About That (Expletive) ARRL Proposal to Give Technicians The Whole World

It is my observation that by enabling someone a taste of what can be accomplished on HF (shortwave) spectrum, especially using one of the newer digital modes, that someone has an opportunity for inspiration, perhaps enough to catch the HF fever that is required to move that someone from entry-level to experienced, skilled expert. Right now, the regulations limit the Technician-level license holder to digital operation only on bands that barely propagate (if at all!) during the weak solar cycles. It is a far stretch to postulate that having privileges on dead bands will inspire exploration and tempt the operator to upgrade to a higher license class.

I believe that Technician-class priveledges should be expanded so that entry-level amateur radio operators can get a practical taste of effectively-propagating HF signals on lower frequencies than those frequencies currently available to them for digital operation. And, the allowed mode on these subbands should include digital modes. This “would encourage a sustained interest in Amateur Radio and encourage further development of knowledge and operating skills,” a concept already proven by General-class operators that get enough of a taste that they then pursue the Amateur Extra license.

Comments to me are below the following video section. I also include my response.

In the following video, I share my opinion regarding the ARRL asking the FCC to grant more operating privileges across the many amateur radio allocations on shortwave (HF, or, High Frequencies). The video is my brief takeaway of ARRL’s petition: What is the issue, as a whole, and what the ARRL is addressing–the lack of desire by most current Techs to upgrade. The logic of my perspective concludes that if you give them a taste of lower-shortwave propagation and excitement, then they will want to upgrade. This logic is already proven as applicable by the fact that the General class exists. All this proposal will do is allow the tech to experience what could be very attractive. Just like for the General.

The next two videos are addendums to the first video:

I made a few technical mistakes in the first video. The last video contains corrections and further comments.

Comments Received, and My Response

I have received many responses–some in opposition, some in support. Here are example contrarian responses along with my reply:

[Dear] Tomas David Hood[:] Something for absolutely nothing has never taught anyone anything good, but to want another free lunch. 35 multiple guess easy questions was all that was asked to get general class privileges, but that’s just too hard for the current class. Something for nothing is what sell today, and the ARRL, and probably half the country thinks socialism is the way to reach the new hams I guess. But the ARRL will never get another dime from me. You want a trophy or additional privileges, Get them as everyone else did,, Work for them, study, just a little is all that was asked. Remember, If it didn’t cost anything, it probably isn’t worth anything!

If they are not willing to take a simple test, and yet they want to upgrade, then yes they are the same as saying that we are asking too much, but would participate, you are suggesting, as long as it didn’t require any work or effort on their part, Its a shame.. And I am embarrassed on their behalf… Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could pass that test, but she would probably agree with you, that people are asking them to be smart and study, and that’s somehow probably racist and just over the line for you.

At this point the ARRL should just say, we are not protecting the spectrum, but about selling the ham radio spectrum to the highest bidders. In this case, they be;live that will be the techs who will purchase HF gear, and of course, the ARRL will benefit hugely from the equipment makers desire to market to the group.

My response is:

What the heck is wrong with selling radios?

But, seriously, which of the many Technicians say that they want to upgrade? That’s the point: the majority of Technician-class amateur radio operators are not upgrading. They get on VHF and above, and are stationary, with few realizing that there’s so much more than the aspect of the hobby evident in their local community.

With little to no exposure to other aspects of the hobby, the typical ham in the current ham-radio culture settles for what is presented by local mentors. Weather spotting, DMR, etc.

Because they have current HF privileges that have so little practical use (CW only on lower frequencies; voice on 10 meters which doesn’t propagate well during this period of no sunspot activity…), they see no incentive to delve into what appears like a waste of time.

The proposal is not giving away the farm. It simply adds a small slice on a limited set of HF bands (but where a signal has a better chance of propagation), allowing for Technician-class operators to get a real sense of the potential waiting for them if they pursue the General.

Then, once upgraded to General, they get even more exposure, and hopefully, see why it is great to be an Amateur Extra.

