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FCC Denies Petition for Consideration in Vanity Call Sign Dispute


An Arizona radio amateur has been unsuccessful in convincing the FCC to take a 1 × 2 vanity call sign away from its present holder and grant it to him. In the process, Joshua Babb, K6FZ, may have learned not to rely on informal advice from FCC staffers. Babb, of Maricopa, Arizona, had been trying to get the initial-suffix call sign W3JB since 2014, and he was briefly successful. The prior holder of W3JB, John K. Birch, had died, and the 2-year waiting period was set to end on August 18, 2014. Babb filed an application for W3JB in July 2014, however, claiming an exemption to the 2-year waiting period on grounds that he was the deceased licensee’s nephew, and the FCC granted it. Subsequently pressed to document that relationship, Babb indicated that Birch actually had been his great-great uncle, the FCC recounted in an Order on Reconsideration released on May 25 — a relationship that did not qualify for an exemption.

“Because you did not qualify for the exemption, the [Mobility] Division concluded that you should not have been granted call sign W3JB during the 2-year waiting period,” the FCC told Babb in its Order.

The FCC proposed to modify Babb’s license by replacing W3JB with KD7HLX, but in September of 2015, Babb filed to swap W3JB for the available K6FZ, which was granted the following month. Under Commission rules, when a call sign is granted in error after the normal 2-year waiting period has ended, it becomes unavailable for 30 days after the erroneous grant is rescinded. The FCC informed Babb of this provision at the time it granted K6FZ, telling him he could reapply.

Babb sought clarification of the W3JB availability date from an FCC staff member, who calculated that it was November 2, 2015. Babb filed two preference-list applications for W3JB on that date as well as one on November 3 and another on November 5. The FCC instead granted W3JB to Scott Phillips of Plano, Texas, who had filed a competing November 3 application and was granted through the FCC’s “standard lottery process.” The FCC staffer subsequently informed Babb that his advice had been incorrect, and that November 3 was the correct date.

On December 1, 2015, Babb file a Petition for Reconsideration of the grant to Phillips, arguing that, based on his prior staff communication, the call sign should have become available on November 2. The FCC said such a petition “must identify a material error, omission, or other reason that justifies further consideration” and that Babb’s Petition failed to do so. The FCC said its Universal Licensing System (ULS) had processed the applications correctly.

“[E]rroneous staff advice is not grounds for reconsideration,” the FCC said in its denial Order. “Licensees are obligated to know the Commission’s rules. It is well established than an applicant acts on staff advice at his own risk.” In any case, the FCC pointed out, Babb nonetheless had filed an application on the correct day. 



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