Comm Site Fees to Significantly Increase for Ham Radio Repeaters

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by WB6JWB, Jan 8, 2022.

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  1. WB6JWB

    WB6JWB Ham Member QRZ Page

    The government authority that issues special use permits for comm sites on federal land, the USDA, has proposed a fee increase of $1,400 dollars for each permit, per year - which includes many ham radio repeaters and remote base station across the country.

    The fee increase is an addition to existing annual fees which vary by site, but average around $200 for amateur radio comm site permits. The new fees apply to all comm site owners/users, for example, commercial 2 way radio, government agencies and anyone else that has a permit to operate radio communications from a comm site on federal land.

    The proposed regulation applies to amateur radio comm sites, but the text of the regulation does not address amateur radio. Currently, and for many decades since, amateur radio permits have a reduced annual fee because of the non commercial aspect of amaetur radio and its service provided to the communities it serves. Annual fees for commercial sites are significantly higher. The new regulation does not provide any reduction in costs, it applies the same $1,400 cost per year as a commercial 'for profit' entity pays. The government has shown no relief to the amateur radio community.

    As with any change to federal regulations, there is a comment period whereby those affected may submit in writing, issues and impacts created by the rulemaking. The regulation is very complex, yet the comment period is only sixy (60) days, ending on February 22, 2022. This is not nearly enough time to provide a well researched and coordinated reply to counteract the consequences to amateur radio. Conversely, these fast timelines are not arbitrary, they are intentionally applied to avoid proper challenges to changes in the law.

    The fee increase will certainly cause individual amateur radio repeater operators to stop operation due to the excessive financial impact. Other amateur radio repeaters that sublet space in commercial or government comm sites will likely see their monthly fees increase as a consequence of the site owner passing the fee increase along to customers in the affected comm site.

    Conveniently, the USDA email was sent days before Christmas and the overseeing manager went on vacation.

    A summary of the proposed rule, in my own words, is as follows:

    The Farm Bill of 2018 includes text that directs various government agencies to "speed up" internet access for rural communities. The USDA has used this direction as the basis for their fee increase, stating that their agency that provides comm site management, which may or may not provide fiber optic pathways, is understaffed and therefore inefficient at processing comm site permits. They go on to say that hiring more staff will (somehow) make the agency more efficient, even though no efficiency studies have been conducted. Instead, they have analyzed the labor cost of the existing and proposed new staff and divided the cost by the number of comm site permits across the country - which mathematically comes to $1,400 per year for each permittee. In other words, comm site permit holders will be literally paying the wages of the government agency employees which issues permits. They expect the fees to increase in the future based on a cost index.

    Below is a link to the proposed regulation and the text of the email by the manager of the program which was sent to each permit holder.

    EMAIL TEXT:
    The Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proposing to amend its existing regulations to charge a statutorily required annual programmatic administrative fee for new and existing communications use authorizations to cover the costs of administering the Agency’s communications use program.

    The notice was published in the Federal Register today, with the comment period ending on February 22, 2022.

    In summary, the Forest Service is proposing to charge an annual programmatic administrative fee of $1,400 per communications use authorization for wireless uses and $400 per communications use authorization for wired uses; the fees would be indexed annually for inflation. These fees represent the Forest Service’s estimated average cost of administering its communications use program, prorated among all authorization holders.

    Joey Perry (she/her)
    Program Manager – Communications Uses
    Forest Service
    Washington Office, Lands & Realty Management
    p: 530-251-3286
    joey.perry@usda.gov

    1330 Bayshore Way
    Eureka, CA 95501
    www.fs.fed.us
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Link to proposed rulemaking:
    86 FR 72540 - Land Uses; Special Uses; Annual Programmatic Administrative Fee for Communications Use Authorizations - Content Details - 2021-27681 (govinfo.gov)

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2022
    K7SKE likes this.
  2. N6UJM

    N6UJM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here is what I sent to the USFS:

    My comment:
    Sir, I'm very concerned about the proposed fees by the USFS for rad, because of the volunteer work performed by Ham Radio operators during emergencies. They have provided valuable communication service for the Government and the citizens during major emergencies such as fires, floods, earthquakes and such.
    I am a member of a group which volunteers to repair and maintain off highway vehicle trails in the San Bernardino National Forest Adopt-a-Trail program. We use the mountain top repeaters to coordinate our activates. Hams have used these repeaters to call in emergencies such as fires, vehicle accidents, medical emergencies, and during periods of high fire danger assisting the USFS with Fire Watch Patrols in areas where there is no cell phone coverage.
    For the above reasons I am Asking you to remove radio repeaters owned by Ham Radio operators from this proposed fee program.
    Thank you,
    Roger Peterson - N6UJM
    XXX XXX XXXX XX
    Lucerne Valley, CA 93456
    760-XXX-XXXX

    I hope other hams respond even if you don't live near a national forest. Please feel free to copy any of my response you would like to.
     
    K7IWW, WB6JWB, KF0FPJ and 9 others like this.
  3. VY1RW

    VY1RW Ham Member QRZ Page

    It should be free, considering that amateur repeaters or remote stations passes emergency traffic in event of a emergency.. Looks like a Money grab again from the Gov.
     
    N4FZ, KR4MT, WB6JWB and 9 others like this.
  4. N1IPU

    N1IPU Ham Member QRZ Page

    What's the ARRL doing about this?
     
    W3ZVX, WA7TNT, WB6JWB and 13 others like this.
  5. KE0HTG

    KE0HTG Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    most of us already know the answer to that question I think
     
    WA7TNT, KI5PLE, W2CPD and 9 others like this.
  6. KD2RZW

    KD2RZW XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Who? o_O
     
    WA7TNT, W2CPD, AK9S and 5 others like this.
  7. WI4MM

    WI4MM Ham Member QRZ Page

    A few profane, and justified adjectives are I my thoughts, however I being the gentleman I am, hi hi hi... I'll past on them.
     
    WB6JWB, N7DBI, IW3ILM and 1 other person like this.
  8. KB1MM

    KB1MM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Lol…
     
    KB0QIP, W7IVK and M1WML like this.
  9. W4ATO

    W4ATO Ham Member QRZ Page

    Letter sent to Forest Service. Thanks for letting us know in time to respond.
     
    WB6JWB, K4XJ and M1WML like this.
  10. N1IPU

    N1IPU Ham Member QRZ Page

    If one thinks about it Ham radio in regards to public service is one of the last Militia models left. Feds want nothing to do with that as it runs counter to them being the new god for most people and power never wants to be challenged.
    Whackers in the past have done their level best to show us as all morons and it's stuck. Why pay anything past utilities? Take all the repeaters down and innovate how we do it in the future. We don't need them and it is time we understood that. If that means we become pirates on our own lands so be it.

    I am so done begging for scraps from our masters table and dodging the kings gamekeepers.
     
    WI4MM, WA7TNT, N4FZ and 14 others like this.

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