My Rebuttal Regarding the Petition by ARRL to the FCC to Expand Technician-Class Privileges

This is my reply to many responses that I have been receiving on my original blog entry, located at this AmateurRadio.com website,(my shortened URL: https://g.nw7us.us/arrl2fccR2) as well as to the original video, posted in that blog entry.

I wish to reply to all of those who are against the idea of expanding the privileges of the Technician-class licensee, the expansions including the ability to operate Voice and Digital in limited slices in a subset of lower-than-Ten-Meter amateur radio shortwave allocations.

It seems to me, that…

…the issue is not one of Technician-class licensees wanting more privileges, as a whole. What the ARRL is addressing is the *lack* of desire by most current Techs to upgrade.

The logic behind the idea of expanding privileges concludes that if you give them a taste of lower-shortwave propagation and excitement (by moving past the CW-only restriction on the lower tech allocations), then they *will* want to upgrade.

This logic is already proven as applicable by the fact that the General class exists! All that this proposal will do is allow the Tech to experience what could be very attractive–just like for the General.  If it worked in the past with Novice, Technician, General, Advanced, and Amateur Extra (exposing to all of HF, even if by way of a CW-only requirement), then it will work, now.  The difference is that the CW-only requirement on lower HF bands is highly restrictive because the mode is no longer needed to operate on any frequency, and, most will not take the time to learn it just to see if they WANT to explore the lower HF bands, or ever upgrade.

The bottom line is that we should make the Tech ticket more relevant. The expansion is not dumbing down, nor does it give away the farm.

I discuss this original point in the two videos that were lower down in the original post:

and,

Thanks for reading, watching the videos, and having a useful dialog about this very important change to the amateur radio regulations in the USA.

P.S., 

That aside: This may, in the long term, reveal one of two possible truths:

1. There is no real need for three license classes. Two would suffice. General and Amateur Extra, or Technician (merged with General) and Amateur Extra.

2. There is no real need for three license classes. One would suffice. Make the test hard enough to cover the Extra-class material, and all material under that class, and merge everyone into one tested class. I believe that this has been tried in other countries, and it appears to work well.

I’ll be crucified for stating those ideas, but, hey, this is just a hobby.

73 de NW7US dit dit

Tomas Hood, NW7US, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Nebraska, USA. Tomas is the Space Weather and Radio Propagation Contributing Editor to 'CQ Amateur Radio Magazine', 'The Spectrum Monitor', and 'RadioUser UK Magazine'.

19 Responses to “My Rebuttal Regarding the Petition by ARRL to the FCC to Expand Technician-Class Privileges”

  • Ron, N8WCR:

    I totally agree with you, that is until the PS portion. Many time I would be on HF and have people come over and be interested in what I was doing, yet at this point they don’t have the technical ability to pass a General but do have enough knowledge to study and pass the Technical license. Yet when I tell them they need to pass a General test to get on HF, and the only start is the Technical license without the HF privileges, they quickly get turned off. Lost maybe one good ham. Case in point, my wife, she’s more of an artist and gamer, not a electronics geek like me, but would be very beneficial addition to the hobby. And I’m sure with getting her feet wet on HF she would have the want to go on with more, but with a VHF license she wouldn’t care.
    Now with the license classes, first of all the Technician license was meant to gain interest with what was then the newly UHF and microwave band allocations, so that the “technically inclined” operators can use it and expand the newly UHF+ freq. The Novice class was the starter and then the logical move was to General. The Technician class now should be renamed to Novice and keep the 6 meter and up privileges as well as giving it the new HF frequencies now suggested. This would put the classes back to the more sensible ladder of Novice, then General then Extra.
    Having a ladder step will bring in newer members and have a them learn and advanced. I know when I started with the Novice license back in the 70’s as a teenager, I sure couldn’t pass the Extra material. This would also take away stigma of being a Geek using ham radio.

  • Jim - KH2SR:

    I agree that Technician class operators should gain SSB & Data mode capabilities in the lower HF bands.

  • Harry K7ZOV:

    I also agree…. We have a generation of people that keep buying newer iPhone’s and Samsung’s because they get the taste of something newer and want more of it.. I am hoping this will be the case of techs with just enough HF to get excited and want more and then go for it. Please note I am a Extra Class who has been ham since 1963/64 and had to actually know electronics and code to pass my tests. That said, I still have no issue with the way ham radio is moving farther and farther from the day of the spark gap. Yes we have digital, but AM is coming back, CW is coming back and is still strong, SSB has never really died (WPX proved that) and the new SDR radios are blowing away the older designs… But they are still on the air too and always will be… Let’s keep moving ham radio into the 21st century and stop the limited thinking of change being bad…

  • jeff WW6L:

    we are not members of some exclusive club. we are members of an inclusive hobby. let them participate.

