FCC Okays Changes to Amateur Radio Exam Credit, Test Administration, Emission Type Rules

FCC LogoIf you ask me, it’s kind of bizarre, that the FCC will now only require lapsed Generals and Extras to pass the Tech exam to get their licenses back, but hey, who am I to judge?…Dan

ZCZC AG12
QST de W1AW
ARRL Bulletin 12 ARLB012
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT June 11, 2014
To all radio amateurs

SB QST ARL ARLB012
ARLB012 FCC Okays Changes to Amateur Radio Exam Credit, Test Administration, Emission Type Rules

In a wide-ranging Report and Order (R&O) released June 9 that takes various proceedings into consideration, the FCC has revised the Amateur Service Part 97 rules to grant credit for written examination elements 3 (General) and 4 (Amateur Extra) to holders of “expired licenses that required passage of those elements.” The FCC will require former licensees – those falling outside the 2-year grace period – to pass Element 2 (Technician) in order to be relicensed, however. The Commission declined to give examination credit to the holder of an expired Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) or to extend its validity to the holder’s lifetime.

The Report and Order may be found on the web in PDF format at, http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2014/db0609/FCC-14-74A1.pdf .

“Our decision to grant credit for written examination Elements 3 and 4 for expired licenses that required passage [of those elements] will provide some relief for former General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra class licensees,” the FCC said, “and is consistent with how we treat expired pre-1987 Technician class licensees who want to reenter the Amateur Service.” Pre-1987 Techs can get Element 3 credit, since the Technician and General class written examinations in that era were identical. The Commission said current rules and procedures that apply to expired pre-1987 Technician licenses “are sufficient to verify that an individual is a former licensee under our new rules.”

The Commission said that requiring applicants holding expired licenses to pass Element 2 in order to relicense “will address commenters’ concerns about lost proficiency and knowledge, because a former licensee will have to demonstrate that he or she has retained knowledge of technical and regulatory matters.” The FCC said the Element 2 requirement also would deter any attempts by someone with the same name as a former licensee to obtain a ham ticket without examination.

In 1997 the FCC, in the face of opposition, dropped a proposal that would have generally allowed examination element credit for expired amateur operator licenses. In the past, the FCC has maintained that its procedures “provide ample notification and opportunity for license renewal” and that retesting did not impose an unreasonable burden. The issue arose again in 2011, with a request from the Anchorage Volunteer Examiner Coordinator.

The FCC pulled back from its own proposal to reduce from three to two the minimum number of volunteer examiners required to proctor an Amateur Radio examination session. The ARRL, the W5YI-VEC and “a clear majority of commenters” opposed the change, the FCC said. The FCC said it found commenters’ arguments persuasive that that the use of three VEs “results in higher accuracy and lower fraud that would be the case with two VEs.” In a related matter, though, the Commission embraced the use of remote testing methods.

“Allowing VEs and VECs the option of administering examinations at locations remote from the VEs is warranted,” the FCC said. The National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (NCVEC) in 2002 endorsed experimental use of videoconferencing technology to conduct Amateur Radio testing in remote areas of Alaska. The Anchorage VEC has long pushed for the change, citing the expense to provide Amateur Radio test sessions to Alaska residents living in remote areas.

The FCC declined to address “the mechanics” of remote testing, which, it said, “will vary from location to location and session to session.” The Commission said specific rules spelling out how to administer exam sessions remotely “could limit the flexibility of VEs and VECs.” The FCC stressed the obligation on the part of VECs and VEs “to administer examinations responsibly” applies “in full” to remote testing.

The FCC amended the rules to provide that VEs administering examinations remotely be required to grade such examinations “at the earliest practical opportunity,” rather than “immediately,” as the rule for conventional exam sessions requires.

Finally, the FCC has adopted an ARRL proposal to authorize certain Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) emissions in the Amateur Service. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau in 2013 granted an ARRL request for a temporary blanket waiver to permit radio amateurs to transmit emissions with designators FXD, FXE, and F7E, pending resolution of the rulemaking petition.

“Commenters strongly support amendment of the rules to permit these additional emission types,” the FCC noted. “The commenters assert that the proposed rule change ‘is consistent with the basis and purpose of the Amateur Service,’” and will allow repurposing surplus mobile relay equipment from other radio services in the Amateur Service, the Commission added.

The FCC said it also will make “certain minor, non-substantive amendments to the Amateur Service rules.” It is amending Part 97 “to reflect that the Commission amended its rules to eliminate the requirement that certain Amateur Radio Service licensees pass a Morse code examination,” the FCC said in the R&O. It also said it was correcting “certain typographical or other errors” in Part 97.

The new rules become effective 30 days after their publication in The Federal Register, which is expected to happen this week.
NNNN
/EX

Station Notes: June 6 – June 9, 2014

While going through some boxes last Friday, I came across a Heathkit IG-102 signal generator. It was in pretty good shape, so I thought I’d fire it up and see if it was still working. I fired up my Tek 2215 scope and connected to to the IG-102. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting any output.

