ARRL Entry Level License Committee Report July 2017

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by NN4RH, Aug 2, 2017.

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  1. AC0GT

    AC0GT Ham Member QRZ Page

    How about getting rid of the General and just keeping Technician and Extra?

    Judging from previous FCC actions they are not opposed to doing what they can to reduce the number of licenses they have to manage. I give as examples the reduction of both amateur and commercial license classes in the not to distant past. What they seem opposed to doing is anything that will give them too much public outcry, they just don't want to bother. The "regulation by bandwidth" example is a good one. I completely forgot about that until brought up.

    What's happened in commercial licensing is that the FCC will not renew deprecated licenses and people that wish to renew would get the license with equivalent testing. For example a 1st or 2nd radio telegraph got the new radio telegraph license. Those with a 3rd radio telegraph license could renew as a marine radio operator. I suspect that there may come a point where the FCC will refuse to renew Novice and Advanced licenses, those that want to renew and not lose privileges will have to take an upgrade test, Novice to Technician and Advanced to Extra. Just like how if a 3rd radio telegraph license holder wanted to keep operating CW would have to pass a test to get the then new single telegraph license.

    I just think that ARRL is asking the wrong question with looking for a new "entry" license, as this implies a need to keep incentive licensing. I believe that they should take this from the stance of thinking of a license structure that minimizes the effort required by the FCC, keeps testing simple (not "easy", only that the number and structure of testing is not complex), and can get wide support of the amateur community.

    What bothers me is the knee jerk reaction of any proposed change is, "They're going to give licenses away!" Right, because having a single 70 question test instead of two 35 question tests is equivalent to no testing at all.

    I said before that incentive licensing is dead and I'll say it again. It effectively died with the "no-code" Technician. Everything after that exists only because of inertia. I do think that we need a new amateur license. What we need is a license structure is based on being trained for the equipment operated. This is how pilot licensing is done. This is how driver licenses are issued. It's how the FCC does commercial radio licensing. It's also how Canada licenses amateur radio operators.
  2. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Let's go with that thought for a second. Since FCC has specifically endorsed the continuation of incentive licensing in orders after both the no-code tech, and the dropping of the Advanced and Novice licenses, what argument are you going to take to FCC to convince them to abandon incentive licensing?
  3. N0TZU

    N0TZU Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for detailing the differences between the Tech and General tests. It's quite clear why the FCC considers it easy to upgrade from Tech to General, as pointed out by KK5JY.

    I passed the Advanced test in the early 1990's (and took but failed the Extra at that time). There were four incentive license grades, and there was substantial difference in knowledge required to pass the tests for each.

    I took and passed the Extra in 2012. I can testify that the modern Extra test is easier than the old Advanced. It is also easier than the old Extra, partly because the material from the older two tests has been combined and necessarily shortened.

    So now we have only three license steps, and the tests for General and Extra are easier than 25 years ago. Since there isn't much difference between Tech and General tests, essentially there are only two incentive steps from a licensing perspective, and they are easier than they ever have been in modern times.

    Given that, I have to agree that the chances of obtaining more privileges for Tech from the FCC isn't going to happen, and it shouldn't, seeing as how the FCC believes incentives are important to encourage radio knowledge in the public interest.

    It seems to me that a good solution for retaining entry level ham interest is to change is the way we teach and train new hams. Stop teaching only Tech classes as the entry level and go right to General. This would get new hams HF privileges and more reasons to be active, while also giving us a de facto two level incentive licensing scheme without any action needed from the FCC. (Perhaps this point has already been made and I missed it).

    We had better hope that the FCC continues to see a public interest rationale for amateur radio skills which was a justification for incentive licensing. Otherwise there is no reason for the government to allocate spectrum to us at all.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2017
  4. K7JEM

    K7JEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think if we are going to proceed this way, then the tech license needs to be eliminated. Then go back to the 50 question general test of many decades ago, and have a two tier license based on your score on that single test. If you get 80% or better right, you get a general. If you get 65% or 70% (or whatever) right, you get a "basic" license, which would be similar to general, but with power restrictions and maybe frequency and other restrictions. This would keep the three license platform like we have now, and retain the incentive licensing that so many, including the FCC, seem set on.

    At the same time, I would advocate changing the extra to an 80% correct to pass the test. This would "toughen up" the licensing, yet create a meaningful entry point where new licensees would have the full spectrum of ham radio available to them.

    It would only be slightly more difficult as an entry license test to achieve, versus what the tech is today.
  5. N0TZU

    N0TZU Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    If we get new hams started as Generals then after some time data will exist showing General to be the preferred entry level license and few new Techs. This will go a long way to convince the FCC to eliminate the Technician license as unnecessary.
  6. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    I still want to know why VHF+ bands are considered "entry level" bands? Why are they considered to be of lesser value than other bands?

    If you look at modern uses for radio, VHF+ are more valuable than HF for just about any other radio service. That's true for military, maritime, LMR, public service, public safety, cellular phone, long distance phone, nearly all broadcast service, nearly all safety related two-way services, nearly all safety-related beacon services, high-speed networking, radar, radioastronomy, and so on. HF radio is almost a legacy technology by most modern standards.

    If you want an amateur license class that is the most relevant to modern technology it is the Technician license. The General, Advanced and Extra are Jurassic by comparison.

    Maybe the reason hams see the Technician license as an "entry level" license is because the amateur radio service isn't using the VHF+ frequencies to anywhere near their full potential. Maybe the problem isn't the license or what you can't do with it, or what you can't do with an FM HT... maybe it's all of the rest of us hams, and what we aren't doing with some awesome spectrum that is available to us?
    N0TZU likes this.
  7. K7JEM

    K7JEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    The problem is, as long as the tech exists as the entry level, you will have people attain that, and not get the general. Many people do self study from the internet and other places to get their license, so they may not be influenced by what we, as older hams, have to say, since they may not be aware of it.
  8. K7JEM

    K7JEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    The tech is considered "entry level" because it is the entry level, the first test that you take. It has nothing to do with privileges, per se, and that is really the problem. An "entry level" license should provide some sort of real restrictions, while still allowing a broad base of all facets of amateur privileges and bands.
  9. N0TZU

    N0TZU Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's a fair point. More needs to be made of things like Echolonk that allow Techs to talk all over the world, and good linked repeater systems allow them regional comms just using radio. And maybe we also need to emphasize weak signal work too. As has been pointed out, just giving a new Tech a handshake and a Baofeng doesn't cut it.

    But none of this would change with a focus on General as the goal of entry level classes. General's can do all this too of course, and there would be the added allure of HF for not much additional class time investment.

    Students that have difficulty with the slightly more technical topics will still obtain the Tech license if they pass it but fail the General.
  10. KK5JY

    KK5JY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yes, this. There are all kinds of better ways to squeeze miles and modulation out of a signal than FM analog voice.

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