An FCC Enforcement Bureau Notice of Unlicensed Operation (NoUO) issued last fall to a California Technician-class licensee for alleged unlicensed FM broadcasting on 95.7 MHz has now been upgraded to a Notice of Violation (NoV) that cites violations of the Part 97 Amateur Service rules. The March 15 NoV sent to Daryl Thomas, KE6MWS, of Carmichael, also specifically acknowledges Thomas as an Amateur Radio licensee -- something not done in last November's NoUO. The FCC Enforcement Bureau warned that it could progress to a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL), "if warranted."
An FCC Enforcement Bureau agent who monitored transmissions on 95.7 MHz from "Amateur Radio station KE6WMS" in the FM broadcast band on January 31, 2019, observed violations of §97.103 -- not operating in accordance with FCC rules; §97.113(b) -- prohibited transmissions, i.e., broadcasting, and §97.301 -- operation outside frequency bands authorized for Amateur Radio. The FCC ordered Thomas to respond in writing within 20 days, explaining each violation and actions taken to correct them and prevent their recurrence.
Last October 10, an Enforcement Bureau agent responded to a complaint of an unlicensed FM station operating on 95.7 MHz in Carmichael. The agent confirmed by direction-finding techniques that a signal on 95.7 MHz was emanating from a residence, and Thomas subsequently admitted that he was the operator of this station, the FCC said in the NoUO. The agent measured the field strength of the signal and found that it exceeded the maximum permitted level of 250 µV per meter at 3 meters, established for unlicensed operation in accordance with FCC Part 15 rules. Despite FCC warnings last fall, the transmissions apparently continued into this year.
The FCC recently invited public comment on ARRL's 2018 Technician Enhancement Petition for Rule Making (RM-11828). It asks the FCC to expand HF privileges for Technician licensees to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters. It does not seek to create a new Amateur Radio license class.
Specifically, ARRL proposes to provide present and future Technicians with phone privileges at 3.900 to 4.000 MHz, 7.225 to 7.300 MHz, and 21.350 to 21.450 MHz, and with RTTY and digital privileges in current Technician allocations on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters.
The FCC has also invited public comment on an entirely unrelatedPetition for Rule Making (RM-11829), filed in 2017 by ARRL member Gary A. Hampton, AD0WU, of Longmont, Colorado. Hampton has asked the FCC to create a new "Tyro" entry-level license class, which would require a minimal online examination as well as mentoring by an Amateur Radio licensee of Technician class or higher. Tyro licensees would have to be at least 11 years old and would earn operating privileges on 99 channels in a 70-centimeter segment that Hampton calls a "TyroSubBand." It would offer no HF privileges.
These are not competing petitions. Members of the Amateur Radio community should evaluate both proposals on their own merits and comment if they desire. ARRL has provided a summary of the Technician Enhancement proposals and explained their advantages.
Interested parties have 30 days to comment on both proposals. For information on how to file comments, visit "How to Comment on FCC Proceedings."
The FCC has invited public comments on ARRL’s 2018 Petition for Rule Making, now designated as RM-11828, which asks the FCC to expand HF privileges for Technician licensees to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters. Interested parties have 30 days to comment. The Technician enhancement proposals stemmed from the recommendations of the ARRL Board of Directors’ Entry-Level License Committee, which explored various initiatives and gauged member opinions in 2016 and 2017.
“This action will enhance the available license operating privileges in what has become the principal entry-level license class in the Amateur Service,” ARRL said in its Petition. “It will attract more newcomers to Amateur Radio, it will result in increased retention of licensees who hold Technician Class licenses, and it will provide an improved incentive for entry-level licensees to increase technical self-training and pursue higher license class achievement and development of communications skills.”
Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, will oversee the development and implementation phases of ARRL's new Volunteer Monitors (VM) program, which will replace the Official Observers (OO) program. Hollingsworth, who once handled Amateur Radio enforcement for the FCC, has stepped down as ARRL Atlantic Division Vice Director to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. The development phase of the program is already under way.
"I am grateful for the Atlantic Division ARRL members supporting me, but I think I can better serve the Atlantic Division and all ARRL divisions by working in the Volunteer Monitors program," Hollingsworth said in his resignation letter. A new Atlantic Division Vice Director will be appointed.
ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, said that Hollingsworth was the ideal person to lead ARRL's efforts in the development and implementation of this joint program with the FCC.
"I support Riley's decision to concentrate his efforts on this very valuable project on behalf of the ARRL," Roderick said.
Approved by the ARRL Board of Directors last July, the Volunteer Monitors will work in cooperation with the FCC. Volunteers trained and vetted by ARRL will monitor the amateur bands for possible instances of misconduct or to recognize exemplary on-air operation. Cases of flagrant violations or noncompliance will be directed to the FCC for action, in accordance with FCC guidelines. The program, which aims to re-energize Amateur Radio enforcement efforts, was proposed by the FCC following the closure of several FCC regional offices and reductions in field staff.