I pulled the cover off the signal generator, and was going to start poking around, when I heard some arcing, and then saw a puff of smoke come out the back of the scope. I quickly pulled the scope plug, but of course, the damage had probably already been done.

Today, I finally got around to getting the Torx screwdriver that I needed to take the covers off the Tek. After removing more than a half dozen screws, I was finally able to get the power supply shield off to look for damage. Oddly enough, I couldn’t find any obvious signs of arcing or burnt components, and the scope seems to power up and work.

Even so, I’m hesitant to just button it up and start using it again. There must be a problem in there that’s just waiting to happen. If you have any experience with Tek 2215s, I’d love to hear from you.

Museum ships ahoy!
On Saturday, I operated the Museum Ships Weekend special event. This was a lot of fun. In a couple of hours, I worked 15 of the museum stations, which qualifies me for some kind of certificate.

One of the more interesting contacts was with AC0TX, operating from the SS Grandcamp Memorial. This ship was the site of one of the worst industrial disasters in the U.S. The Grandcamp had docked in Texas City to pick up a load of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

Just before the longshoremen finished loading the fertilizer, a fire broke out aboard ship. It eventually got so hot that the ammonium nitrate exploded. Hundreds of employees, pedestrians and bystanders were killed. This was truly a disaster.

Alabama QSO Party
Kind of surprisingly, I was the high scorer from Michigan in the 2013 Alabama QSO Party. I don’t think I’m going to repeat this year. Last year, I scored over 2,000 points. This year, I barely broke 200. I guess I spent too much time working the museum ships.

Need a job? Need some techs?

This morning, I got the following e-mail:

Hi Dan,

I came across you website as we are in search of a Two-Way Radio Repair Technician at our Carlsbad, CA facility. Do you have any sources in the San Diego area that might be interested or even you perhaps for that matter? Job posting listed below…

http://www.twowaydirect.com/careers/

Thanks for your time!

Brandon Ocampo
Two Way Direct
P: 888-742-5893
F: 877-694-6603
3262 Grey Hawk Court
Carlsbad, CA 92010
www.TwoWayDirect.com

I suggested a couple of approaches to Brandon. The first was to contact the military. There are a number of military bases in the San Diego, and I’d guess that he might be able to find some electronics techs getting out of the service. I don’t know how much “real” electronics training the military techs get these days, though.

I also suggested that he contact the amateur radio clubs in the area. I know that guys in our club are sometimes looking for work, and I always post things like this to our club mailing list, if the job is local.

So, if you’re looking for a job, you might want to get in touch with Brandon. If not, perhaps you have some other ideas as to how he can recruit qualified techs.

More QSLs: WA4FAT, N9GUN

Here are two QSLs for my collection that came to me as a direct result of being on Twitter. Bill, WA4FAT, and I set up a sked via Twitter, and we actually made on on-air contact. I haven’t yet worked Tom, N9GUN, but when I mentioned that I’d like to so that I could add his QSL, he fired one off to me. Thanks, guys!

wa4fat-qsl

n9gun-qsl

From my Twitter feed: open source laptop, fritzing, audiophool product

dsantosh_'s avatarSantosh Dahal @dsantosh_
World’s First Open Source Laptop Gets Wideband Software-Defined Radio linux.com/news/hardware/… #SDR #amateurradio

 

DigilentInc's avatarDigilent Inc. @DigilentInc
How to use @FritzingOrg tutorial on our blog with the new Digilent Parts Bin! blog.digilentinc.com/index.php/usin… pic.twitter.com/rXX739iwtn

 

eevblog's avatarDave Jones @eevblog
Audiophool product of the week: futureshop.co.uk/audioquest-dia…

It never fails to amaze me how cheap hams are

So, this morning, I loaded up the Freestyle and took some junk great stuff to the Chelsea Amateur Radio Club hamfest. Now, this is a small hamfest, so I guess that I didn’t really expect much, but I was rather disappointed that I didn’t sell even $150 worth of stuff. What really got me, though, is how cheap some guys are, even after I explain that a lot of what I had for sale was donated to the Hands-On Museum and that the proceeds would go to funding our station there.

For example, I had a small speaker with a small bracket for mounting underneath a shelf or underneath a dashboard. I purchased it for $11-12 bucks at Purchase Radio not long before they went out of business. I had put a $5 sticker on it.

Two guys walk up, and the first one offers me $2 for it. What an insult! When his buddy offered me four bucks for it, though, I accepted.

I couldn't even get $50 for this paddle and keyer.

I couldn’t even get $50 for this paddle and keyer.

The other item that I had for sale was a HamKey paddle and keyer combination, like the units shown at right. I was asking $40 for the paddle, $25 for the keyer, and $60 for the combination. One guy said something, “I can’t go more than $40 for them.” When I politely declined, he said he’d come back later.

When he did come back, I offered to give it to him for $50, but he stuck to his $40 offer. Needless to say, he went home without them.

