FCC WON'T SAY PUBLICLY WHEN IT WILL ACT ON MORSE CODE ISSUE All bets appear to be off as to when the FCC might make a final decision on deleting the Morse code requirement. Last July, an FCC Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Order (NPRM&O) in WT Docket 05-235 proposed to eliminate the Element 1 (5 WPM) Morse code requirement for all license classes. Most observers expected the Commission to release a Report and Order (R&O) to that effect by the end of this year, but even that timetable could prove optimistic, based on what the Commission will say publicly. Before tackling the Morse proceeding, the FCC wants to wrap up another important Amateur Radio proceeding, WT Docket 04-140, the so-called "omnibus" or "phone band expansion" proceeding. Responding to an ARRL inquiry, FCC personnel would not go on the record and declined even to hazard a ballpark guess on when the FCC might act on either Amateur Radio proceeding. "They're at different points in the process," an FCC staffer said, refraining from saying anything that might suggest a commitment. "One is farther along in the review chain than the other." The staff member indicated that the "omnibus" proceeding is "way ahead" of the Morse proceeding in the WTB pipeline. The FCC staffers attempted to assure ARRL that the WTB has not been sitting on its hands. "It takes a while to plow through 4000 comments," one said, referring to the huge volume of opinions filed in the Morse docket. "It's not being neglected." The staff member did allow that WTB staff had completed its comment review in the Morse proceeding but wouldn't say when it might see the light of day. "I'd hesitate to say," one staff member demurred. Neither would even say whether the WTB expected to conclude either proceeding by the end of 2006. "They should probably start learning code," one staffer advised those waiting for the FCC to drop the Morse requirement before upgrading, noting that a Certificate of Successful Completion of Exam (CSCE) for a written exam element is only good for a year. Even after the FCC goes public with its decision on Morse code, still more time is likely to pass before any new rules go into effect, the staff member pointed out. Earlier this year an WTB staffer, speaking without attribution, told ARRL, "We certainly hope to release WT Docket 05-235 sometime this year, but we're not making any predictions at this time. We certainly are not saving up any big announcements for Dayton Hamvention." Bill Cross, W3TN, the FCC Public Safety and Critical Infrastructure Division staff member who typically addresses Amateur Radio-related proceedings during Dayton Hamvention's FCC forum, won't be attending this year's show. When the FCC does act , no one's expecting any major surprises: The Commission appears poised to simply drop the Morse requirement for all Amateur Radio license classes as it proposed last summer. Beyond that, the FCC turned away several other petitions, including proposals to create a new entry-level license class. Any FCC decision to eliminate the 5 WPM Morse code requirement for HF access would have no impact on either the current HF CW-only subbands or on the CW privileges of Amateur Radio licensees. Current Technician licensees who have not passed Element 1 will not gain HF access if the FCC drops the Morse requirement. The "omnibus" Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in WT Docket 04-140, released in April 2004, consolidated a dozen petitions for rulemaking, some dating back to 2001. The Commission has proposed to go along with the ARRL's Novice refarming plan aimed at reallocating the current Novice/Tech Plus subbands to expand portions of the 80, 40 and 15 meter phone bands. The FCC also agreed with an ARRL proposal to extend privileges in the current General CW-only HF subbands to present Novice and Tech Plus licensees (or Technicians with Element 1 credit). Among other things, the FCC also proposed to essentially do away with its rules prohibiting the manufacture and marketing to Amateur Radio operators of amplifiers capable of operation on 12 and 10 meters. And it further proposed to adopt a rule to limit the number of applications a licensee may file on a given day for the same vanity call sign. Material from The ARRL Letter may be republished or reproduced in whole or in part in any form without additional permission. Credit must be given to The ARRL Letter and The American Radio Relay League.