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The FCC’s “Ham Guy,” Bill Cross, W3TN, to Retire on April 3


Amateur Radio’s point man at the FCC is retiring. Bill Cross, W3TN, officially a “program analyst” in the Commission’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB), is stepping down on April 3 after nearly 4 decades at the FCC. Many radio amateurs have had the opportunity to meet Cross when he conducted the once popular Dayton Hamvention Amateur Radio forum, since a victim of FCC budget trimming.

“Most people [at the Bureau] know me as ‘The Ham Guy,’” Cross quipped in an interview with ARRL, “and they send anything relating to Amateur Radio to me — as quick as they can.” Cross said he did consider making April 1 his retirement date but, “I didn’t want to take any chances.”

Cross started with the Amateur Radio Group in what was then the Private Radio Bureau. That morphed into the WTB when other services were added in 1989. Prior to that, he worked in the Common Carrier Bureau — now the Wireline Competition Bureau — and his academic background in engineering and economics came in handy.

A ham since 1968, the married father of two said he’s still active on the air, strictly on HF SSB and CW, and he hopes to expand his time for ham radio once away from the daily grind. He has achieved DXCC Honor Roll and actively participates in the Islands on the Air program (IOTA).

When he arrived at the FCC in 1976, Cross didn’t anticipate making it a career. But in time his hobby became his work, and over the years he witnessed considerable change in Amateur Radio. The Commission’s decision to drop Morse code as a requirement to obtain an Amateur Radio license in 2007 was one example. “We heard that fabric of the universe had become unglued,” he said, “but it didn’t.” CW seems to be used much more than it was before 2007, he said, and some DX or IOTA stations are CW only.

Cross acknowledged that Amateur Radio rule making proceedings at the FCC move with seeming glacial torpor but pointed out that the Amateur Service competes with an incoming barrage from other services and bureaus. “Amateurs have a view that the Commission has three bureaus — the Bureau of Ham Radio, the Bureau of All Other, and the Bureau of Administration,” he said. “I understand why they wish it was that way, but it’s not.”

Looking ahead, Cross said he can see a day when may be only one Amateur Radio license class. “Do we really need three license classes anymore?” he asked. “I can see in the future the number of license classes decreasing again — to two or maybe one — because the differences really are not that much.”

Among the disappointments for Cross has been the rise in questionable on-the-air behavior, including intentional interference of DXpeditions, which he believes reflects such less-desirable societal trends as road rage. “People lose perspective,” he said. “No one lives or dies, if they don’t work Navassa Island.” FCC budget cutbacks will lead to less enforcement, he said, and with stretched resources, “something’s gotta give.”

That applies in Cross’s own Bureau. When he steps down on April 3, no new “Ham Guy” is standing in the wings to replace him. “The plan is to divide up my work among other staff members, based on topic,” he said.

Cross said people choose to get into ham radio as something enjoyable and fun. “When the joy and the fun go out of it, and it becomes a frustration, it might be time to take a step back,” he advised. “Find a new aspect of the hobby. If it doesn’t make you happy there’s something wrong. There’s something for everyone. Just have fun.”

And Bill Cross plans to do just that.




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