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FCC Dismisses Three Petitions for Rule Making Filed by Radio Amateurs

10/03/2019

The FCC has dismissed petitions for rule making filed in 2018 by three radio amateurs. All of the petitions were put on public notice earlier this year and comments invited.

Edward C. Borghi, KB2E, of Farmington, New York, and Jeffrey Bail, NT1K, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, submitted very similar petitions seeking changes in how the FCC grants Amateur Radio vanity call sign applications. Borghi’s Petition (RM-11834), would have prohibited vanity applicants from requesting call signs not designated for the applicant’s geographical region, with exceptions under the rules governing call signs previously held by family members. Borghi complained that applicants had to compete with “out-of-area people for the few 1 × 2 or 2 × 1 or catchy 2 × 3 call signs available in their area of residence.”

Bail’s Petition (RM-11835) asked that the FCC give residential preference in competing applications to applicants whose listed FCC address is within the same district/region as the applied call sign. He cited limited availability and increased demand for 1 × 2 and 2 × 1 call signs. The FCC dismissed both petitions in a single letter.

“The Commission does not limit applicants for vanity call signs to requesting call signs assigned to the region of the applicant’s mailing address, except for call signs designated under the sequential call sign system for Alaska, Hawaii, Caribbean Insular Areas, and Pacific Insular Areas,” the FCC pointed out. “When the Commission established the vanity call sign system in 1995, it rejected a proposal to restrict vanity call sign applicants to call signs designated for the region in which the applicant resides,” because it would restrict a given applicant’s choice of vanity call signs to 10% or less of those otherwise assignable.

The FCC also noted that a limitation based on an applicant’s place of residence “could easily be circumvented by using a mailing address in another call sign region.”

In denying the petitions, the FCC concluded that no need exists to require vanity call signs to correspond to a licensee’s mailing address, “given that call signs do not automatically change when a licensee moves, and a licensee’s mailing address is not necessarily the location from which he or she is transmitting.”

“The Commission rejected this proposal again in 2010 for the same reasons,” the FCC said. “The records before us do not demonstrate any changed circumstances or other reason that would warrant revisiting this decision.” The FCC further pointed out that vanity applications received on the same day are handled by a random selection batch process, making it impossible to identify in-region vanity call sign applications and process them ahead of other applications for the same call sign.”

The FCC also turned away a Petition (RM-11833) from Jerry Oxendine, K4KWH, of Gastonia, North Carolina, who asked the FCC to clarify that states and localities should have no authority to regulate Amateur Radio with respect to enacting “distracted driving” statutes. Oxendine argued that such statutes violate FCC rules on scope and operation of equipment by licensees; violate the intent of the FCC and Congress with respect to Amateur Radio’s role in disasters, and hinder emergency operations using mobile equipment.

In denying the request, the FCC took issue with Oxendine’s assertion that the strong federal interest in promoting Amateur Radio communication should preempt distracted driving laws. The FCC said it received about 20 comments supporting Oxendine’s petition.

“Laws that prohibit talking on handheld communications devices while driving do not preclude or unreasonably obstruct mobile use of handheld two-way radios,” the FCC said in denying Oxendine’s petition. “These laws apply to the use of handheld devices while driving. A driver can comply with these laws by using a hands-free attachment or by parking the vehicle prior to using a handheld device, both of which are contemplated by our rules regarding two-way radios.”

The FCC said, “The record before us does not demonstrate that state and local laws that prohibit talking on handheld devices while driving stand as an obstacle to amateur communications or actually conflict with federal law in any way.” The FCC further noted the lack of any express preemption or argument that Congress has “occupied the field” of regulation with respect to distracted driving statutes.



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