.
3. The proposed $50 fee should be waived for those under the age of 18. Hundreds of amateur radio operators from across the nation work with children through the scouting program and in radio clubs at public and private schools. These volunteers work hard to introduce young people to the hobby and bring about a new generation of ham radio operators. Amateur radio is unique as it’s the only license offered by the FCC to minors. Considering this, the proposed $50 fee should be eliminated for those under 18 years old.
The TN ARRL Section Cabinet met on a conference call recently, and we believe that we can best influence the FCC to consider a reduction in the proposed fees by focusing on these three things. If you would like to submit your comments to the FCC, please go to www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express to file online. The form will ask for your name, address, and zip code (+4). It will also ask for a Proceeding Number, which is 20-270.
David Thomas – KM4NYI
ARRL TN Section Manager