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ARRL Board Explores Entry-Level License Options, Ways to Face Future Challenges


Meeting July 21-22 in Farmington, Connecticut, the ARRL Board of Directors took steps to chart a firmer future for Amateur Radio by enhancing the value of the entry-level license and by providing ongoing support for new licensees. The Board also conferred several annual awards, including the prestigious Hiram Percy Maxim Memorial Award, the League’s top honor for a young radio amateur. ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, chaired the second regular meeting of 2017.

ARRL New England Division Director Tom Frenaye, K1KI, presented the report of the Ad Hoc Entry-Level License Committee. He said the committee’s initial, informal survey attracted nearly 7,900 responses. A second random survey drew another 375 responses. “A clear majority favored a revision to the Technician rather than a new entry-level license,” the committee’s report said, noting that this would require no change to the Technician examination, which already covers more material than necessary for an entry-level examination. “This choice requires the simplest revision to FCC rules,” the committee report said. The committee suggested expanded digital access on 80, 40, and 15 meters, where Technicians already have CW access, as well as the addition of Technician phone privileges on those bands. Frenaye pointed out that while the Amateur Radio population is growing, the annual rate of growth has stagnated at about 1%. “There is a general consensus…that ‘something needs to happen,’” the committee’s report said, noting a generally favorable attitude toward attracting newcomers.

“The general goal here is to have an entry level license that offers a way for a newcomer to experience multiple facets of Amateur Radio,” the committee’s report said, “encouraging them to get on the air, meet other licensees, and engage in a lifetime of learning while using Amateur Radio.”

Later in the meeting, the Board charged the ARRL Executive Committee with developing a plan to implement the ad hoc committee’s recommendation to make the current Technician class license more attractive and useful by expanding its operating privileges on HF to include phone and digital modes. The Board asked the Ad Hoc Entry-Level License Committee to further research and develop the details of a second recommendation to improve successful outreach to prospective radio amateurs and help them through the licensing process.

ARRL Ad Hoc Legislative Advocacy Committee Chair and Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, discussed the status of the US Senate version of the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017. Lisenco said Senate leadership is supportive of the bill, which should be scheduled for mark-up in the Senate Commerce Committee.

ARRL Chief Executive Officer Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, presented the report of six Headquarters staffers who had been tasked with identifying the challenges facing ARRL and devising feasible solutions. Specifically, the committee addressed market research findings that have continued to reveal that only a small percentage of new hams join the League, and only about one-half of new hams actually get on the air.

The committee began with the premise that ARRL must act in order to remain relevant going forward. It proposed instituting a Lifelong Learning Program to focus on developing a clear developmental path for all radio amateurs, from newcomers to established radio amateurs. The committee recommended the creation of new programs and services to increase the knowledge base of newcomers in order to get them active, as well as programs to keep experienced amateurs up to date with changing technology and practice.


The Board designated 19-year-old Skyler Fennell, KDØWHB, of Denver, Colorado, to receive the 2017 Hiram Percy Maxim Award. Fennell has been actively involved in a wide range of Amateur Radio activities and community service, establishing two clubs, mentoring other students, and using Amateur Radio to aid the community. Among other accomplishments, he built an AllStar link node providing internet from his house and assembled and put on the air a repeater to support his college community. He also built his own APRS transceiver to track public service event support vehicles, plus a 900-MHz cross-band link to stay in touch even when the operator is outside the vehicle. He has given many presentations on Amateur Radio at hamfests — including Hamvention — and youth gatherings. He has also volunteered in schools to demonstrate the benefits of Amateur Radio. The Maxim award is presented to an ARRL member under age 21 whose accomplishments and contributions to the Amateur Radio and local communities are of the most exemplary nature. It carries a $1,500 stipend and an engraved plaque.

Fennell was the recipient of a 2016 ARRL Foundation General Fund Scholarship and was the 2016 Amateur Radio Newsline Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, Memorial Young Ham of the Year (YHOTY).

The Board named Dennis Moriarty, K8AGB, of Canton, Ohio, to receive the 2017 Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award for Excellence in Public Relations. Moriarty has hosted the Canton Amateur Radio Club’s ARRL Field Day information booth for more than a decade. He also writes, prints, and mails between 20 and 50 letters distributed to schools and universities, the media, served agencies, and to other clubs. Moriarty, an ARRL Technical Specialist in the Ohio Section, has been licensed since 1958.

The McGan Award rewards promotion of Amateur Radio to the non-amateur community. Moriarty was recognized for consistently presenting Amateur Radio and the activities of his club in a positive manner throughout northeastern Ohio. The McGan Award’s namesake, journalist Philip J. McGan, WA2MBQ (SK), served as the first chairman of the ARRL’s Public Relations Committee.

The Board recognized and congratulated the Denver Radio Club for its exemplary service and dedication to the Amateur Radio community and the general public. The club celebrates its centennial this year.

The Board recognized the Clark County Amateur Radio Club (CCARC) for its exemplary service and dedication. The club operates eight repeaters in Southwest Washington that directly support public service activities, and it created the EYEWARN program to provide visual situational reports with ground-truth observations to emergency managers. CCARC was the 2017 Hamvention Club of the Year. It is celebrating its 87th year.

The Board established the “ARRL Centurion Award” to recognize radio amateurs who have reached the age of 100 and have been League members for at least 40 years. Members will join the ranks of the ARRL Order of the Centurion, entitling them to free ARRL membership for the remainder of their lives. Life Members would be able to select a bonus publication.

In other business:

The Board was updated on plans to upgrade the ARRL website.

ARRL International Affairs Vice President Jay Bellows, KØQB, told the Board that even small threats to our bands from such devices as small battery chargers pose serious threats to Amateur Radio spectrum and must be monitored.

The Electromagnetic Compatibility Committee reported that it is working with the ARRL Lab on issues stemming from the increase of RF noise related to home solar power installations and on the overall increase in the noise floor generally.

ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, told the Board that a workable solution is in sight to the FAA tower lighting and painting rules that could affect some Amateur Radio antenna installations. Imlay also told the Board that while Amateur Radio spectrum has avoided being targeted in any FCC reallocation dockets, the possibility still exists that amateur frequencies could be included in future dockets.

Approved appending a new article to the League’s Articles of Association. Briefly, the new Article 15 would indemnify current or past officers, directors, vice directors, or employees against expenses and liabilities “reasonably incurred by or imposed upon such person in connection with any threatened, pending, or completed action, suit, or proceeding in which he or she may become involved by reason of his or her service to the corporation,” assuming the individual acted in good faith.




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