Thursday, April 26, 2012

Like many of my fellow Hams, I, too, am becoming ever more disgusted with the "sour grapes" blather emanating from an ever-shrinking (but still highly vocal) minority of "crusty curmudgeons" in our ranks…people who are STILL royally peeved that the FCC has now (finally!) seen fit to start dismantling their highly discriminatory, 1950's-era "exclusive club" approach to licensing and regulating our Service.

I most often hear such elitist blather spewing from the mouths and keyboards of these Neanderthals in ever more obsessive rants that Amateur Radio in the United States is now somehow being "dumbed down". 

However, what these clowns seem to have (conveniently?) forgotten is that it was the FCC (at the ARRL's urging) who, in the 1950s and 60s, decided to "dumb UP" what USED to be a simple series of examinations for full participation in our Service.  As I've been discussing, the plan they ultimately hatched was called "incentive licensing" and its overall objective was to turn Amateur Radio into the "No Budding Professional RF Engineer Left Behind" Radio Service.

Sadly, what also seems to have been conveniently forgotten by these elitists is that, for several decades in our early years, our Service functioned just beautifully without having ANY technical requirements in our licensing system WHATSOEVER!

Back then, the US government's regulatory emphasis was based largely on demonstrating one's ability to communicate, NOT on demonstrating one's technical prowess to someone in authority.  We simply didn't need to.  That's because our contributions to advancing the state of the radio art were being clearly demonstrated for all to see on a daily basis by our collective inventiveness.

However, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the FCC (at the ARRL's urging) decided to hatch their stupid incentive licensing foolishness, they also (and I say quite needlessly) pushed the licensing requirements for full access to our Service in the United States WELL beyond those minimally required by other nations, not to mention those minimally required under the ITU rules that govern our Service internationally.

The system they concocted consisted of a "class-based" system with candidates being forced to successfully pass ever more comprehensive technical examinations (and Morse tests!) in exchange for access to so-called "exclusive" slivers of operating spectrum along with the chance to obtain an "exclusive" call sign.  Unfortunately, nowadays, even with the Morse tests having (finally!) gone the way of the dinosaur along with an ever-so-slow reduction in the number of license classes, this 1950s-era "incentive" system remains largely intact in the USA.

Thankfully, most other countries around the world never bought into this foolishness.  Even with only entry-level licenses, most Hams in other countries are allowed to operate with full frequency privileges using the maximum bandwidths allowed by the international regulations for our Service right from the start.  There are no regulated "sub-bands" or "sub-sub bands" based on license class and operating mode in most other countries in the world.

What's more, advanced licenses in these countries are usually only required for Hams who want to do some very specific things in our Service that need a higher level of technical or administrative expertise to successfully (or safely) perform. These include being able to run a repeater or club station, build their own transmitters "from scratch", run high power and/or give exams.

The official reason the FCC (and the ARRL) gave for hatching their incentive licensing stupidity at the time was to "improve the technical qualifications of US Hams".  This presumes such "improvement" was needed. 

Who made that assessment and how they arrived at that particular conclusion is anyone's guess.

However, my hunch is that a FAR more bigoted reason for this sudden change in policy at the time was really all about keeping the dreaded "riff raff" (otherwise known as "CBers") out of our Service at all costs.  Unfortunately, there's still a lot of enmity directed toward former CBers (and CB jargon) on our bands even today…over 50 years after the 11 Meter band was taken from the Hams and re-allocated to the Citizens Radio Service.

The ARRL and the FCC may have been able to get away with such blatant, government-sponsored regulatory discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s.  However, both organizations have now realized that such federally enabled, systemic discrimination has become patently illegal under US federal law…which is most likely why such arcane practices as multi-speed Morse tests and a dizzying hierarchy of needlessly comprehensive written examinations are now (slowly) going by the wayside.

However, sadly, there are STILL far too many crusty curmudgeons in our ranks who justify their own boorish snobbery toward ALL new (or would-be) Hams (particularly those who might have roots in that "other" radio service) by continually practicing their regulated elitism toward newcomers.  They reserve their particularly vehement catcalls and boorish behavior for anyone who didn't pass the exact same, overly comprehensive entrance and advancement exams as they did "back then".

The fact that relying on a licensing system to keep the "riff raff" out has been proven, over and over again, to be utterly ineffective at doing so doesn't seem to matter to this crowd.  All one has to do is look at the long list of 20 WPM Extra Class licensees who have since made their way onto the FCC's "scofflaw list" to find irrefutable proof of that fact. 

But, then again, when have facts ever gotten in the way of snobbery?

So, when newer Hams run into these boorish clowns on our bands (or in various online forums) it is important for those newcomers to remember that these loud-mouthed Neanderthals constitute an ever-dwindling minority of the active Hams in our Service.  That's because the FCC has now…officially…debunked all of their elitist, 1950s-era, systemically discriminatory "lid filter" ideas. 

But what's even more encouraging is that the vocal proponents of such regulation-sanctioned bigotry are, themselves, now dying off in ever increasing numbers. Posting their increasingly inane blather in various online forums and/or looking down their noses at newcomers in Ham radio-related gatherings remains their last, best (and possibly only) hope to stem the tide. 

But, fortunately, they aren't getting any traction there, either.

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