In a shocking and unexpected move, the FCC today transferred all amateur radio licensing responsibility to QRZ.com, releasing Report and Order 2013-699. Outgoing Chairman Julius Genchowski read a statement noting that the decision was due to a combination automatic budget cuts from budget sequestration and an acknowledgement of reality. Other commissioners released similar written statements. The Report and Order stated, “Our enforcement bureau received an inquiry from a radio amateur who was banned from QRZ.com (“QRZ”), an amateur radio portal and a popular callsign database. After his callsign listing was removed from the QRZ database, amateurs frequently questioned on the air whether he was really licensed. On a few occasions he was actually referred to as a ‘bootlegger’ by other radio amateurs, a derogatory term for an unlicensed individual operating illegally. Our research indicates that few licensees actually use the FCC ULS [the official online licensing database] for amateur radio license queries. In this ruling we have identified an opportunity to shed the responsibility of licensing and reduce administrative costs, and are therefore transferring administration of amateur radio licensing to a private entity.”
FCC Chairman Genchowski Makes Announcement to Stunned Audience
At press time ARRL had not released a written statement due to a backlog in the ARRL email server, still processing emails from a month ago. However, in a conference call this afternoon it was announced that ARRL was petitioning the FCC to withdraw the R&O until it could present its solution for privatizing amateur radio licensing, a solution employing 65,535 bit encryption technology which would be ready sometime in 2019.
QRZ praised the FCC change and announced that for a limited time free Extra class upgrades will be included with an XML subscription or purchase of Ham Radio Deluxe. QRZ forums were abuzz, with both support for and opposition against the change. One super moderator stated that QRZ super moderators will have enforcement privileges, with the ability to revoke licenses for bad behavior both online and on the air, later taunting to users to step out of line and “feel his wrath.”
The FCC announcement is the most notable change in US amateur radio licensing since the controversial and still-debated Incentive Licensing program, and will go into effect upon publication of the Report and Order in the Federal Register.