12/30/2020

The FCC has agreed with ARRL and other commenters that its proposed $50
fee for certain amateur radio applications was “too high to account
for the minimal staff involvement in these applications.” In a Report
and Order (R&O), released on December 29, the FCC scaled back to $35 the
fee for a new license application, a special temporary authority (STA)
request, a rule waiver request, a license renewal application, and a
vanity call sign application. All fees are per application. There will
be no fee for administrative updates, such as a change of mailing or
email address.

This fall, ARRL filed comments in firm opposition to the FCC proposal to
impose a $50 fee on amateur radio license and application fees and urged
its members to follow suit.

As the FCC noted in its R&O, although some commenters supported the
proposed $50 fee as reasonable and fair, “ARRL and many individual
commenters argued that there was no cost-based justification for
application fees in the Amateur Radio Service.” The fee proposal was
contained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in MD Docket 20-270,
which was adopted to implement portions of the “Repack Airwaves
Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act” of 2018 —
the so-called “Ray Baum’s Act.”

“After reviewing the record, including the extensive comments filed by
amateur radio licensees and based on our revised analysis of the cost of
processing mostly automated processes discussed in our methodology
section, we adopt a $35 application fee, a lower application fee than
the Commission proposed in the NPRM for personal licenses, in
recognition of the fact that the application process is mostly
automated,” the FCC said in the R&O. “We adopt the proposal from the
NPRM to assess no additional application fee for minor modifications or
administrative updates, which also are highly automated.”

The FCC said it received more than 197,000 personal license applications
in 2019, which includes not only ham radio license applications but
commercial radio operator licenses and General Mobile Radio Service
(GMRS) licenses.

The FCC turned away the arguments of some commenters that the FCC should
exempt amateur radio licensees. The FCC stated that it has no authority
to create an exemption “where none presently exists.”

The FCC also disagreed with those who argued that amateur radio
licensees should be exempt from fees because of their public service
contribution during emergencies and disasters.

“[W]e we are very much aware of these laudable and important services
amateur radio licensees provide to the American public,” the FCC said,
but noted that specific exemptions provided under Section 8 of the
so-called “Ray Baum’s Act” requiring the FCC to assess the fees do
not apply to amateur radio personal licenses. “Emergency
communications, for example, are voluntary and are not required by our
rules,” the FCC noted. “As we have noted previously, ‘[w]hile the
value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial
communications service, particularly with respect to providing emergency
communications, is one of the underlying principles of the amateur
service, the amateur service is not an emergency radio service.’”

The Act requires that the FCC switch from a Congressionally-mandated fee
structure to a cost-based system of assessment. The FCC proposed
application fees for a broad range of services that use the FCC’s
Universal Licensing System (ULS), including the Amateur Radio Service,
which had been excluded previously. The 2018 statute excludes the
Amateur Service from annual regulatory fees, but not from application
fees.

“While the Ray Baum’s Act amended Section 9 and retained the
regulatory fee exemption for amateur radio station licensees, Congress
did not include a comparable exemption among the amendments it made to
Section 8 of the Act,” the FCC R&O explained.

The effective date of the fee schedule has not been established, but it
will be announced at least 30 days in advance. The FCC has directed the
Office of Managing Director, in consultation with relevant offices and
bureaus, to draft a notice for publication in the Federal Register
announcing when rule change(s) will become effective, “once the
relevant databases, guides, and internal procedures have been
updated.”


ARRL Western Washington Section
Section Manager: Monte L Simpson, W7FF
w7ff@arrl.org

FCC Reduces Proposed Amateur Radio Application Fee to $35

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