Monday, June 18, 2012

In various online forums related to Amateur Radio, I continually see posts asking the question as to when Advanced Class licensees in the USA will be "grandfathered" to Extra Class.

As I've noted in previous postings in these and other forums, there is virtually no difference between the operational privileges granted to any of our license classes that grant HF access in the USA (i.e General, Advanced and Extra).  

Rather, those differences are all based on granting more and more artificially walled-off slices of radio spectrum to those who "achieve" the so-called higher classes of license (Advanced and Extra).  But, even though the FCC eliminated all testing for the Advanced Class license nearly a decade ago, those who still hold an Advanced Class license can continue to renew it indefinitely.  

As I see it, there are several reasons why the FCC has been reluctant to "grandfather" Advanced Class licensees to Extra Class and, short of a GAO audit or class action lawsuit, are not about to do so in the near future.  

First (and foremost) such and action would completely undermine their so-called "incentive licensing" nonsense that was put in place in the USA's amateur licensing system over 50 years ago and which still forms the basic regulatory underpinnings of the entire Amateur Radio licensing structure in the USA.  Indeed, to now grant Advance Class licensees privileges for which they did not "earn" would be blasphemous to those Extra Class operators over the years who jumped through all the FCC's stupid "incentive" hoops in order to "upgrade".  

That action, in turn, would create unwanted controversy in the form of reams of letters to (and investigations from) various Congresspersons about why the licenses of or more of their constituents are being "cheapened" in such a way.

And if it's one thing US Government bureaucrats (including those at the FCC) wish to avoid at all costs, it's Congressional investigations.

Second, as there are virtually no differences between the operational privileges granted to Generals, Advanced and Extras (other than access to artificially walled-off slices of spectrum), then if Advanced and Extras are granted equal privileges, why not Generals?  Do also do that would then call the regulatory underpinnings of their entire "incentive" nonsense into question.  For, if all three of these license classes are granted equal privileges, where's the regulatory need for three of them?   

Unfortunately, to correct THAT issue would necessitate a  complete re-write of the "educational" basis and intent of the Amateur Service as now promulgated in in Part 97.1(c)...an intent, by the way, that has absolutely no regulatory basis whatsoever in the International Telecommunication (ITU) Rules  that govern our Service internationally. 

Clearly, the FCC is loath to "grandfather" Generals and/or Advanced Class licensees to Extra unless higher authority (or a legal class action lawsuit) forces them into it. For, in their bureaucratic minds, is far better to simply let "sleeping dogs lie" than to initiate changes that would create controversy and therefore add to their workload in the form of increased Congressional oversight.  

Or, more correctly, it's "better to let sleeping dogs DIE" as those who hold Advanced Class licenses are now dying in ever increasing numbers.  Indeed, if the risk-averse bureaucrats at the FCC wait long enough, this "problem" will eventually take care of itself.

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