FCC Denies Petitions to Bring Back Morse Code Testing

From the 2/29/08 ARRL Letter:

In a “Memorandum Opinion and Order” (MOO) released February 28, the FCC denied two petitions calling for General or Amateur Extra license applicants to demonstrate proficiency in Morse code. In December 2006, the FCC released a “Report and Order” (R&O) in the “Morse code proceeding,” WT Docket 05-235, that eliminated Morse code testing as of February 23, 2007.

The “R&O” amended Section 97.501 to remove the telegraphy requirement. In reaching this decision, the FCC noted in the R&O that “one of the fundamental purposes underlying our Part 97 rules is to accommodate amateur radio operators’ ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art, and that the Commission had previously concluded that an individual’s ability to demonstrate Morse code proficiency is not necessarily indicative of his or her ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.” The FCC also noted that another fundamental purpose underlying Part 97 rules is “to enhance the value of the amateur service to the public, particularly with respect to emergency communications, and that the Commission had previously concluded that most emergency communication today is performed using voice, data, or video modes, because information can be exchanged much faster using modes of communication other than telegraphy.”

The Commission therefore concluded that requiring an individual to demonstrate Morse code proficiency as a licensing requirement “did not further the purposes of the Part 97 rules.” The Commission also found that this reasoning applied equally to the General Class and the Amateur Extra Class, so “it rejected suggestions that the Morse code requirement be eliminated for the General Class license but retained for the Amateur Extra Class license.”

In the wake of the FCC’s actions in WT Docket 05-235, two amateurs submitted separate petitions to the FCC, asking them to bring back the testing. Anthony R. Gordon, KG6EQM, of West Covina California, objected to the FCC eliminating the telegraphy examination element as an examination requirement for the Amateur Extra Class operator license. Russell D. Ward, W4NI, of Nashville, Tennessee, requested the FCC reconsider their decision for “‘strictly procedural'” reasons.

Gordon asserts that “‘the failure to keep the Morse code telegraphy requirement intact, at least as a required examination element for the Amateur Extra Class operator license, fails to take into consideration the significant national security implications that require retaining adequate examination safeguards to insure the viability that Morse code telegraphy provides, not only to the Amateur service, but the nation as well.'” Gordon argues that the requirement should be retained so that amateur operators can act as “a ‘strategic reserve,'” because there is “no assurance that…voice or digital modes will even be operationally viable in future emergency communication environments.”

The FCC was not persuaded, however, that eliminating the Morse code examination element will affect national security or emergency communications. “We agree with the commenters who point out that requiring applicants to pass a one-time telegraphy examination did not and would not guarantee a supply of skilled telegraphy operators. Moreover, nothing in the Commission’s decision prevents an interested amateur radio operator from pursuing Morse code proficiency.”

The FCC reiterated their prior conclusion that “an individual’s ability to demonstrate Morse code proficiency does not further the underlying purposes of the Part 97 rules, i.e., to accommodate individual contributions to the advancement of the radio art and to enhance the value of the amateur service to the public. Accordingly, we deny the petition.”

In the MOO, Ward states that he “encountered difficulty” in submitting his comments and reply comments to the NPRM electronically and that his filings were not posted on the ECFS (the Commission’s electronic filing system) until after the deadlines had passed. He asserts that “there is no certainty that the Commission considered his comments and reply comments, that the late posting of his comments prevented others from replying to them, and that it is ‘quite likely that other comments were treated improperly.'” As a result, Ward requested that the FCC “stay the proceeding, reopen the record and reconsider the NPRM after the close of the extended comment period.”

The FCC claims that all comments in the ECFS “were considered before the Commission adopted the Report and Order, regardless of the how or when they were filed. Moreover, many of the 3900 comments and reply comments expressed the same view as Mr. Ward, so the substance of his views unquestionably was replied to and considered. Finally, he provides no evidence that ECFS mishandled other comments. No other party has complained that his or her comments were not received. We conclude, therefore, that reopening the proceeding for additional comments is not justified, and we deny the petition.”

In summary, the FCC said neither petition asserted “any grounds for reconsidering” the decision in the Report and Order. “We believe that the actions taken therein will allow amateur service licensees to better fulfill the purpose of the amateur service, and will enhance the usefulness of the amateur service to the public and licensees.”

Speak Your Mind

*