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Codeless Amateur Radio Testing Regime Appears Set to Begin February 23

NEWINGTON, CT, Jan 19, 2007 -- The ARRL has learned that the FCC's Report and Order (R&O) in the "Morse code proceeding," WT Docket 05-235, is scheduled to appear in the Federal Register Wednesday, January 24. Assuming that occurs, the new Part 97 rules deleting any Morse code examination requirement for Amateur Radio license applicants would go into effect Friday, February 23, 2007. The League cautions that this date is tentative, pending official confirmation and publication.

"This change eliminates an unnecessary regulatory burden that may discourage current Amateur Radio operators from advancing their skills and participating more fully in the benefits of Amateur Radio," the FCC remarked in the Morse code R&O.

Publication of the R&O in the Federal Register starts a 30-day countdown for the new rules to go on the books. The FCC reportedly completed its work on the R&O this week and forwarded it to the Federal Register receiving desk. The Federal Register must make the document available for public inspection 24 hours prior to publication. Federal Register personnel are constrained by law from saying if a particular R&O is in the publication queue, however. Rules and regulations that appear in the Federal Register constitute their official version.

Deletion of the Morse requirement is a landmark in Amateur Radio history. Until 1991, when a code examination was dropped from the requirements to obtain a Technician ticket, all prospective radio amateurs had to pass a Morse test. Once the new rules are in place, Amateur Radio license applicants no longer will have to demonstrate Morse code proficiency at any level to gain access to the HF bands.

On or after the effective date of the new rules, an applicant holding a valid Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) for a higher license class will be able to redeem it for an upgrade. For example, a Technician licensee holding a valid CSCE for Element 3 (General) could apply at a VEC exam session, pay the application fee -- which most VECs charge -- and receive an instant upgrade. A CSCE is good only for 365 days from the date of issuance. Candidates for General or Amateur Extra between now and the effective date of the new rules still must have Element 1 (5 WPM Morse code) credit to obtain new privileges, however.

The new rules also mean that all Technician licensees, whether or not they've passed a Morse code examination, will gain HF privileges identical to those of current Novice and Tech Plus (or Technician with Element 1 credit) licensees without having to apply for an upgrade. Novices and Technicians with Element 1 credit have CW privileges on 80, 40, 15 meters and CW, RTTY, data and SSB privileges on 10 meters.

The FCC R&O includes an Order on Reconsideration in WT Docket 04-140 -- the so-called "omnibus" proceeding. It will modify the Amateur Service rules in response to ARRL's request to accommodate automatically controlled narrowband digital stations on 80 meters in the wake of other rule changes that were 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 has been posting 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.

This was posted on the ARRL's website @
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