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FCC Issues Report and Order on Vanity and Club Station Call Signs

11/10/2010

In November 2009, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) -- WT Docket No. 09-209 -- seeking to amend the Commission's Amateur Radio Service rules to clarify and codify existing procedures governing the vanity call sign system. The NPRM also sought to revise certain rules applicable to club stations. The ARRL submitted its comments to the FCC on March 26. On Monday, November 8, 2010, the FCC issued a Report and Order (R&O) with its decisions. These new rules will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

In the Report and Order, the FCC amended and clarified its rules with respect to Amateur Service vanity call signs “in order to promote processes that are more equitable and administratively efficient.” The FCC has amended its vanity call sign rules to clarify the date on which the call sign associated with a license that is canceled due to the licensee’s death becomes available for reassignment and clarifies the exceptions to the general rule that a call sign is unavailable to the vanity call sign system for two years after the license terminates. As for club stations, the FCC has placed limits on who can file applications on behalf of a club, how many vanity call signs a club can hold and how many clubs can have the same license trustee.

According to the FCC, almost 80,000 licensees have replaced their sequentially issued Amateur Radio call signs with a vanity call sign since the program began in 1996. When the program began, the Commission established what they called “the broad outlines” of the vanity call sign system, concluding that call signs generally should not be available for reassignment for two years following the death of a licensee, or expiration or termination of the license for that call sign. In doing so, the Commission made exceptions for former holders of the call sign, close relatives of a deceased former holder and club stations of which a deceased former holder was a member.

Here are the highlights of the Report and Order (read the complete R&O here):

Availability of Call Signs Assigned to Stations of Deceased Licensees

  • The FCC has codified that a signed request for license cancellation accompanied by a copy of a death certificate, an obituary or data from the Social Security Death Index [SSDI] that shows the date of death is necessary to cancel the license of a deceased amateur.
  • The FCC clarified the rules to provide that the two year waiting period starts on the licensee’s date of death.
  • A call sign that is canceled due to the death of a licensee more than two years earlier, or within 30 days before the second anniversary of the licensee’s death, will remain unavailable to the vanity call sign system for 30 days following the date the staff takes action to cancel the license.

Exceptions to the Two Year Waiting Period

  • Former Holders of the Call Sign: A former holder of the call sign is exempt from the general rule that a call sign shown on an expired, surrendered, revoked, set aside, canceled or voided license is unavailable to the vanity call sign system for two years.
  • “Close Relatives” of the Licensee: The term “in-law” includes “only a parent, step-parent, sibling, or step-sibling of a licensee’s spouse; and the spouse of a licensee’s sibling, step-sibling, child, or stepchild; or the spouse of a licensee’s spouse’s sibling or step-sibling.” The other “close relatives” are the deceased former holder’s spouse, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, stepbrothers, stepsisters, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.
  • “In Memoriam” Call Signs: One exception to the two year waiting period applies to licenses for club stations who request the call sign of a deceased licensee when the club station trustee has the written consent of a close relative of the deceased. The FCC codified that the decedent’s club membership need not be current at the time of his or her death, as long as the decedent was a bona fide member of the club at some time during his or her life.

Ineligible Applicants

  • When a vanity call sign for which the most recent recipient was ineligible is surrendered, cancelled, revoked or voided, the two year requirement does not apply; however, the call sign will not be made available to the vanity call sign system for 30 days after information regarding the acknowledgement or determination of ineligibility is posted to the license in the Commission’s licensing system.

Other Club Station Licensing Issues

  • Club Trustee Issues: Applications requesting a change in trustee are required to include documentation signed by an officer of the club when the application is submitted to the Club Station Call Sign Administrator (CSCSA), in order to “prevent a departing trustee from making off with the club license and call sign or refusing to agree to a change in trustee” and “address instances in which a trustee becomes incapacitated.”
  • Class of Trustee: Novice class licensees may now serve as club station trustees, “for frequency and operating privileges are determined solely by the class of operator license held by the control operator, rather than the license held by the club station trustee.” (However, cumbersome identification procedures are required when a control operator is using privileges that exceed those of the station licensee.)
  • Limits on Club Station Licenses: Club stations may hold only one vanity call sign, but may hold an unlimited number of sequential call signs. Club stations currently holding more than one vanity call sign may renew or modify their existing station license grants, but not obtain any additional vanity call signs. The prohibition on obtaining additional vanity call signs includes in memoriam call signs formerly assigned to deceased members of the club.
  • Who May Serve as Trustee: An individual may be the trustee for only one club station license grant. Individuals who currently serve as trustee for more than one club may continue to serve as trustee of those clubs, but may not be designated the trustee of any additional clubs.

Conforming Rule Changes

  • The FCC amended Part 97 to remove obsolete references to Technician Plus class operator licenses, as all Technician Plus class operator licenses have now either expired or been renewed as Technician class operator licenses.
  • In 2000, the FCC decided not to renew Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) station licenses Now that the last RACES license has expired, the FCC amended Part 97 to remove references to RACES station licenses.
  • The FCC revised Section 97.21 to reference Section 1.949 of the rules that requires that renewal applications be filed no sooner than 90 days prior to expiration of the license.

Proposals Not Adopted

  • The FCC chose to not adopt proposals from the ARRL that would have expanded the pool of available call signs and would have limited Group A vanity call signs to United States citizens.
  • Also not adopted were proposals from other commenters to limit vanity call signs to the call area of the applicant’s residence and to eliminate the fee to renew a license with a vanity call sign.


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