FCC Proposes to Drop Morse Code Requirement for All License Classes
From the ARRL http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2005/07/20/100/?nc=1
NEWINGTON, CT, July 20, 2005--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 recommended the change to its Part 97 Amateur Service
rules in a Notice of Proposed Rule
Making (NPRM) in WT Docket 05-235. Any rule
changes proposed in the NPRM would not become final until the FCC gathers additional public comments, formally adopts any changes to its rules and concludes the proceeding by issuing a Report and Order (R&O) spelling out the changes and specifying an effective date. That's not likely to happen for several months. The FCC declined in its NPRM to go forward with any other suggested changes to Amateur Service
licensing rules or operating privileges beyond elimination of the Morse requirement.
"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 in its NPRM, released July 19. This week's NPRM consolidated 18 petitions for rule making from the amateur community--including one from the ARRL--that 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 proposals in response to those petitions.
The Commission said it believes dropping Element 1--the 5 WPM Morse examination--would "encourage individuals who are interested in communications
technology, or who are able to contribute to the advancement of the radio art, to become amateur radio operators." The FCC said it also would eliminate a requirement it believes "is now unnecessary and that may discourage" current
licensees from advancing their skills, and that it would "promote more efficient use" of current
Amateur Radio spectrum.
The FCC cited changes in Article 25 of the international Radio Regulations
adopted at World Radiocommunication Conference 2003 as the primary reason to go forward with eliminating Morse code as an Amateur Radio licensing requirement in the future. Among other changes, WRC-03 deleted the Morse testing requirement for amateur applicants seeking HF privileges, leaving it up to individual countries to determine whether or not they want to mandate Morse testing. Several countries already have dropped their Morse requirements.
ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, said he was not surprised that the FCC proposed altogether scrapping the Morse code requirement. The League and others 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 would closely study the 30-page NPRM and plan to comment further after they've had the opportunity to consider the Commission's stated rationales for its proposals.
In 2004, the ARRL filed a Petition for Rule Making asking the FCC to amend Part 97 to complete the Amateur Service restructuring begun in 1999 but "left unfinished." 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 already can easily upgrade to General. "We also note that, if our proposal to eliminate telegraphy testing in the amateur service is adopted," the FCC continued, "a person who is not a licensee will be able to qualify for a General Class operator license by passing two written examinations, and that a person who is a Technician Class licensee will be able to qualify for a General Class operator license by passing one written examination." The FCC said it does not believe either path to be unreasonable.
The FCC also said that it's already addressed some of the other issues petitioners raised in its "Phone Band Expansion" (or "Omnibus") NPRM in WT Docket 04-140. In that proceeding, the Commission proposed to go along with the ARRL's Novice
refarming proposal aimed at reallocating the current Novice/Tech Plus subbands to provide additional phone
spectrum. Under the plan, Novice/Tech Plus licensees would be granted CW privileges in the current General CW subbands.
A 60-day period for members of the public to comment on the FCC's NPRM in WT 05-235 will begin once the NPRM appears in the Federal Register. Reply comments will be due within 75 days of the NPRM's publication in the Federal Register.
You can read the proposal off the FCC web site here: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_publi...C-05-143A1.doc