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ARRL General Bulletin ARLB008 (2022)

ARLB008 ARRL Seeks Exemption from Proposed US Forest Service
Communication Facility Fees; Comment Period to be Re-Opened Through
March 31

QST de W1AW  
ARRL Bulletin 8  ARLB008
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  February 28, 2022
To all radio amateurs 

ARLB008 ARRL Seeks Exemption from Proposed US Forest Service
Communication Facility Fees; Comment Period to be Re-Opened Through
March 31

ARRL has filed comments with the US Forest Service (USFS) seeking an
exemption for amateur radio facilities to a proposed new 1400 dollar
annual administrative fee. The USFS proposal resulted from
requirements in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka "the
Farm Bill"), which directs the Forest Service to collect fees for
issuing communications use authorizations based on the cost to the
agency for processing the applications, maintenance, and other
related activities. These fees would be in addition to annual rental
and cost-recovery fees already being collected.

ARRL's comments can be found online at, .

On February 24, the Forest Service filed a Notice in the Federal
Register that the comment filing window will be re-opened on March 1
and additional comments will be accepted through March 31. Any radio
amateurs missing the first comment period or wishing to add to their
earlier comments are encouraged to do so during this additional

"Although the discussion put forward by the Forest Service in its
proposal focuses on commercial uses, the proposal would sweep within
its requirements amateur radio uses that are solely noncommercial,"
ARRL said in comments filed on February 22. "Radio amateurs
establish and maintain facilities at certain locations for public
service purposes with no remuneration or reimbursement. Unlike
broadcasters and commercial wireless and fiber providers, radio
amateurs are uniquely barred by the terms of their federal licenses
from receiving compensation of any sort."

"Non-commercial and uncompensated communication uses by radio
amateurs within Forest Service areas long have served the public
interest in many ways, among them by providing the means for
otherwise unobtainable emergency communication capabilities in times
of need," ARRL noted. "Amateurs perform this valuable public service
without cost to taxpayers. The importance of these capabilities
[has] been demonstrated repeatedly. The skills of amateur operators
have served our country well with their carefully located equipment
when enabling exchanges of possibly life-saving messages in
difficult terrain during forest fires, extending communications
assistance help during hurricanes, and providing communications
capabilities during search-and-rescue missions in remote areas."

ARRL stressed that equipment, maintenance, and other costs
associated with amateur radio facilities on USFS lands "are borne
solely by the volunteer radio amateurs themselves."

ARRL continued, "Commercial applicants usually request more
extensive use of the lands administered by the Forest Service, and
these requests necessarily result in more complex issues having to
be considered and resolved."

"It is foreseeable that many radio amateurs providing these services
would have to opt to withdraw and cease their work," if not exempted
from the proposed fees, ARRL said. "In many cases the most useful
locations for needed coverage from their stations is uniquely on
Forest Service lands. In short, the proposal to include volunteer
uncompensated amateur service applicants with the commercial
wireless service and broadcast applicants is grossly inequitable.
There is a disparity in the amount of resources necessary to
consider applications from radio amateurs as compared to that
required by commercial applicants."

"[O]ur best estimate is that there are fewer than 100 covered
amateur locations, but those likely are unique and essential to
covering forested areas in times of need, such as forest fires or
lost hikers," ARRL said. "These dissimilarities in complexity and
scope should be recognized in this fees proposal and amateur radio
applications exempted."


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