NCVEC Holds Annual Conference via Telephone
On July 25, the National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) held their annual meeting via teleconference. ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, and Assistant Manager Perry Green, WY1O, represented the ARRL VEC. Representatives from 12 of the nation's 14 VECs (either in person or via proxy), as well as the FCC's Bill Cross, W3TN, took part in the teleconference.
NCVEC held elections for 2008/2009. Moving up from vice chairman, Larry Pollock, NB5X, of W5YI VEC was elected Chairman, replacing Tom Fuszard, KF9PU, of the MRAC VEC; John Johnston, W3BE, of the LARC VEC, was elected as Vice Chairman. Roland Anders, K3RA, of LARC VEC, was elected as Chairman of the Question Pool Committee (QPC). The ARRL's Green, W5YI's Pollock, MRAC's Fuszard and Anchorage VEC's Jim Wiley, KL7CC, were appointed as members of the QPC; Anders, Green and Pollock are returning QPC members.
The following amateurs were re-elected to their position by acclamation: Michelle Cimbala, WK3X, of LARC VEC, as Secretary and Custodian of Records; Gene Wright, WA6ZRT, of the GEARS VEC, as Assistant to the Custodian of Records; Ray Adams, W4CPA, of the WCARS VEC, as Treasurer; Willard Sitton, W4HZD, of WCARS, as Assistant to the Treasurer, and Fred Maia, W5YI, of W5YI VEC, as Rules Reporter.
Question Pool Committee
Wiley presented the QPC report; Wiley served as QPC Chair for 2007/2008. He stated that the committee strived to make the questions in the Amateur Extra class license question pool easier to understand. A few changes were made after the release of the pool, and the implementations of those changes seem to be going smoothly, he said. He reminded the Conference that there will be no question pool releases in 2009.
Win Guin, W2GLJ, proxy for the GLAARG VEC, asked Wiley why the QPC released a second version of the Extra class pool. Wiley replied that the QPC sent a copy of the pool to VECs before its release; only a few VECs responded with comments. Only after the release of the pool to the public, Wiley said, did the QPC receive a substantial number of comments for corrections and changes.
Anders confirmed this, saying that most of the comments received after the release was not major, but there were a significant number of them. The QPC carefully reviewed the comments, and the second release of the pool was seen as a way to clarify the way the questions were worded. Pollock agreed, noting that only eight questions were removed from the pool, and about 12 typographical errors were corrected in the re-release.
Bill Cross, W3TN, an analyst in the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau -- Mobility Division, told the Conference that from an FCC perspective, the VEC system was working quite well. He said they had received very few complaints about test sessions or the availability of test sessions. Cross told the Conference of one complaint his office received: A Volunteer Examiner (VE) team mistakenly gave an out-of-date exam to one person and this person passed. Once the VE team realized the exam was not current, they decertified the results and the person had to be retested; this person was not happy that he had to retake an exam he had passed, but the FCC upheld the decision of the VE team. Cross reminded the Conference that the FCC rules state that only one question pool for each license class can be in use at a time. Once a new pool becomes effective, the old pool is no longer valid.
Cross also notified the Conference that his office has received some complaints from hams who have let their licenses expire. These hams, Cross said, are upset that they have to take a new test after their two year grace period has expired.
Cross then spoke of items pending in Washington that may impact exam question pools. He mentioned a petition filed by the ARRL, asking the FCC to amend rules relating to the amount of RF power that stations may use when transmitting spread-spectrum emissions. Cross said this petition is being handled by the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET); he said a decision on this petition has the possibility to affect a few questions in the pools. He also told of a petition dealing with the 5 MHz (60 meter) band; the ARRL is requesting that a channel substitution be made. If approved, this would also change a few questions. Cross said that the Commission would need to solicit comments on both petitions before a decision is reached, as well as a Report and Order released if the rules are changed, no question pool changes would need to be made before next summer at the earliest.
Cross mentioned that his office has had some difficulties with club call sign applications. It seems, Cross said, that some hams are sending in applications requesting to change the trustee of a club station, but these hams are not authorized to change either the trustee or the station address. He called on Club Station Call Sign Administrators (CSCSA) to watch this carefully and try to head off any potential problems. He suggested that administrators get documentation that the person requesting the change is in actuality the new trustee of the club license and is acting with the authority of the club.
1 × 1 Call Signs
Anders said he was concerned about the possible misuse of 1×1 -- or special event -- call signs, saying that he had received reports of a large number of these special call signs showing up in radiosport contests. He said in looking at the Special Event Call Sign System guidelines -- posted on the NCVEC Web site -- he did not think contests fit the FCC's definition of a special event as something of general or widespread interest. He said that if the Conference decides that it is not in their purview to provide guidance on what should be a special event, the Conference should delete the definition from the NCVEC Web site.
Cross said that the NCVEC has no responsibility for the 1×1 call sign program. He told the Conference that when the FCC devised the 1×1 program, they left the definition of a special event -- an event of interest to the ham radio community -- vague on purpose. He said the Commission envisioned 1×1 call signs being used at open houses, fairs, parades, celebrations of anniversaries of local events and the like. He said a contest does not commemorate an event; rather, those with a 1×1 call sign in a contest have an advantage with a short call sign. He said contest sponsors could have a rule not allowing 1×1 call signs.
Cross went on to say that various DXpeditions have used 1×1 call signs in the past, especially in cases where organizers going to islands could not get another call sign. He said he does not want to deny requests to those looking to go to an uninhabited island where Amateur Radio activity happens "only once in a blue moon." He said the decision on whether to issue a 1×1 call sign ultimately rests with the five VECs who are Special Event Call Sign Coordinators -- ARRL, W5YI, LARC, WCARS and W4VEC.
Pollock said that after the 1×1 database was developed, they had to find a place to host it; as a matter of convenience, it was placed on the NCVEC Web site. Somma, Green and Pollock urged that the 1×1 database and related Web pages be moved to its own site, with Pollock heading up this project. Somma said the FCC rules state that the database must be maintained, but does not state on what Web site it is to be maintained. To clarify issues with the 1×1 call signs, language on the NCVEC Web site will be changed to reflect that the Conference has nothing to do with the 1×1 call sign program, and pages associated with the program will be moved to their own site as soon as possible.
Looking to 2009
The 2009 meeting of the NCVEC was tentatively set for July 24 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.