ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB018 (2005)

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ARLB018 FCC proposes dropping Morse code requirement entirely

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ARRL Bulletin 18  ARLB018
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  July 21, 2005
To all radio amateurs 

SB QST ARL ARLB018
ARLB018 FCC proposes dropping Morse code requirement entirely

The FCC has proposed dropping the 5 WPM Morse code element as a
requirement to obtain an Amateur Radio license of any class. The
Commission included the recommendation in a July 19 Notice of
Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in WT Docket 05-235, but it declined to
go along with any other proposed changes to Amateur Service
licensing rules or operating privileges. Changes to Part 97 that the
FCC proposed in the NPRM would not become final until the Commission
gathers additional public comments, formally adopts any new rules
and concludes the proceeding with a Report and Order specifying the
changes and an effective date. That's not likely to happen for
several months.

"Based upon the petitions and comments, we propose to amend our
amateur service rules to eliminate the requirement that individuals
pass a telegraphy examination in order to qualify for any amateur
radio operator license," the FCC said. The NPRM consolidated 18
petitions for rule making from the amateur community--including one
from the ARRL--that had proposed a wide range of additional changes
to the amateur rules. The FCC said the various petitions had
attracted 6200 comments from the amateur community, which soon will
have the opportunity to comment again--this time on the FCC's NPRM.

The Commission said it believes dropping the 5 WPM Morse examination
would encourage more people to become Amateur Radio operators and
would eliminate a requirement that's "now unnecessary" and may
discourage current licensees from advancing their skills. It also
said the change would "promote more efficient use" of amateur
spectrum.

To support dropping the code requirement, the FCC cited changes in
Article 25 of the international Radio Regulations adopted at World
Radiocommunication Conference 2003. WRC-03 deleted the Morse testing
requirement for amateur applicants seeking HF privileges and left it
up to individual countries to determine whether or not they want to
mandate Morse testing. Several countries already have dropped their
Morse requirements for HF access.

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, said he was not surprised to see the
FCC propose scrapping the Morse requirement altogether, although the
League had called for retaining the 5 WPM requirement only for
Amateur Extra class applicants. Sumner expressed dismay, however,
that the FCC turned away proposals from the League and other
petitioners to create a new entry-level Amateur Radio license class.

"We're disappointed that the Commission prefers to deny an
opportunity to give Amateur Radio the restructuring it needs for the
21st century," he said. "It appears that the Commission is taking
the easy road, but the easy road is seldom the right road."

Sumner said ARRL officials and the Board of Directors will closely
study the 30-page NPRM and comment further once they've had an
opportunity to consider the Commission's stated rationales for its
proposals.

In 2004, the League called on the FCC to create a new entry-level
license, reduce the number of actual license classes to three and
drop the Morse code testing requirement for all classes except for
Amateur Extra. Among other recommendations, the League asked the FCC
to automatically upgrade Technician licensees to General and
Advanced licensees to Amateur Extra. In this week's NPRM, the FCC
said it was not persuaded such automatic upgrades were in the public
interest.

The FCC said it did not believe a new entry-level license class was
warranted because current Novice and Tech Plus licensees will easily
be able upgrade to General once the code requirement goes away. The
Commission also said its "Phone Band Expansion" (or "Omnibus") NPRM
in WT Docket 04-140 already addresses some of the other issues
petitioners raised.

A 60-day period for the public to comment on the NPRM in WT 05-235
will begin once the notice appears in the Federal Register. Reply
comments will be due within 75 days.
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