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F.C.C. Report and Order

 Adopted: December 22, 1999
Released: December 30, 1999 By the Commission:

1. In the Notice in this proceeding, we examined the Amateur Radio Service Rules in an effort to streamline our licensing processes and eliminate unnecessary and duplicative rules.
We initiated this proceeding as part of our 1998 biennial review of regulations pursuant to Section 11 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (Communications Act), because we believe it is appropriate to review all of our regulations.

2. By this Report and Order, we adopt rules that simplify the Amateur Radio Service operator license structure, streamline the number of examination elements and, reduce the emphasis on telegraphy that underlies the current license structure to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the international Radio Regulations (Radio Regulations).

Moreover, we believe that these changes will:

(a) allow current Amateur Radio Service licensees to contribute more to the advancement of the radio art;

  (b) reduce the administrative costs that we incur in regulating this service and streamline our licensing processes;

(c) eliminate unnecessary requirements that may discourage or limit individuals from becoming trained operators, technicians, and electronic experts; and

(d) promote efficient use of spectrum allocated to the Amateur Radio Service.

3. The major rule changes we adopt today are as follows:

Reduction of the number of operator license classes from six to three.

Reduction of the number of telegraphy examination elements from three to one.

Reduction of the number of written examination elements from five to three.

  The much anticipated FCC restructuring of the Amateur Service was released on December 30, 1999 – the final government working day of the old millennium.
  Effective April 15th, applicants will only be able to be examined for three license classes:

Technician - the VHF/UHF entry level;
General - the HF entry level;
Extra - a technically-oriented senior license.

 The Technician Class continues as a "no code" ticket. No new Novice, Tech Plus or Advanced Class licenses will be issued after April 15th.

And after April 15th, there will be only one Morse code examination speed at 5 words-per-minute (wpm). It will be called simply Element 1. Previously Element 1(A) was the 5-wpm telegraphy exam, 1(B) was 13 wpm and 1(C) 20-wpm.

The single 5-wpm code speed also means the demise of the controversial physician certification waivers by examinees who claimed they are unable to pass a high speed telegraphy exam due to a handicap.

    All six classes will remain and will be active in the FCC's Amateur Service database. Current Novice and Advanced Class amateurs will be able to modify their license (change their name, address and call signs) and renew their ticket indefinitely. No one is being forced to upgrade their license ...and no one loses any privileges if they don't. The Commission also followed through on their proposal to renew Tech-Plus amateur licenses as Technician class, with indefinite credit for Morse code proficiency.

  The FCC elected not to change the operating privileges of any class – a key component of the American Radio Relay League's restructuring proposal. The ARRL had proposed a one-time across-the-board upgrading of all Novice and Tech Plus operators to the General class which FCC declined to go along with.
  This means that all licensees will retain their current operating privileges.

  The previously FCC-mandated ten written exam topics have been eliminated and the VECs' Question Pool Committee (QPC) will now have a free rein to decide on the content of each the three written examinations.
  Both the Technician Class multiple choice written exam – now called Element 2 and General Class written exam, now Element 3 will contain 35 multiple choice questions. The Extra Class written Element 4 will have 50 questions. The question pool system remains intact and each of the three remaining question pools are still required to contain at least ten times as many questions as appear on an examination.

  There will be no automatic upgrades.
Technicians licensed before March 21, 1987 retain exam credit for both the 5-wpm code and the General Class Element 3 and are thus eligible for upgrade without further examination.
  They must, however, apply using an NCVEC Form 605 at a VE session after April 15th and pay the standard ($6.65) application fee to have their license updated to the General class.
  These "Old Techs" must submit some sort of proof that they held a Technician license prior to 1987. The VECs are being held responsible for reviewing and approving this evidence. Some VECs (including the W5YI-VEC) are able to supply applicants with documentary evidence of their having held a Technician license prior to 1987. (Call: 1-800-669-9594 if you need assistance.)

  Existing Amateur Radio study materials in the marketplace remain valid at least until the new rules become effective in April and CSCE credit from these test exams may be used towards the three new licenses.
  For example, current Advanced Class hams may pass the existing Element 4B (Extra written exam before April 15th and then (after paying the fee) request an Extra Class license at a VE examination session held after April 15th without further examination.
  These applicants simply submit copies of their Advanced Class license and the CSCE Element 4B exam credit certificate to the VE team who will authorize the Extra Class ticket.

  Likewise, current Tech-Plus radioamateurs may pass Element 3B before April 15, then use the CSCE to apply for General at a post-4/15 exam session.
  Current No-Code Techs may pass the existing Element 3B exam before April 15, then have 1 year to pass 5-wpm code test for General.
  A General Class amateur could pass the current Element 4A and 4B and then trade the CSCE's in for an Extra Class ticket after April 15th.