Tomas David Hood what’s wrong with selling radios. Nothing at all, but if I removed the test that drivers take to show they understand the rules and how to drive, then I can sell more cars and more insurance to poor drivers. Do you or anyone else think that’s a good idea. A few tech’s putting their hands on the plate of those high voltage amps, and maybe, just maybe, someone will believe me when I say some basic testing should be required for HF privileges. Now, all they will have is a cereal box license in my book, and in the opinion of many of my friends, so it;s not just me. If I am wrong, then there are a lot of people that are wrong like me, and they will fight for there hobby. I am a ARRL VE, but I will never test another Ham if this goes through, and I will spend the rest of my days making sure any newcomers realize what the ARRL did to what once was a good hobby, and how a few people didn’t seem to understand why giving away free privileges is always bad for our society, and always bad for our hobby.

Actually I have a real case study that is local,, and yes the guy doid put his hand on the plate, and yes he hit the floor.. and yes, after I found out he was ok,, I think it’s plenty funny,, Yes, they need to study more than that.

Me:

Your argument that Technician-class operators will kill themselves because the test is so easy that they will end up electrocuting themselves is yet another Red Herring. Technicians play with dangerous VHF, UHF, SHF equipment, with ominous dangerous aspects deserving respect. If you really think that the General test is the difference between life and death, why even worry? The number of technicians will be nicely reduced to a more acceptable, comfortable number.

I’ve seen Amateur Extra-class operators do the same sort of dangerous, life-threatening stunts.

The issue you are highlighting is a different problem that must be solved separately from the idea of creating a more practical incentive; all tests should be improved in such a way as to foster greater technical knowledge and awareness of all aspects of the hobby.

Better mentoring. Less us-vs-them. More education. More community. All of these should be explored and enhanced. Solve the problem, instead of ostracizing. And, realize that this proposed change is NOT a dumbing-down maneuver to give away the ham radio hobby to the unclean.

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'.

17 Responses to “About That (Expletive) ARRL Proposal to Give Technicians The Whole World”

  • Goody K3NG:

    I gotta chuckle at the socialism comments. Amateur radio itself is essentially socialism. It’s free radio spectrum for the public, spectrum that could be sold to commercial interests and serve as a revenue stream for the government and private entities using it. This fact escapes most amateurs, ironically most often by those who complain the loudest about socialism in our society. But I digress.

    While I don’t oppose the proposed changes, I tend to doubt they will help. The contrarian responses above I think illustrate truly what’s limiting growth in our hobby: the culture.

  • KC3CCV:

    Expanding privileges should be our highest priority. We need to lower the cost to entry in two ways: simplifying licensing, and driving radio cost down. Take a look at the radio band chart and the cost of a nice radio, and then name one other hobby that is so complicated or expensive for beginners to penetrate.

  • Joe K0NEB:

    Amen! Let’s do this and get these folks on HF!

  • Michael W9AAM:

    This proposal is just all about radio sales, nothing more. Look at what happened to 11M and the sales boom of CB Radios to the masses without any skills. The Tech license sold radios in the VHF and UHF bands with a similar following. This proposal would bring those people to HF with all their behaviour and drama. NO THANK YOU! There is enough of that now on 14313 and 7200.

    Think of where “Contesting” fits into all this. …Equipment …Sales!!

    We need A “More Advanced Extra Class” for those with real technical Skills, not less. Isn’t. “Amateur Radio” supposed to be about technical stuff?

  • va3get George:

    I watched all of your videos+ the comments. I think you Americans would be better off using the license qualifications we have here in Canada. Basic license 70% minimum of a 100 question exam, gives you vhf and above license. add Morse code @ 5wds per minute allows you on hf,Morse or phone. same test with 80%+ gives you full hf/digital capability output limited to 250watts input. passing the advanced test allows one to use up to 2200 watts output & to build your own equipment.Seems a lot better than your system & provides more interest for people with the Basic license to move up. enjoyed your videos & comments.

  • Kd6ubx:

    Great subject. Just think though, how super high tech radios we are buying these days are priced competitively. They are very inexpensive with all they can do compared to ancient radios of yesterday year. How did this phenomenon happen? You guessed it, technicians buying these things. The half a million techs are enticing the manufacturers into competition with each other for your business. If the hardliners could bring back code and eliminate the riff raft, they would be paying triple the cost for the same radio that is “specially made” as a rare thing. Thank a tech and let them have a little more fun. By the way, as a tech, I own 3 857d’s, a 991, am ICOM hf rig and much more goodies. Like I said, thank a tech like myself😀

  • IKE WB2BNB:

    I have always thought that the Technician Class should have some “useful” HF privileges, say 15 and 40 meters or something. This would give them a taste of what Ham Radio is all about. But looking at this the ARRL wants to give away the farm. Why not just do away with the General Class altogether? I felt a sense of accomplishment when I passed my General, but not so much now. Why study for Extra? They’ll give that away soon.
    At any rate the ARRL will never get another dime from me!

