Ham News Articles

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,

“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

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.

Ernest Abel