FCC Eliminates Amateur Radio Code Requirement

With the exception of non-Class A LPTV and translator licensees that use Morse code to identify their transmitters, broadcasters have little use for the code. Many readers, however, are amateur radio operators, or may have thought about getting an amateur radio license. For them, the FCC decision last week to drop the Morse code proficiency requirement from all amateur radio licenses is a major event. As a ham radio operator myself, CW (code) has long been one of my favorite modes. Even with low power and simple transmitters, it's possible to make contacts thousands of miles away. Unlike other digital modes, a computer isn't needed to generate or decode the signal.

While I hope new licensees will still take time to learn Morse mode, it does take some effort and I suspect that, in time, digital communications modes like PSK-31 and other, more advanced, digital transmission modes will overtake Morse code in the non-voice portions of the Amateur Radio bands. As much as I appreciate the benefits of Morse code in communications, if this change in the rules encourages more people to take an interest in wireless communication and obtain an Amateur Radio license, then it should benefit Amateur Radio and also provide a pool of people experienced with RF to work in broadcasting and other wireless industries.

The Report and Order and Order on Reconsideration (FCC-06-178) explains how the FCC reached its decision on eliminating the Morse code requirement for Amateur Radio licenses and its responses to comments in the proceeding.