  • Russ Bickle / KG0BK:

    There are hardly any mentors out there anymore. They were the “older guys’ when I was growing up. Why would one want to upgrade if they didn’t know what one could do? No one there to show them . . . In the sub bands of the bands they (the ARRL) are proposing, I see little use now.
    If you took the test for licence now and found out you had to know digital and no morse code as in the past . . . would you pass? The Tech examine covers the basic procedures now so where’s the problem. (Listen on 7.225 of 14.313) These (the few) are or were licensed at one time.
    If I find HF to be fun as a tech . . I would want to upgrade for more.
    If I find 2 meters and 70cm fun . . but boring now . . . let me try HF.
    No one else around here is going to show me.
    My 2 cents but still have my quarter. HI hi

  • Walt N5EQY:

    My 2 cents… I was born in the middle of WW2 (big deal huh?) and my Dad, his male family members like himself were drafted and they somehow all got to be radio operators of some kind whether they wanted it or not. So as a consequence I was immersed in some kind of electronics from day one. My dad said I screamed in morse code as an infant. Funny i dont remember such a thing. Anyways it took me until 1973 to get the coveted novice ticket and I gotta tell ya it was like getting a drivers license at 16 yrs old. Of course I got my ham license like my kin did while I was in the USAF. I still treasure it, even though I am still a “lowly” general class. I cant tell you how much I have enjoyed the benefits of having that license especially after 24 yrs AF and living in 4 foreign nations and holding 4 foreign calls. I have ham friends around the world that I know personally, we lived with them. So yeah, the proposal could be considered giving it away, but sometimes a sip can lead to addiction. Nowadays, a good ham rig can be bought for less than some sporting equipment and computers. But there should be a FCC test requirement commiserate with getting the use of that spectrum to at least give the recipient some knowledge of what is expected for free. It is a proven fact that what we work for is more valued than “free” stuff.

  • Henry Smith, KZ5AJ:

    One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results. Techs have already been given expanded privileges and (along with everybody else) a much easier test , but still aren’t upgrading in numbers sufficient to please the ARRL. That, after all, is what this is all about. ARRL wants your dues money, and income from their way overpriced books, along with the increased political clout of having more members. I have a suggestion for AR(along with everybody else)RL. Lower the dues, produce a useful monthly magazine, and make all the books available as ebooks at a low price.

    Cheapening the price of admission, expanding privileges, and overlooking violations is a guaranteed formula for failure. We’ve already seen that on 11 meters.

  • James Daldry W4JED:

    High cost of radios? When Collins was the “big guy” a Collins station cost about as much as 2 standard size Ford or Chevy class cars. Today if you don’t mind using a box that is smaller than the standard size couch you can get into 160 thru 6 meters for a 20th the price of a mid size sedan. If you are frugal, you can get HF for less than the price of a pair of shoes, VHF for the price of a family meal at McDonalds. Good performance HF has never been cheaper.

  • Steve NO9B:

    I think giving Techs digital and CW privileges on 80, 40, 15 and 10m is not a bad idea. Sorry if this is off topic but I think there are bigger problems we should be addressing. One is, we have more licensed hams than even before but they are not joining local clubs! The local clubs are suffering and will either combine with other clubs or fold. Why are new hams not joining local clubs? What do we need to do to get them to join? And why are swapfests, the life blood of any club, dwindling in attendance and sales? The other problem is people saying, “ARRL is never getting any more money of mine!”. If we have no advocate for us in Washington do you really think the FCC is going to defend us? No, in fact Hell No, especially after the FCC sells off our bands to the highest bidder! The FCC sees us as a bunch of whining, knob twiddlers and would love to get rid of us! Then where will we be, sitting with a bunch of worthless equipment! My biggest fear is in 10-20 years, if not sooner, amateur radio will cease to exist. More and more local communities are looking for ways to provide their own communications instead of using us, which is THE whole reason we exist! The ARRL is not perfect but we sure need someone to fight for us or our hobby will fail miserably and we will all become CBers!

