01/28/2015 - As originally published on the ARRL website at http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-paperless-amateur-radio-license-policy-goes-into-effect-on-february-17
Starting February 17, the FCC no longer will routinely issue paper license documents to Amateur Radio applicants and licensees. The Commission has maintained for some time now that the official Amateur Radio license authorization is the electronic record that exists in its Universal Licensing System (ULS), although the FCC has continued to print and mail hard copy licenses. In mid-December the FCC adopted final procedures to provide access to official electronic authorizations, as it had proposed in WT Docket 14-161 as part of its “process reform” initiatives.
Under the new procedures, licensees will access their current official authorization (“Active” status only) via the ULS License Manager. The FCC will continue to provide paper license documents to all licensees who notify the Commission that they prefer to receive one. Licensees also will be able to print out an official authorization — as well as an unofficial “reference copy” — from the ULS License Manager.
“We find this electronic process will improve efficiency by simplifying access to official authorizations in ULS, shortening the time period between grant of an application and access to the official authorization, and reducing regulatory costs,” the FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) said. According to the WTB, the new procedures will save at least $304,000 a year, including the cost of staff resources.
In comments filed November 5, the ARRL had strongly recommended that the FCC “give serious consideration to continuing a default provision for sending an initial paper license document to new licensees in the Amateur Radio Service, along with detailed, simple instructions for how to make the elections set forth in the notice relative to future modified or renewed licenses.”
The FCC said that applicants or licensees who include a valid e-mail address under “Applicant Information” in the ULS will receive an official electronic authorization via e-mail. New license applicants who do not provide a FCC Registration Number at the examination point will receive a printed license as well as an FRN and a temporary password to access the Commission Registration System (CORES).
The ARRL and other Amateur Radio commenters also worried that unless a license document is printed on distinctive paper stock, its authenticity could be questioned in such situations as obtaining vanity call sign license plates. To address this, the FCC said the watermark “Official Copy” will be printed on each page of an official authorization that a licensee prints out from the ULS. The WTB recently stopped using distinctive paper stock to produce hard copy licenses and has been printing these on “standard, white recycled paper.” The Bureau noted that the distinctive paper stock it had used was six times more expensive than the plain recycled paper it now uses.
The ULS License Manager now includes settings that allow licensees to notify the WTB that they prefer to receive official authorizations on paper. Once the final procedures go into effect designating electronic access as the default, licensees can change the ULS License Manager setting so that the Bureau will print and mail a license document. Licensees also may contact FCC Support via the web, telephone or mail to request paper licenses.
The FCC rejected as “outside the scope of this proceeding” an ARRL argument that Section 97.23 of the Amateur Service rules be amended to replace “licensee mailing address” with other alternatives, including e-mail, for use in Commission correspondence. The rule, which requires that any licensee mailing address be in an area where the licensee has US Postal Service access, has precluded FCC issuance of location-specific call signs in such areas as Navassa Island (KP1) and some Pacific islands.
ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, has issued an urgent call to all radio amateurs to get behind a grassroots campaign to promote co-sponsorship of HR.4969, “The Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2014.” HR.4969 would require the FCC to extend PRB-1 coverage to restrictive covenants. It was introduced in the US House with bipartisan support on June 25 at the request of the ARRL, which worked with House staffers to draft the legislation. The measure would require the FCC to apply the “reasonable accommodation” three-part test of the PRB-1 federal pre-emption policy to private land-use restrictions regarding antennas. The bill’s primary sponsor is Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). It had initial co-sponsorship from Rep Joe Courtney (D-CT).
President Craigie also exhorted all radio amateurs regarding support for HR.4969 in remarks appearing in the The ARRL Legislative Update Newsletter. Craigie stressed in the Newsletter that the legislation stands to benefit not just today’s radio amateurs but those in the future.
“Chances are, those Americans of the future will grow up in communities having private land use restrictions,” she said “That is the way the country is going, and it is very bad for Amateur Radio. How can Amateur Radio thrive, if more and more Americans cannot have reasonable antennas at home? You and I have to stand for the Amateurs of the second century.”
If the measure passes the 113th Congress, it would require the FCC to amend the Part 97 Amateur Service rules to apply PRB-1 coverage to include homeowners’ association regulations and deed restrictions, often referred to as “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” (CC&Rs). At present, PRB-1 only applies to state and local zoning laws and ordinances.
An HR.4969 page now is open on the ARRL website. It contains information and resources for clubs and individuals wishing to support efforts to gain co-sponsors for the measure by contacting their members of Congress.
Visit the ARRL HR.4969 page for more information about how you can support this important legislation!