Hollingsworth has identified three phases to the program -- development, solicitation and training, and implementation. The development phase will include drafting a mission statement, clearly defining ARRL's and the FCC's requirements and needs as part of the program, drafting a Volunteer Manager job description, and developing a training manual for volunteers.
The solicitation and training phase will involve identifying the geographical locations where volunteer monitors will be most needed, soliciting applications, and screening applicants. Current Official Observers will be invited to apply for appointment as Volunteer Monitors (VMs). The ARRL Board has expressed its appreciation to the OOs for their dedicated volunteer service over the years.
Implementation will involve having the volunteers provide field reports, and ARRL staff offering guidance to volunteers to ensure that the information gathered meets FCC requirements. Continuing education will be provided to the volunteers as part of the program.
Hollingsworth has committed to ensure training adequacy for new VMs, to review the quality and utility of Volunteer Monitor submissions to the FCC for enforcement action, and to advocate for rapid disposition of cases appropriately submitted to the FCC.
ARRL officials estimate that it will take 9 - 12 months before the first Volunteer Monitors begin filing reports.
The US Amateur Radio population once again grew by about 1%, based upon 2017 and 2018 year-end FCC database statistics provided by Joe Speroni, AH0A. The 755,430 total licensees represent nearly 7,300 more license holders than those that were in the database at the end of 2017. Nearly 51% of the Amateur Radio population in the US -- 384,145 -- hold a Technician license. Generals are second with 175,949, and Amateur Extras number 147,369. Advanced and Novice licensee populations continue to decline, with 39,607 Advanced and 8,360 Novices, as the FCC no longer issues Advanced or Novice licenses. A more significant statistic is 31,576 new FCC licenses last year, although that's 620 fewer than came aboard in 2017.
"New amateur licenses granted by FCC are down 2% over last year," noted ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, "but this is the fifth year in a row the total has been greater than 31,000. I predict that the number of new licensees will be more than 30,000 at the end of this year as well, and I'm optimistic this trend will continue."
Upgrades also are down slightly, compared to last year -- 9,456 in 2018 versus 9,576 in 2017, she added. "For the fifth year in a row, we have conducted more than 7,000 Amateur Radio exam sessions in a year -- an important milestone for the ARRL VEC," Somma recounted. "Our program continues to provide outstanding service to the ARRL, its members, and the entire Amateur Radio community."
ARRL VEC filed a total 30,393 license application forms last year, compared to 31,014 in 2017. That includes new, upgrade, modification, renewal, and club station filings. At 7,035 in 2018, the number of exam sessions conducted by ARRL VEC marginally trailed the 7,075 held in 2017. ARRL VEC served 34,493 exam applicants in 2018, compared to 35,352 in 2017. Exam elements administered by ARRL decreased from 47,152 last year to 45,817 this year, Somma said. Nearly 1,800 new Volunteer Examiners (VEs) have been added to the ARRL VEC program.
The Young Amateurs Radio Club (YARC) Youth Contesting Program (YCP) wants to match groups of enthusiastic young contesters with “Big Gun” stations to gain operating experience during the CQ World Wide WPX SSB Contest over the March 30 – 31 weekend. The YCP is a weekend initiative for groups of young Amateur Radio contesters in the US and Canada.“It will hopefully enable a new dimension of the hobby to young hams who have contested a little before and set a new precedent for the welcoming of a new generation of radiosport aficionados,” explained YARC Board Member Sterling Mann, N0SSC. The 27-year-old electrical engineer, who helps manage YARC programs and outreach, described the initiative as “intentionally flexible, lightly organized, and low-cost.”
“It works like this — we will attempt to pair a small group (up to four) of young contesters interested in operating with a ‘Big Gun’ station owner interested in hosting the youth group,” continued Mann, an ARRL member active in the College Amateur Radio Initiative. “The contesters will operate from the station, and the host has the option to help the youth improve their skills, provide advice, and even operate alongside. We will try to keep it such that young hams will only require a relatively short drive (ideally no more than 5 hours) to keep travel costs low.” Mann concedes that this arrangement will require the participation of as many operators and hosts as possible, but suitable matches may not exist at all. He said YARC would try its best to improve the program going forward.
YARC’s YCP is inspired by the efforts of Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) and its own Youth Contesting Program, as well as Team Exuberance, Mann said. He added, “We hope to inspire a big chunk of young hams into becoming the greatest contesters of the 21st century.” YARC is reaching out to radio amateurs under age 27 or so with at least some contesting experience who would be interested in operating the CQ WW WPX SSB at a contest-grade ham radio station, and to owners of such stations. He urges those interested to sign up (scroll down to select your role of station host or operator).
“Because we’re trying to keep costs low by making this a drivable event for our young ops, we can’t promise that you’ll be selected as a host or operator, especially if either no young ops sign up nearby your station or there’s no station near young operators,” Mann said. “Since this is our first try, we probably have a lot to learn about this, so bear with us.”