Morse Code Requirement Ends Friday, February 23
NEWINGTON, CT, Jan 24, 2007 -- Circle Friday, February 23, on your calendar. That's when the current 5 WPM Morse code requirement will officially disappear from the Amateur Radio Service Part 97 rules in accordance with the FCC's Report and Order (R&O) in the "Morse code proceeding," WT Docket 05-235. Beginning at 12:00 AM local time on February 23 (ie, after midnight Thursday), applicants for a General or Amateur Extra class Amateur Radio license no longer will have to demonstrate proficiency in Morse code. They'll just have to pass the applicable written examination. Publication of the new rules in the January 24 Federal Register started a 30-day countdown for the new rules to become effective. Deletion of the Morse requirement -- still a matter of controversy within the amateur community -- is a landmark in Amateur Radio history.
"The overall effect of this action is to further the public interest by encouraging individuals who are interested in communications technology or who are able to contribute to the advancement of the radio art, to become Amateur Radio operators; and eliminating a requirement that is now unnecessary and may discourage Amateur Service licensees from advancing their skills in the communications and technical phases of Amateur Radio," the FCC remarked in the "Morse code" R&O that settled the matter, at least from a regulatory standpoint. The League had asked the FCC to retain the 5 WPM for Amateur Extra class applicants, but the Commission held to its decision to eliminate the requirement across the board. The R&O appearing in the Federal Register constitutes the official version of the new rules.
Until 1991, when a Morse code examination was dropped from the requirements to obtain a Technician ticket, all prospective radio amateurs had to pass a Morse code test. With the change the US will join a growing list of countries that have dropped the need to demonstrate some level of Morse code proficiency to earn access to frequencies below 30 MHz.
The new rules also put all Technician licensees on an equal footing, whether or not they've passed a Morse code examination. Starting February 23, Technicians will gain CW privileges on 80, 40, 15 meters and CW, RTTY, data and SSB privileges on 10 meters. When the new rules go into effect Technicians may begin using their new privileges without any further action.
On or after February 23, an applicant holding a valid Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) for Element 3 (General) or Element 4 (Amateur Extra) credit may redeem it for an upgrade at a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) exam session. A CSCE is good for 365 days from the date of issuance, no exceptions. For example, a Technician licensee holding a valid CSCE for Element 3 credit would have to apply at a VEC test session and pay the application fee, which most VECs charge, in order to receive an instant upgrade to General.
ARRL Regulatory Information Specialist Dan Henderson, N1ND, cautions that a license upgrade is not automatic for those holding valid CSCEs for element credit. "You must apply for the upgrade at a VEC test session, and you may not operate as /AG or /AE until you have upgraded and have been issued a CSCE marked for upgrade," he stresses. "A valid CSCE for element credit only does not confer any operating privileges." Henderson also advises all radio amateurs to know and fully understand their operating privileges before taking to the airwaves. Some Technician licensees reportedly started showing up on 75 meters December 15 in the mistaken belief that they had gained phone privileges there.
The FCC R&O includes an Order on Reconsideration in WT Docket 04-140 -- the so-called "omnibus" proceeding. It will modify Part 97 in response to ARRL's request to accommodate automatically controlled narrowband digital stations on 80 meters in the wake of other rule changes that became effective last December 15. The Commission designated 3585 to 3600 kHz for such operations, although that segment will remain available for CW, RTTY and data. The ARRL had requested that the upper limit of the CW/RTTY/data subband be set at 3635 kHz so there would be no change in the existing 3620 to 3635 kHz subband.
The ARRL has posted all relevant information on these important Part 97 rule revisions on its "FCC's Morse Code Report and Order WT Docket 05-235" Web page.
Posted on the ARRL website @ www.arrl.org