In an historic move, the FCC has acted to drop the Morse coderequirement for all Amateur Radio license classes. The Commissiontoday adopted a Report and Order (R&O) in WT Docket 05-235. In abreak from typical practice, the FCC only issued a public notice ator about the close of business and not the actual Report and Order,so some details -- including the effective date of the R&O -- remainuncertain. The public notice is located at,http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-269012A1.pdf.
Also today, the FCC also adopted an Order on Reconsideration, in WTDocket 04-140 -- the "omnibus" proceeding -- agreeing to modify theAmateur Radio rules in response to an ARRL request to accommodateautomatically controlled narrowband digital stations on 80 meters inthe wake of rule changes that became effective today at 12:01 AMEastern Time. The Commission said it will carve out the 3585 to 3600kHz frequency segment for such operations. Prior to the long-awaitedaction on the Morse code issue, Amateur Radio applicants for Generaland higher class licenses had to pass a 5 WPM Morse code test tooperate on HF. The Commission said today's R&O eliminates thatrequirement for General and Amateur Extra applicants.
"This change eliminates an unnecessary regulatory burden that maydiscourage current Amateur Radio operators from advancing theirskills and participating more fully in the benefits of AmateurRadio," the FCC said. The ARRL had asked the FCC to retain the 5 WPMfor Amateur Extra class applicants only. The FCC proposed earlier todrop the requirement across the board, however, and it held to thatdecision in today's R&O.
Perhaps more important, the FCC's action in WT Docket 05-235 appearsto put all Technician licensees on an equal footing: Once the R&Ogoes into effect, holders of Technician class licenses will haveequivalent HF privileges, whether or not they've passed the 5 WPMElement 1 Morse examination. The FCC said the R&O in the Morse codedocket would eliminate a disparity in the operating privileges forthe Technician and Technician Plus class licensees. Technicianlicensees without Element 1 credit (ie, Tech Plus licensees)currently have operating privileges on all amateur frequencies above30 MHz.
"With today's elimination of the Morse code exam requirements, theFCC concluded that the disparity between the operating privileges ofTechnician Class licensees and Technician Plus Class licenseesshould not be retained," the FCC said in its public notice."Therefore, the FCC, in today's action, afforded Technician andTechnician Plus licensees identical operating privileges."
The wholesale elimination of a Morse code requirement for alllicense classes ends a longstanding national and internationalregulatory tradition in the requirements to gain access to AmateurRadio frequencies below 30 MHz. The first no-code license in the USwas the Technician ticket, instituted in 1991. The question ofwhether or not to drop the Morse requirement altogether has been thesubject of often-heated debate over the past several years, but thehandwriting has been on the wall. A number of countries, includingCanada, no longer require applicants for an Amateur Radio license topass a Morse code test to gain HF operating privileges. The list hasbeen increasing regularly.
The FCC said today's R&O in WT Docket 05-235 comports with revisionsto the international Radio Regulations resulting from theInternational Telecommunication Union (ITU) World RadiocommunicationConference 2003 (WRC-03). At that gathering, delegates agreed toauthorize each country to determine whether or not to require thatapplicants demonstrate Morse code proficiency in order to qualifyfor an Amateur Radio license with privileges on frequencies below 30MHz.
Typically, the effective date of an FCC Order is 30 days after itappears in the Federal Register. That would mean the Morserequirement and the revised 80-meter segment for automaticallycontrolled digital stations would likely not go into effect untillate January 2007.
The ARRL will provide any additional information on these importantPart 97 rule revisions as it becomes available.(Source: ARRL/LVH TP NC)