  • James Schaefer - KM4TWL:

    I have to disagree with the expansion of Technician Class privileges. Gusss I’m really old school, but it seems like we are relaxing many of the standards we grew up with during the Cold War era. Granted, you need to put your nose to the grindstone in order to advance up in amateur radio licensing, but what’s the point of getting something for nothing? Is that the only way we can keep our numbers up? I believe it is more like giving everyone who shows up a participation trophy – no matter how well they played. I would suggest our energy would be better spent developing school curriculum and building interest in young engineering and science students. Working with the Depart of Education to offer Ham Radio as elective classes would payoff in the long run.

  • Norris N9XGZ:

    I’m a tech and have been so for almost 20 years. I’d be interested in HF if the cost wasn’t so high. Radio, antenna, tower (?). I’m retired and don’t buy the latest cell phone, have a few boxes of older VHF/UHF gear, a new D-Star mobile and handheld.

    I just don’t see where a $1500+ investment will justify the move. Even without addition frequency access, to me, it won’t make a real difference.

    I used to live in an area with a very active ham club (skywarn, communications for special events, etc). I worked the ham desk at the local NWS during skywarn, remote check points on marathons, communications during emergencies (forest fires, lost hikers, flooding, etc). A real reason to develop my skills and take the ARRL Emergency Communication courses. I also became certified with the federal incident command program.

    Then we moved to an area where a number of members of that club couldn’t be bothered with techs (myself and wife), didn’t want to work with us to upgrade, basically wanted us to disappear and not bother them. There were others who friendly, helpful and apologetic, but their fellow better than thou hams turned us both off the hobby. And the local authorities had no idea what to do with some guy with a communications background since the local ham club never contacted them.

    D-Star and now that we are traveling has brought me back to amateur radio. But I find, again, higher licensed hams seem to be more interested in talking about their HF calls to friends down the street. VHF/UHF or a cell phone does that for me. If the FCC allows tech use of lower bands AND I happen to be somewhere where someone has HF gear AND is willing to let me give it a try, I might get interested. But until that all happens, I don’t see where it will make any difference to anyone.

    Sorry if this seems to be a rant, but it’s just one ham’s view about access to HF. I hope it happens, but the reasoning behind is lost on this ham.

    73’s

  • Norris N9XGZ: I know of starting hams that have put together stations for less than $500 total, on HF. Anything is possible.

    Every human group, in every hobby, every work place, every social group, whatever it may be, has the potential of having a cross-section of many people of differing social skills, attitudes, perspectives, and habits. With so many people in ham radio, it is no wonder that there are those we find less than accommodating, helpful, friendly, or whatever we might find objectionable.

    That fact does not deter many from loving the hobby. That fact does not keep the rest of the amateur radio community from aiming for higher standards.

    I’m willing to have a conversation with you about the vast opportunity afforded by this hobby, ready for you to explore. Not all of the hobby is as you persceive it to be.

    This is one of the reasons why the Tech class should have some better exposure to lower-HF opportunities.

    But, this is also a reason why the hobby needs more old-fashioned mentoring–what we used to call, “Elmering.” The term, “Elmer,” is named after the friendly, experienced ham radio operator who was willing to take a new ham under the wing and patiently teach all things ham radio to the new ham. Here is a reference to the real, first, Elmer: http://www.arrl.org/news/elmer-inspiration-elmer-bud-frohardt-jr-w9dy-sk

    Best regards,

    Tomas Hood / NW7US

  • Phil ZL2OWL:

    Single class works for us here in ZL-land. More study at the front end, but no CW requirement. Strange too, CW, at least in my area, is growing, with (believe it or not) regular composite CW/HF SSB training nets. As well as digital modes galore. Ham radio, as the South Africans say, is whatever you want it to be. You’re on to it Tomas – innovate or die.
    73 es keep up the gud work.

  • walt n5eqy:

    An endless argument? After all the sky belongs to everyone and radio waves belong to no one. Why have license classes at all? Just issue permits to anyone who wants to broadcast across the airwaves. It worked for CB radio why not for the hf bands also? Yes, i know its a idiotic idea, but it seems we may be moving in that direction. I hope not.

  • Richard K0RCJ:

    The only quibble I have with this is the power given to them.. 200 Watts? I would think most Hams, under casual operating, would be happy with 100.. I do agree, even on contest weekends, the top ends of the bands in question are virtually deserted..
    Again.. 200 watts seems a bit excessive, especially when one looks at the step system of other countries.. Then you have incentive to get out of the 10-20 watt range

  • Steve KE8HXM:

    In my opinion as a new technician operator, what keeps most new hams at the technician class isn’t the difficulty of the general license exam. In my particular case it is the lack of lower priced gear. This hobby can get quite expensive and the gear-centric nature of amateur radio escalates when you open up privileges at the technician license level, so many of us new technician licensees get stuck at the technician grade.

