The FCC has turned down two petitions filed in 2016, each seeking similar changes in the Part 97 Amateur Service rules. James Edwin Whedbee, N0ECN, of Gladstone, Missouri, had asked the Commission to amend the rules to reduce the number of Amateur Radio operator classes to Technician, General, and Amateur Extra by merging remaining Novice class licensees into the Technician class and all Advanced class licensees into the Amateur Extra class. In a somewhat related petition, Jeffrey H. Siegell, WB2YRL, of Burke, Virginia, had requested that the FCC grant Advanced class license holders Morse code operating privileges equivalent to those enjoyed by Amateur Extra class licensees.
“Thus, Mr. Siegell’s proposed rule change is subsumed within the changes Mr. Whedbee requests, so our analysis is the same for both proposals,” the FCC said in dismissing the two petitions on January 5.
The FCC streamlined the Amateur Radio licensing system into three classes — Technician, General, and Amateur Extra — in 1999. While it no longer issues new Novice or Advanced class licenses, existing licenses can be renewed, and Novice and Advanced licensees retained their operating privileges.
“The Commission concluded that the three-class structure would streamline the licensing process, while still providing an incentive for licensees to advance their communication and technical skills,” the FCC recounted in its dismissal letter to Whedbee and Siegell. It specifically rejected suggestions that Novice and Advanced class licensees be automatically upgraded to a higher class, concluding that it would be inappropriate for these licensees to “receive additional privileges without passing the required examination elements.” The FCC cited the same reason in 2005, when it denied requests to automatically upgrade Technician licensees to General class and Advanced licensees to Amateur Extra class, as part of a wide-ranging proceeding.
The FCC said the two petitions “do not demonstrate, or even suggest, that any relevant circumstances have changed that would merit reconsideration of those decisions.”
Whedbee had argued that automatically upgrading current Novice and Advanced classes would simplify the rules and reduce the Commission’s costs and administrative burden, but the FCC said Whedbee provided no evidence that an administrative problem exists. “Moreover, such benefits would not outweigh the public interest in ensuring that amateur operators have the requisite incentive to advance their skill and technical knowledge in order to contribute to the advancement of the radio art and improvement of the Amateur Radio Service,” the FCC said.
“The Commission has already concluded that it will not automatically grant additional privileges to the discontinued license classes,” the FCC said. “Consequently, we conclude that the above-referenced petitions for rulemaking do not warrant further consideration at this time.”