ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB030 (2006)

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ARLB030 FCC to Drop Morse Testing for All Amateur License Classes

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ARRL Bulletin 30  ARLB030
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  December 16, 2006
To all radio amateurs 

SB QST ARL ARLB030
ARLB030 FCC to Drop Morse Testing for All Amateur License Classes

In an historic move, the FCC has acted to drop the Morse code
requirement for all Amateur Radio license classes. The Commission
today adopted a Report and Order (R&O) in WT Docket 05-235. In a
break from typical practice, the FCC only issued a public notice at
or about the close of business and not the actual Report and Order,
so some details -- including the effective date of the R&O -- remain
uncertain.  The public notice is located at,
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-269012A1.pdf.

Also today, the FCC also adopted an Order on Reconsideration, in WT
Docket 04-140 -- the "omnibus" proceeding -- agreeing to modify the
Amateur Radio rules in response to an ARRL request to accommodate
automatically controlled narrowband digital stations on 80 meters in
the wake of rule changes that became effective today at 12:01 AM
Eastern Time. The Commission said it will carve out the 3585 to 3600
kHz frequency segment for such operations. Prior to the long-awaited
action on the Morse code issue, Amateur Radio applicants for General
and higher class licenses had to pass a 5 WPM Morse code test to
operate on HF. The Commission said today's R&O eliminates that
requirement for General and Amateur Extra applicants.

"This change eliminates an unnecessary regulatory burden that may
discourage current Amateur Radio operators from advancing their
skills and participating more fully in the benefits of Amateur
Radio," the FCC said. The ARRL had asked the FCC to retain the 5 WPM
for Amateur Extra class applicants only. The FCC proposed earlier to
drop the requirement across the board, however, and it held to that
decision in today's R&O.

Perhaps more important, the FCC's action in WT Docket 05-235 appears
to put all Technician licensees on an equal footing: Once the R&O
goes into effect, holders of Technician class licenses will have
equivalent HF privileges, whether or not they've passed the 5 WPM
Element 1 Morse examination. The FCC said the R&O in the Morse code
docket would eliminate a disparity in the operating privileges for
the Technician and Technician Plus class licensees. Technician
licensees without Element 1 credit (ie, Tech Plus licensees)
currently have operating privileges on all amateur frequencies above
30 MHz.

"With today's elimination of the Morse code exam requirements, the
FCC concluded that the disparity between the operating privileges of
Technician Class licensees and Technician Plus Class licensees
should not be retained," the FCC said in its public notice.
"Therefore, the FCC, in today's action, afforded Technician and
Technician Plus licensees identical operating privileges."

The wholesale elimination of a Morse code requirement for all
license classes ends a longstanding national and international
regulatory tradition in the requirements to gain access to Amateur
Radio frequencies below 30 MHz. The first no-code license in the US
was the Technician ticket, instituted in 1991. The question of
whether or not to drop the Morse requirement altogether has been the
subject of often-heated debate over the past several years, but the
handwriting has been on the wall. A number of countries, including
Canada, no longer require applicants for an Amateur Radio license to
pass a Morse code test to gain HF operating privileges. The list has
been increasing regularly.

The FCC said today's R&O in WT Docket 05-235 comports with revisions
to the international Radio Regulations resulting from the
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication
Conference 2003 (WRC-03). At that gathering, delegates agreed to
authorize each country to determine whether or not to require that
applicants demonstrate Morse code proficiency in order to qualify
for an Amateur Radio license with privileges on frequencies below 30
MHz.

Typically, the effective date of an FCC Order is 30 days after it
appears in the Federal Register. That would mean the Morse
requirement and the revised 80-meter segment for automatically
controlled digital stations would likely not go into effect until
late January 2007.

The ARRL will provide any additional information on these important
Part 97 rule revisions as it becomes available.
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