There’s another hamfest–the Monroe Hamfest–in a couple of weeks, and I’ll try my luck down there. There will be more attendees down there, and hopefully more people ready to buy.

Apparently, I was not alone this morning. When I complained to a friend of mine that I had sold relatively few items, he said that several of the other sellers had told him the same thing. I guess the cheap hams had cheaped themselves out of some good deals.

Press release: RF Test Blog

From time to time, I get press releases that might be of interest to radio amateurs. Here’s one.

Making RF measurements can be difficult, especially if you need to make high-precision measurements. Fortunately, most amateur radio operators don’t need to make such measurements, but you can always learn something by reading articles by those who do it for a living…Dan

Agilent Technologies Announces Availablity of RF Test Blog – A Resource for Making Better Measurements

The RF Test Blog is a resource for finding ways to make better RF measurements. With over 10,000 visits since 2013, this popular blog includes information on equipment and measurement techniques that improve accuracy, measurement speed, dynamic range, sensitivity, repeatability, and more. Ben Zarlingo, an applications specialist for Agilent Technologies, shares what he has learned through several decades of working as an electrical engineer in test and measurement.

What are you doing for Field Day?

2014_Field_Day_Logo_333_X_220My club here in Ann Arbor, ARROW, is still debating what to do about Field Day. We are unable to return to the site it was held at last year, so the organizers are still looking for a site. In addition, they have been talking about downsizing from 4A or 5A to 2A or 3A. I don’t think that decision’s been made yet, either.

That prompted me to ask my Twitter followers what they’re doing. Here’s what they had to say:

@NR4CB: My club sets up in a field adjacent to a city municipal building. I’ll visit them for a while during the event.

@imabug: @NR4CB and i’ll be playing FD with my club from the USS Yorktown in the #chs harbour

@waltham845: Trying to get myself to the top a mountain pass do some qrp. barring that qrp out in the field both battery powered hopefully.

@NS0D: I will be a CW operator for the combined FD operation at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, MO, using call WW1USA

@W1MSW: @HampdenCountyRA 4 towers, 2 tribndrs, 2 40m monobndrs, 3plexrs, networked stns, N1MM & a whole lot of fun!

@jmurphy7411: Taking part in Formidable Footprint ex w/COARES R1D1. Better to train 4 an exp event than HV fun in a contest

@VA3QV: be operating a 1B station (FT 817 qrp and an end fed wire with 12ah battery and solar panel) somewhere TBD from the Ottawa area

@twintiermedia: Spending it with KB3EIB, his 10 yr old son KD2EVP, his unlicensed son, and our dogs in the woods in Allegany County NY QRPing

@M0PZT: May be out /P on the Sunday to make a racket across the pond. Not sure about this QRP stuff though!

@KD8SRF suggested that we hold it in an Ann Arbor municipal park. The guys looked into that, and not only does the city want money to let us do that, they’re not keen on people staying overnight in the parks.

@KD8SRF then suggested: “If you wanted to go all in, might I suggest Belle isle. State police everywhere. They allow after dark special event. It’s cleaned up.” Belle Isle is the jewel of the Detroit park system. It really used to be fabulous, and the city of Detroit, which has been going through some “restructuring,” has now allowed the state of Michigan to take it over and operate it as a state park.

I actually like this idea a lot, but this is an idea for next year, I think. I would want to make it a SE Michigan event and invite hams from all over the region to participate, not just hams from any one club. Maybe I can even get KD8SRF to help organize this.

So, I’ll put it to you now. What are you doing for Field Day?

From my inbox: 100 years of ham radio, spectrum analysis, mesh networks

Celebrating 100 years of ham radioThis month marks the centennial of the American Radio Relay League, the largest ham radio association in the United States. That means it will be a special year for the hundreds who converge annually on W1AW, a small station known as “the mecca of ham radio” in Newington, Conn., to broadcast radio signals across the globe.

Spectrum Analysis Basics - Application Note 150Spectrum Analysis Basics – A Resource Toolkit. Learn about the fundamentals with Agilent’s most popular and recently updated application note, Spectrum Analysis Basics – Application Note 150, which is now paired with a toolkit of app notes, demo videos, web/mobile apps, and related material.

When the Internet Dies, Meet the Meshnet That Survives. The art and technology nonprofit center Eyebeam recently staged a small-scale scenario that mimicked the outage that affected New York after Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012. As part of the drill in Manhattan, a group of New Yorkers scrambled to set up a local network and get vital information as the situation unfolded.

QSLs: K1EAR, W4ZOO

Two new ones for collection of QSL cards from stations whose call signs spell words:

K1EAR QSL

John writes, “I lived in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area for two years.
Working you brought back a lot of memories.” It was my pleasure, John.

VE4ZOO QSL

Up in Canada, amateurs can have more than one call. Ed’s main call is VE4YU, but when I saw that he also held the call VE4ZOO, I asked if he could also put me in that log and send me a QSL card. After explaining about my odd collection, he graciously agreed to send me one. Thanks, Ed!