ARRL: Comment Deadline Set For Proposed FCC Amateur License Fees NPRM

From the ARRL NW Division Director:

In my September 2020 Northwest Division Newsletter we discussed newly
proposed FCC mandated fees for amateur radio licenses and other

A refresher: Under the proposed fee structure amateur radio licensees
would pay a $50 fee for each amateur radio license transaction.
Included in the FCC’s fee proposal are applications for new licenses,
renewal and upgrades to existing licenses, vanity call sign requests,
and even for official copies of amateur licenses. Excluded are
applications for administrative updates, such as changes of address. The
FCC proposal is contained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in
MD Docket 20-270, which was adopted to implement portions of the
“Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services
Act” of 2018 — the so-called “Ray Baum’s Act.”

The Act requires that the FCC switch from a Congressionally-mandated fee
structure to a cost-based system of assessment. In its NPRM, the FCC
proposed application fees for a broad range of services that use the
FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS), including the Amateur Radio
Service that had been excluded by an earlier statute. The 2018 statute
excludes the Amateur Service from annual regulatory fees, but not from
application fees.

The ARRL has been notified that the NRPM was formally published in
yesterday morning’s Federal Register (
The Register notes the deadline for comments on the NPRM is November 16,
and the Reply comment deadline is November 30.

I would highly recommend that all amateurs submit comments to the FCC
regarding this repressive NRPM. Not only our wallets, but the possible
long term viability of this wonderful hobby depends on it!  If you would
like to submit a comment on this proceeding, the official FCC website
address is:  Where it asks for:
Proceeding(s), type in: 20-270.

ARRL FCC Counsel, David Siddall, K3ZJ has provided us all information
and suggestions that would be very helpful for those submitting

“Arguments against FCC Fees for Radio Amateurs:

Amateurs contribute to the public good. In many areas they provide an
emergency communications backbone capability at no taxpayer cost.
Consistently we have witnessed storms and natural disasters completely
wipe out internet, cellular, and other means of communication.  Radio
amateurs often fill that void on an unmatched, flexible basis when
needed.  One recent example is the California wildfires.

Unlike operators in other FCC licensed services, Amateur Radio operators
by law – domestic and international — must eschew using their license
for any pecuniary interest.  Amateurs are prohibited from earning or
charging any money for any communications activity.  The expenses for
their equipment and activities come out of their own pockets, with no
opportunity for reimbursement or payment of any kind.

The United States is experiencing a severe lack of RF engineers and
expertise at the very time it is needed by the burgeoning wireless
industries.    Amateur radio is helping to meet the deficit, but much
more is needed and youngsters (High School and College-aged) are least
able to afford licensing fees.  RF knowledge and related digital
expertise is needed to maintain U.S. leadership in wireless industries.
At a minimum, young people (below the age of 26) should be exempt from
the proposed license fees.

Amateur radio is self-regulating.  (a) Amateur examinations are written
and administered by radio amateur volunteers.  (b) Examination results
and paperwork most often are submitted electronically to the FCC.
Electronic submission could be required if there would be a cost savings
to the Commission. (c) Amateur radio educational classes are conducted
by volunteers who by-and-large do not charge fees or tuition for
teaching.  (d) The amateur service, in cooperation with the FCC’s
Enforcement Bureau, has a volunteer corps that monitors the amateur
airwaves, and has programs that try to prevent their misuse before FCC
involvement might be needed.  The amateurs also observe non-amateur
signals both within amateur spectrum and outside it, and report unusual
or suspicious signals.

Amateur radio continues to be a source of significant technological
innovation that should be encouraged, not discouraged.”

More comments from David, K3ZJ:

“I do not recommend arguing that the $50.00 fee every 10 years, which
amounts to $5.00 a year, will “kill” amateur radio, even though as
proposed this is for each covered application, which includes upgrade
applications.  Tech-General-Extra could be $150, if the exams are taken
at different sessions, a substantial amount.  But it “rings” the
wrong way to say the whole service turns on $5.00/year for each

The Commission argues that the charges are required by the statute.  The
word used is “shall”, which is mandatory, not optional.  But the
statute does not set the amount, nor does it prohibit reasonable
exceptions – evidenced by the Commission’s proposal to exempt from
fees administrative update applications based on policy grounds.

