Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dollar signs in their eyes

Maybe I'm just in a dour mood.

The Report and Order by the FCC removing the requirement for a Morse Code examination in order to allow an Amateur Radio operator to operate below 30 MHz was published in the Federal Register the other day. Thus, 30 days later on February 23, 2007 the long standing tradition that Ham radio operators must know Morse Code to get on the HF bands will be history.

I question the wisdom of this action. I question the wisdom of any action where standards are lowered and tradition is chucked out the window in favor of expedience. I fear we will suffer from the consequences of this some day, perhaps sooner than later. But the Genie is out of the bottle and I doubt anything will ever be done to stuff it back in and reinsert the cork.

What boils my onions is that the ARRL is so damned happy about it! On their Website, in the pages of QST, in the ARRL bulletins there is, in my opinion, a underlying level of giddiness akin to a youngster finding presents under the tree on Christmas morning. This is sad. The motives for the League's position on the issue were always suspect to me. Now, the harsh light of daylight is showing them for what they truly were. It was never about the "advancement" of Amateur Radio; it always about the money. Somewhere I read of their breathless announcement of how on the day the R&O was released they had 500 inquiries on how to become acquire an Amateur Radio license. Wow ...... 500 more opportunities to sell license manuals, CDs, books, etc. The old advice of "follow the money" never seemed truer than it turned out to be in this case.

I doubt that the elimination of the Code will mean a long term and dramatic increase in the number of Amateur Radio licensees. There will probably be a short term increase; but I doubt it will be the sustained growth spurt that the League touts as their reason for wanting the elimination of the Code requirement. All the doom-sayers who have Amateur Radio dead and buried think that the Code was an obstacle to the growth of the hobby. I think that's just a bunch of hooey; just another urban myth that took on a life of its own. Amateur Radio numbers are just about as high as they've ever been. Just because the influx of new Hams tends to be from an older demographic doesn't necessarily mean the end days of the service. Furthermore, if it is truly the "Amateur Radio Service" then I think the attitude and focus should be on quality and not quantity. An Amateur Radio license should not be regarded as a birthright. It is a privilege earned by study, hard work, desire and discipline. One of my bosses once warned me that when a customer receives something for free, then that item or service no longer has any value. It's not something that was end result of work; it becomes a trinket that was just freely given and loses whatever intrinsic value it once had held.

The bottom line seems to me to be that the FCC is just doing whatever they can to make the Amateur Radio service less work for them; and that ARRL is doing its part to make the Amateur Radio service into a moneymaker for them.

Time will tell.

73 de Larry W2LJ

1 comment:

  1. I agree. The ARRL has given the appearance of being more interested in selling books then in helping ham radio for many years. I came to that conclusion in 1964 and nothing has changed my mind. It is sad because we need the help.