    I do not feel that the knowledge and difficulty level is the bottleneck when it comes to license upgrades, but most people will not upgrade until they can afford the equipment that is necessary to practice the skills tied to the license grades, or the privilege extension in this case. If you can’t afford a modern all-band transceiver, that is more of a road block than the exam or the information requirements of the higher grade license. Most of us who got licensed in the past year can’t afford a multi-thousand dollar rig and all the other gear needed to operate all the HF modes. I thought I could find an older tube or solid state radio, but after months of looking I found that the prices were not within my budget, however, my Elmer was upgrading his rig and we made a deal that worked for both of us so I bought his old transceiver. Only because of that will I be able to upgrade to the general license. I believe for most of us finances are the chief reason that technician licensees don’t upgrade. It will be great to have more operating privileges as technicians, but without the antenna, transceiver, tuner and all of the other equipment for HF operation it would not matter how much extra access is given or denied, most people will not upgrade if they can’t afford the gear needed to work the bands.

  • Bud Garretson:

    Tomas,

    I agree with you. Give the techs a taste of HF, and they will want to use it more and more. As for the cost of the equipment, if enough hams want lower priced stuff, the manufacturers will offer it. I’m an Extra Class, but don’t get on HF much-I’m too busy with VHF nets, but I do get on HF from time to time.

  • KI4HTC:

    I like for them to do away with Extra Class License I have try to pass the Extra Class about 5 time and could pass it I have talk TO EXTRA CLASS HAM and they told me most ham are General and most of them say that all they want. Let only have two class of license Technician and General.

  • Larry WB8LBZ:

    I spent the first 26-27 years of my ham life as a Tech plus. I was busy with life/work/family. I am not so busy with those things now, but I’m still working. I’m one of those that is not in favor of the proposed change of the rules. More frequencies would have done nothing for me when I was a Tech as I didn’t have the time. What helped by want to get on HF was the participation at Field Day. I’m active each year at Field Day and offer to put new persons on the radio. CW has increased in use AFTER is was not required. I don’t think the push for new access for Techs will have the desired effect.

    73, Larry WB8LBZ

  • John WW3JR:

    Why modify the rules at all? Most technical class are happy where they are and if they want more upgrade to General or Extra, it works, why fix it again and again.

    73, John WW3JR

  • KA1OWC Steve:

    I bet most of you guys take free samples from those folks at the state fair or the local shopping mall…They are not talking about huge chunks of the bands in the proposal…I don’t think it would bother anyone currently active any more than Techs using the small portions of 10 meters they have now…Give them a small free sample and they will come back for more…It has nothing to do with lowering our standards!

  • .BOB- WB3DYE:

    To the folks talking about not upgrading because of the cost of gear.

    There are tons of used equipment on the market. Check out any of the popular ham web sights or ebay.

    I haave a very modsest station that doesn’t have a tower. Everything is on guyed push up poles.

  • Bill - WB6ANR:

    I disagree with cutting back the licenses/license requirements any more than what has been already done. Novices had the knowledge to build an oscillator and the ability to communicate using that oscillator and CW to communicate in an emergency. They upgraded to Technician and had to demonstrate that they had the same knowledge that those with a General class license had. Now, it seems that the only knowledge a Technician needs it the knowledge to read an advertisement to buy manufactured equipment. Listening to the few but very vocal foul mouth slobs on HF right now makes me recall the CB mess when the FCC stopped requiring CB licenses. Yes, dumbing down the licenses will get a lot more of the least desirable people on the air quickly enough for the FCC to decide to shut down the ham bands and sell them off to the highest bidder. When Started in ham radio in 1962, inexpensive surplus equipment was still available and building your own equipment was fairly inexpensive. As technology has advanced, the expense has risen dramatically. It has become far less practical to build your own equipment and surplus equipment has vanished since the Government requires most surplus items to be demilitarized (destroyed beyond the possibility of use). As for buying the “tons of used equipment” on ebay, I have bought junk equipment there that would require the price of new equipment to restore it to operating condition. (You might get lucky.)

  • Ed - kc3irg:

    I received my tech license about 1 year ago and have been listening to HF frequencies since. I would like to have a little more access to them to see if I can learn a little more about operations of the frequencies. I am 81 years old and have had the desire to be a ham radio operator since I was thirteen and built my 1st crystal radio. I had studied morse code and could have passed at the time but other interest took my attention and did not pursue it. Finally after urging by a friend who has been a ham radio operator since 1954 convinced me to study and take my test. I enjoy using 2 meter but would like to try to experience a little more, 10 meters has not been very good at all. I have been studying for a general class license but is very difficult to retain a lot of the questions. I will continue to study and maybe one day I will succeed. I don’t have that many years left but would sure like to enjoy some more access. I really don’t want to lose interest now and quit altogether. This is my view on the issue. Thank you for listening to my view.
    Ed

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