  Effective April 15th, Advanced Class radioamateurs are authorized to prepare and administer General class examinations.

  Station licenses in the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) were also eliminated as being unnecessary for amateurs to provide emergency service, but the RACES service itself will remain.

The amateur service is available to be used by persons who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
It presents an opportunity for individuals to self-train, intercommunicate, and carry out technical investigations.
Amateur radio operators engage in voluntary, noncommercial communications with other amateur radio operators located in the United States and in foreign countries.

  Millions of amateur radio operators throughout the world communicate with each other directly by exchanging voice, teleprinting, telegraphy, digital packet, facsimile, and television messages.
Amateur radio operators also routinely provide essential communications links and facilitate relief actions on a purely voluntary basis when a disaster occurs or is likely to occur.
The amateur service rules are designed to allow licensees in this service to provide emergency communications, advance radio technology, improve operator skills, enhance international goodwill, and expand the number of trained operators, technicians, and electronic experts.

A. License Structure

1. Number of License Classes

We believe that a three-class license structure provides a sufficient number of license classes so that the fundamental purposes underlying the amateur service rules will not be compromised.

In order to assure that Technician Plus Class licensees do not lose privileges, we have revised Section 97.301(e) of our Rules to reflect that any Technician Class licensee who satisfies the telegraphy requirement in the Radio Regulations will maintain the privileges which the Technician Plus Class operator license presently authorizes.

A three-class structure consisting of the Technician, General, and Amateur Extra Class operator licenses is supported, among others, by the NCVECs and the Quarter Century Wireless Association (QCWA).

Given our decision to reduce the telegraphy examination requirement to the minimum requirement that meets the Radio Regulations, we believe that the three-class operator license structure is preferable because this structure has substantial support within the amateur service community and satisfies our goal of streamlining and simplifying the amateur service licensing system to the greatest extent possible.

2. Telegraphy Examination Requirements

We also are streamlining Section 97.503(b) of our Rules to reduce the number of telegraphy examination elements from three to one -- specifically, a 5 wpm telegraphy examination.

3. Written Examinations

We believe that the changes suggested by the NCVECs and Ray Adams, among others, will result in an examination system that is more relevant, that is simpler for examinees and licensees to understand, and that takes advantage of the ability that the VECs consistently have shown since 1986 to maintain the question pools.

We, therefore, will amend Section 97.503(b) of our Rules to require that the Technician Class and General Class written examination elements consist of thirty five questions each, and that the Amateur Extra Class written examination element consist of fifty technically oriented questions, including questions about administering amateur radio operator license examinations.

Additionally, we believe that these changes will eliminate rules that are unnecessary and will provide VEs and VECs additional flexibility as the majority of commenters have requested.

Moreover, these changes will streamline further our administration of the amateur service. We also agree that the Question Pool Committee of the NCVECs has a better ability to insure that the question pools reflect current technology than we do by specifying general topics in our Rules.

We agree that the Question Pool Committee of the NCVECs is capable of both specifying topics and organizing questions by topic, if this function is necessary, as part of its maintenance of the question pools for amateur radio operator examinations.

We note that allowing the Question Pool Committee of the NCVECs this flexibility will allow material included on amateur radio operator examinations to reflect technological advances in a much more timely fashion than can be accomplished by the rulemaking process.

We are amending our rules to:

(a) reduce the number of amateur radio operator license classes from six to three,
(b) reduce the number of written examination elements from five to three and the number of telegraphy examination elements from three to one,
(c) authorize Advanced Class amateur radio operators to prepare and administer examinations for the General Class amateur radio operator license,
(d) eliminate RACES station licenses.

The amended rules which are appended hereto will simplify and streamline the regulations that govern the Amateur Radio Service.

(a) Any qualified person is eligible to apply for a new operator/primary station, club station or military recreation station license grant.

No new license grant will be issued for a Novice, Technician Plus, or Advanced Class operator/primary station or RACES station.

Each applicant must pass an examination for a new amateur operator license grant and for each change in operator class.

Preparing an examination.

(a) Each telegraphy message and each written question set administered to an examinee must be prepared by a VE holding an Amateur Extra Class operator license. A telegraphy message or written question set may also be prepared for the following elements by a VE holding an operator license of the class indicated:

(1) Element 3: Advanced Class operator.
(2) Elements 1 and 2: Advanced, General, or Technician (including Technician Plus) Class operators.

(a) Each examination for an amateur operator license must be administered by a team of at least 3 VEs at an examination session coordinated by a VEC.

Before the session, the administering VEs or the VE session manager must ensure that a public announcement is made giving the location and time of the session. The number of examinees at the session may be limited.