This is not “aimed at amateur radio to kill it.”  There is a long
history and precedent on charging fees for the licensing service
involved, just as there is for passports, green cards, driver’s
licenses (issued by states), etc.  Better to make pertinent arguments on
why the fees would impair the public benefits of the amateur radio
service than argue that the whole service might die as a result of a fee
that, in fact, is less than the fee many of us paid in the 1960’s and
1970’s, including myself as a struggling high school and college
student (if adjusted for inflation).

For background: this proceeding is being handled by staff unfamiliar
with amateur radio.  It is being handled in the FCC’s Office of
Managing Director (OMD), not in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
where the amateur-specific Part 97 matters are handled.  The focus of
OMD is accounting – budgets and the like for the entire Commission.
The fee proposals cover every FCC license and service across the board
and the consideration was directed by Congress.  I recommend keeping
“ham jargon” out of comments, it won’t be understood by the
intended recipients.”

I think that David is right on target here. I recommend, and also urge,
that arguments submitted for this petition are both thoughtful and
respectful.  To do otherwise leaves a very poor light on the hobby we
all love. Take what you see here, re-word as necessary so it comes from
your heart, and let’s get this defeated, (or at the very least,

Communications Daily: Amateur Radio Operators Get Temporary Waiver for Hurricane Communications

Communications Daily reports on a digital transmission waiver that has been given to amateur radio operators using PACTOR 3 and 4 for hurricane relief.

The FCC Wireless Bureau approved an American Radio Relay League request for a 30-day waiver to permit amateur data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than permitted under commission rules so amateur operators can assist in hurricane relief. “Hurricane Laura has the potential to cause massive destruction states along the Gulf of Mexico, and communications services will likely be disrupted,” the bureau said in a Thursday order: “The waiver is limited to amateur radio operators in the continental United States using PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 emissions who are directly involved with [high-frequency] hurricane relief communications.”

2017 FCC Rule Changes for FRS Go into Effect 9/30/19

Back in 2017, the FCC reviewed the personal radio services which include FRS, GMRS, CB, MURS and more and made changes to the rules. Many of those new rules go into effect on Sept. 30, 2019 — or in two weeks from this publication.

Here are the main changes to the rules going into effect:

  • No FRS/GMRS combined radios can be sold after that date
  • No hand held radio capable of operating in both FRS and any other licensed service can be manufactured or imported
  • No voice obscuring radios operating in these services may be manufactured, imported or sold

Here are some additional details

FCC Advisory Admonishes Marketing Non-Compliant Import Radios

On September 24, 2018, the FCC released an Enforcement Advisory with the lengthy title TWO-WAY VHF/UHF RADIOS MAY NOT BE IMPORTED, ADVERTISED, OR SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES UNLESS THEY COMPLY WITH THE COMMISSION’S RULES. In it the FCC warns of the recent trend of imported, low-cost, two-way VHF/UHF radios which violate FCC technical requirements such as the ability to operate on public safety or land mobile channels for which they have not been authorized. The advisory says, “Anyone importing, advertising or selling such noncompliant devices should stop immediately, and anyone owning such devices should not use them. Violators may be subject to substantial monetary penalties.”

This appears to clarify the FCC’s August citation against Amcrest Industries, LLC for importing and marketing various Baofeng transceivers which were deemed to be unauthorized RF devices.

See also an ARRL article about this by clicking here.

The response from manufacturers like Baofeng, Wouxun, etc. may simply be to limit their radios to amateur radio frequencies. Some models might be changed to scanning receivers. Would any of the manufacturers bother with the changes that would be needed to type-certify one of their radios? That’s unknown.