  • William w1saw:

    A lot of thin skin showing in the comments!
    My suspicion is a lot of techs have no interest in upgrading because they don’t love radio the way I do. Many entry level hams are getting involved only to use a HT. They are police, fire, emt, emergency services. It’s just a tool. That said, there might be a substantial group – boy scouts, hobbyists, makers – that could discover the wonders of propagation and desire to upgrade if they “got a taste”! Honestly, it will require some friendliness and mentoring to save the hobby. The proposed changes are good and needed in my opinion.

  • Todd KD0TLS:

    The entire argument is based on false premises.

    First, that all Techs desire HF operation — or WOULD, if they knew it existed.
    Second, that ONLY HF operation requires “skill”, and anyone not operating on HF phone has no “skills”.
    Third, that distance is the only useful metric of success in RF-based communication, and that only HF operation can make an operator successful.

    As a Technician Class licensee, I reject all of these false premises. I will also point out that Technicians are not calling for this proposal. It is our condescending “superiors” putting this forward in our name, in the belief that they know what’s best for us. We are not retarded children looking for our Brilliant Elders to “save” us. We simply aren’t interested in the same aspects of the hobby that you obsess over.

    In about a year, we will have a geo-sync microwave satellite over North America. How many “skilled” HF phone operators know anything about microwave comms? As we are finding out with Es-Hail2, not many do.

    Lastly, if our putative “superiors” wish to expose Techs to the wonders of HF phone operation, simply let them operate your station under your supervision.

  • Robert/KA5JRX:

    I just subscribed to this site a few minutes. I will un-subscribe right after I send this comment. I did not expect to see anything like this. I thought this might be an interesting Ham radio informative discussion platform. But it seems to just be another avenue for people like Tomas to tell us older Hams how bad our hobby has evolved throughout the years. You are correct Todd/KD0TLS, I know nothing about microwave comms. And I don’t want to know. My interest is HF CW antenna to antenna. It does not bother me to hear other modes anywhere on the bands. I just move on and try to enjoy myself without disturbing other operators already doing their thing. Been licensed since 1975 and never owned a microphone. But that is simply because I don’t want to use a microphone. And BTW William/W1SAW, I spent almost 30 years in the fire department and I never knew a firefighter or a cop that got a Technician license because they wanted to carry a handheld transceiver. That statement was out of order my friend. I hope all of you enjoy yourselves. That is what this hobby is all about. Good Bye & 73’s to all.

  • William Sawyer:

    Robert/KA5JRX
    Not trying to be out of order, nor was the comment, let me elaborate. As a young kid I was fascinated by radio and DC. A passion if you will. I have met a number of hams that don’t share that passion but care about weather, search and rescue, ARES etc. They became hams to have a tool to pursue their passion and vocation. It probably won’t be digital modes on 40 meters, that isn’t their interest. Now, winlink might peak some interest. A lot depends on clubs, creativity, friendliness.

  • Todd KD0TLS:

    Somehow, my statement “Not everyone is interested in HF operation” has been twisted into multiple strawman arguments: “Nobody likes HF operation”, “HF operation is bad/stupid”, and “people who operate on HF are bad/stupid”.

    Look, if you find HF operation appealing, then go for it. But there’s a huge difference between saying, “I like HF operation” and putting forth the premise that everyone craves engagement in HF operation, that their experience as amateurs is empty and hollow without it, that those who lack interest in HF operation also lack “skills”, and that the only reason anyone would not pursue HF operation is because they are too stupid/lazy to gain those privileges.

    And the remark about microwave comms was simply to point out that HF operators do not have a monopoly on “skills”, nor have HF operators necessarily reached the pinnacle of amateur experience and knowledge. Yet, people have twisted this into “If you don’t know about microwave comms, you’re an idiot”.

    The Tech Class offers a huge variety of experiences beyond FM repeaters: EME, 6M meteor scatter/FT8, SSB/CW, packet/APRS/mesh networks, satcom, digital simplex, etc. Many so-called “experienced” HF operators have barely scratched the surface of these various aspects, yet they ‘know’ that HF operation is the only serious and worthwhile thing in the entirety of the hobby.

    It’s not about “who’s smarter”; it’s about who mistakenly thinks they know what everyone is ‘really’ interested in and who is willing to let people find their own way.

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