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Just 10 days after being introduced in the 115th Congress, the 2017 Amateur Radio Parity Act legislation, H.R. 555, passed the US House of Representatives on unanimous consent under a suspension of House rules. The bills language is identical to that of the 2015 measure, H.R. 1301, which won House approval late last summer after attracting 126 cosponsors, but failed to clear the US Senate last fall as the 114th Congress wound down. The new bill, again sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), was launched on January 13 with initial cosponsorship by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Rep. Greg Walden, W7EQI (R-OR), who chairs the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The grassroots effort of Amateur Radio operators across this nation in support of the Amateur Radio Parity Act has been remarkable, nothing like we have ever seen before, ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR, said. To all hams, keep going! Now is the time to charge forward with that same momentum to the Senate. We can do it! The bill arrives in the US Senate with ample time in which to garner its approval through an education campaign.
Were very encouraged by the speed with which this bill made it through the House. Its amazing that this happened, said ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, who has been at the forefront of the legislative initiative. With the help of ARRL members, we believe we can get this done, Lisenco continued. We came within a hairs breadth last time, with [thousands of] e-mails to members of both houses of Congress, as well as letters and telephone calls. Member participation in this final push is critical.
H.R. 555 calls on the FCC to establish rules prohibiting the application of deed restrictions that preclude Amateur Radio communications on their face or as applied. Deed restrictions would have to impose the minimum practicable restriction on Amateur Radio communications to accomplish the lawful purposes of homeowners associations seeking to enforce the restriction.
The FCCs new chairman, Ajit Pai, this week praised US House action on H.R. 555 and other telecommunications-related legislation that cleared the chamber the previous day.
I want to commend the US House of Representatives for passing a number of important, bipartisan telecom bills yesterday, Pai said on Tuesday. These bills will help bring greater efficiency to the Commission, provide consumers with greater protections, improve rural call completion, help Amateur Radio operators, and take several steps to promote public safety, he continued, adding, I look forward to working with Congress on these and other important issues as Chairman of the FCC.
Last year 2016 was another outstanding one for Amateur Radio licensing, says ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM.
New Amateur Radio licenses issued were up by 1% over 2015, and this is the third year in a row that the total number of new licenses has exceeded 30,000, Somma reported. She said 32,552 were granted in 2016, 32,077 in 2015, and 33,241 in 2014.
Somma said that while 2014 was a record-setting year for new licenses issued, ARRL VEC continues to see an elevated interest in obtaining an Amateur Radio license.
The overall trend continues to be up, up, up! The total number of US Amateur Radio licensees has continued to grow each year since the FCC eliminated the Morse code exam requirement in 2007. Over the past decade, the net number of Amateur Radio licensees has risen by nearly 87,000, according to statistics compiled by ARRL Pacific Section Manager Joe Speroni, AH0A.
As of December 31, 2016, the total number of licensees in the FCC database was 742,787, topping the 2015 total of 735,405, but down just slightly from the all-time high of 743,003 reached last November.
Somma said license upgrades were down by 5% compared to 2015 10,617 versus 11,224. A new Amateur Extra class [question] pool took effect on July 1, 2016, which may have impacted upgrade totals in the second half of the year, she speculated.
As of December 31, according
to figures compiled by Speroni, there were 143,337 Amateur Extra licensees,
45, 071 Advanced licensees, 172,807 General licensees, 371,560 Technician
licensees, and 10,012 Novice licensees. The FCC no longer issues Advanced
and Novice class licenses. The General and Technician licensee totals
at the end of last year were all-time highs, and the Amateur Extra total
was nearly so.
History: A Century of Amateur Radio and the ARRL
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