the number of FCC-licensed amateur operators is at an all-time high, our amateur service community organizers seem to want
to recruit still another segment of the general population into our amateur service community: those persons who are unmotivated
to obtain ham licenses as the exams now stand. Why must there be exams?
A. There are examinations because Section 97.501 says: Each applicant must pass an examination for a new amateur operator license grant and for each change in operator
Q. What is the ability
to memorize a few answers supposed to prove?
A. Section 97.503 says: A written examination must be such as to prove that the examinee possesses the operational and technical qualifications
required to perform properly the duties of an amateur service licensee.
Q. Why are there three examinations?
A. They provide a stepladder for those who are learning as they go:
beginner, intermediate, and expert. In Element 2 reside the basic questions that concern the duties corresponding
to the bedrock privileges common to all three operator license classes. As of June 5, 2017, the ULS listed 797,832 operators, with 50.5% holding the beginner Technician Class operator license.
The next step up is Element 3, where there resides our VEs’ questions
concerning the duties corresponding to the privileges of the intermediate General Class operator that are over and above those
of the beginner. As of June 5, 2017, the ULS showed 29.4% of our operators holding the intermediate General or no-longer-available
Advanced Class operator license.
The third and final step up is Element 4, where reside our VEs’ questions concerning the duties corresponding to the
privileges of the expert Amateur Extra Class operator that are over and above those of the intermediate operator. As of June
5, 2017, the ULS showed 18.7% of our operators having made it all the way.
Q. What are those duties?
A. For a catalogue of those duties, read W3BE Checklists for Domestic and
Foreign Amateur Service Licensees in Places Where the U.S. FCC Is Our Regulator BE Informed No. 1.0.
it would seem there are three fundamental duties to carried out by persons licensed by our federal government to cause or
allow an amateur radio station to transmit electromagnetic energy from practically anywhere:
1. Understand and avoid the possibilities for causing excessive RF radiation
to themselves, their families, friends, neighbors, and the general population.
2. Make correct decisions and take actions necessary to avoid causing any disruption
to the reception of transmissions from stations in any legitimate radio service, including our own amateur service.
3. Cooperate in maintaining an orderly over-the-air
functioning of our amateur service while conducting self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations normally
expected from duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
Q. What abilities are required in order to perform
these duties properly?
They can be summarized under five topics:
1. Possess the ability to read, understand, apply, and follow the rules – including knowledge of eighty technical terms
(e.r.p., isotropically radiated power, modulation index, multiplex, PEP, etc.) that must be understood in order to make the
2. Possess and
apply the ability to determine whether or not an amateur station’s transmissions are compliant with the technical standards
codified in Part 97 Subpart B Technical Standards Section 97.301 through Section 97.313. This provides the assurance that the transmitting apparatus can be exempt from FCC equipment authorization oversight without unwanted consequence.
3. Possess and apply the ability to properly assemble amateur stations composed of apparatus not necessarily FCC equipment authorized. Section 97.1(b) states our regulators’ expectation for the continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to contribute
to the advancement of the radio art. The FCC does not include amateur station transmitters in its equipment authorization oversight. The Section 97.103 station licensee, rather, is the only person accountable for the amateur station being compliant with the necessary technical standards.
4. Possess and apply the ability to properly
assemble systems of amateur stations. The FCC does not pre-approve systems of amateur stations transmitting in the amateur
service. The individual participating stations do not even have to be provided by the same Section 97.103 station licensee.
5. Possess knowledge of and utilize
the Section 97.101(a)-required good amateur practice transmitting protocols in widespread use in the amateur service.
Who determines what duties are included in the exams?
A. Section 97.523 says: each question on each VEC question pool must be prepared by a VE holding the required FCC-issued operator license.
Our Section 97.507 preparing VEs have the task of preparing each written question set administered to an applicant.
Q. But everyone knows that the questions with multi-choice answers are all written
by a Question Pool Committee according to a 4-year publishing business model schedule.
A. The QPC is the creation of the private entity National Conference of Volunteer-Examiner Coordinators. Section 97.523 requires that: All VECs must cooperate in maintaining one question pool for each written examination element. Each question
pool must contain at least 10 times the number of questions required for a single examination. Each question pool must be
published and made available to the public prior to its use for making a question set. It is from these coordinators
that comes the decision to utilize the multi-choice format, and comes the offer of right/wrong answers for the convenience
of our Section 97.509 administering VEs to rely upon as they see fit.
those of us duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest
who want to conduct self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations have any
protection from those who aim to tinker with the exams as a means of recruiting more licensees for their own purposes?
A. There is No. 53 of
the ITU Radio Regulations (Geneva, 1990) - the essence of which is carried over to the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, then on to Section 2.1, and finally to Section 97.3(a)(4). It clearly defines our amateur service as being intended for bona fide amateurs such as yourself.
Q. Maybe our exam tinkerers have in mind the revised
role for us that our regulator has told the Congress?
A. For the time being, in places where the FCC is our regulator, at least, we are expected to use our radios to supplement emergency communications activities during disasters as an alternative
to the commercial communications infrastructure impacted by the emergency. We are expected to provide an alternative infrastructure
in the form of a network of amateur radio operators and our stations that relay messages, build and maintain repeater stations
and repeater networks, operate HF message networks to send messages greater distances than are practical with mobile or transportable
transmitters, and develop new technologies to improve the reliability of these networks. We are also expected to conduct Section 97.113(a)(3)(i) emergency preparedness or disaster readiness test or drills, including participation on behalf of employers.
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