Saturday, April 21, 2012

Here's yet another chapter in my continuing rant against the FCC for perpetuating an "achievement-based" approach to licensing in our Service in the United States of American LONG after it became illegal under US Federal law.

Clearly, such "achievement" nonsense has absolutely NO place in a taxpayer-supported, government-administered institution whose regulator's sole authority is to simply regulate the airwaves.  By contrast, it is painfully obvious that the underlying goal of incentive licensing was to forcefully "educate" us with the aim of turning us all into budding RF Engineers. And THAT was done primarily so as to further a whole plethora of government social and economic goals of the day. 

Some of you may remember the "missile gap" of the 1960s when our government bureaucrats were throwing anything and everything at the wall to stimulate a country-wide effort to crank out hordes of mechanical, electrical and RF engineers.   Obviously, "incentive licensing" in our radio service was made all the more palatable because of its relationship to the backdrop of the "missile gap" paranoia of the day. 

But, it is also important to remember that, besides the "missile gap" being later shown to be overwhelmingly in the US's favor, all of that nonsense happened NEARLY 60 YEARS AGO!  What possible regulatory purpose is still being served today....in the 21st Century...by indefinitely keeping all that "missile gap derived" foolishness fully in place?  The Soviet Union has long since gone the way of the dinosaur, and most of our electronic components and equipment now originate from the Far East.

Clearly, the other underlying goal of all this "incentive" nonsense back then was to line the pockets of the ARRL of the day who, if memory serves correctly, were on the financial "ropes" at the time. Indeed, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the League has been cashing in on "incentive licensing" ever since by selling tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of copies of their so-called "upgrade" materials along the way.

On numerous occasions, I've been encouraged to "petition" the FCC for the changes I'm advocating.  But, unfortunately, I've found (from my own AMSAT experiences) that their whole "petition" process is little more than a bureaucratic farce.  Most "petitions" end up in "File 13" if they in any way go against already established FCC policy.

Sadly, most US hams also seem to have collectively lost sight of the fact that the FCC is nothing more than yet another US Government regulatory agency.  And that agency has never been granted the statutory authority to set themselves up to "educate" anyone.  What's more, since US taxpayers pay their salaries, these clowns all work for YOU AND ME and NOT the other way around!  

Now, I don't know about you, but from my own personal perspective, I highly RESENT being manipulated, controlled and, in effect, abused by a bunch of gormless government bureaucrats who remain seemingly hell-bent on using we hams (and prospective hams) as unwitting pawns to further their own social and economic policy goals as outlined in their Part 97.1….particularly all that nonsense about "maintaining and expanding a reservoir of trained operators and technical experts". 

In my book, ALL of that eyewash remains in DIRECT CONTRAVENTION of the "personal aim" and "amateur" spirit (not to mention the "non pecuniary interest" intent) of our International Telecommunications Union (ITU) regulators for our Service. And the FCC has been getting away with all of this internatinally illegal foolishness for decades largely because US hams collectively 'bought into" all that nonsense in the first place and have continued to worship it all as "the Gospel truth" ever since.

Indeed, it's often been said that we don't get the government we deserve, we get the government (in this case the FCC) we allow.

Many hams have also attacked my ideas because they fly in the face of the notion that it would negate all the "work" they had to expend to get their licenses that they have somehow "earned" under the incentive licensing program.

The truth is that a license to operate in our Service isn't something to be "earned". Our licenses are granted after someone simply displays a specified level of competency. They were never in intended by the ITU to be "earned" as some kind of "reward" for a person's educational "achievement".  And there's distinct difference in how those two concepts are perceived by both our regulators and the licensee.

There have also been proposals before FCC to grant full privileges to non-Extras in recent years. In every case FCC has pointed out that the exams aren't that involved, and that if the hams really want full privileges they can just go pass the test.

All of which is simply an expression of yet MORE bureaucratic laziness on the part of the FCC for their apparent decision NOT to comply with other applicable federal laws as they relate to our Service.  There's simply no valid excuse for such blatant regulatory neglect that would pass muster in a GAO audit or stand up in any federal court of law today.

Clearly, the lazy bureaucrats at the FCC aren't now doing the job we taxpayers have directed them to do...which is to fully comply with the ITU regulations and changes in the the US Federal Code.  They simply aren't doing doing so. Rather, the continue to hide behind the worn out excuse that the status quo is "what we hams want".  Obviously, what they interpret as "what most hams want" is what the ARRL TELLS them "most hams want", even though the League's (now slowly dwindling) membership constitutes only about 25% of all licensed US hams.  

25% isn't "most".

But, even so, if I had perpetuated such "half-baked" bureaucratic excuses as my and my office's sole reason for non-compliance with the rest of the Federal Code at any time during my 20 years as a US Government comptroller professional, I would have been fired on the spot.  In my estimation, such bureaucratic laziness now goes well beyond simple regulatory malfeasance to the point of being blatant, benign neglect of a duly authorized radio service.

Any way you cut it, its criminal.

This becomes particularly true when the FCC could very quickly (and, I believe, very easily) get rid of a HUGE part of the blatant systemic discrimination in our licensing system and all without changing anyone's license class or reissuing anyone's license.

In fact, if they really wanted to, they could do it all with just a simple stoke of a pen.

All the FCC would need to need do is simply REMOVE all the artificially regulated sub-bands (and sub-sub bands) on HF and then grant anyone holding a General, Advanced or Extra Class license identical operating privileges.  At the same time, ANYONE could apply for ANY available call sign under their so-called "vanity" call sign system. 

This approach would allow all] of our bands to revert back to their underlying ITU maximum emission bandwidth criteria, which is, as I've said, the way many other countries (like Canada) already do it. 

Under this scenario, NOBODY would "lose" their current operating privileges.  In fact, this approach would (finally) recognize the fact that there IS no fundamental difference between the operating privileges now granted to a General Class licensee and those of Advanced and Extra Class licensee in our Service in the United States today.

And, of course, this would also mean that it would once again be left up to we hams to decide "what goes where" on our HF bands, just like we now do on our VHF and above bands…something we have, by the way, ALREADY been doing….for decades.

And THAT sky has yet to fall.

The only thing the remaining Advanced and Extra class license holders would now have under this new system would be "bragging rights", which, from a legal and regulatory standpoint, are largely irrelevant anyway...except, of course, in the narrow little minds of those who have been using their Advanced and Extra Class licenses as US Government permission to look down their upturned noses at everyone else in our hobby. Under this new plan, all of THAT snobbery would now lose its US Government sanctioned underpinnings.

But, operationally, all three licenses would now become virtually identical…which, in reality, is what they already are.

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