The FCC has decided that $35 for dealing with each license in the amateur radio service should cover their costs. The fee will apply 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.

While it’s probably not good for the service, it seems a reasonable accommodation for a government carrying $30 trillion dollars in public debt. Now is probably not a good time to squabble over small fees for the administration of any federally regulated service.

But the lower than expected fee is better news than the other thing in the Report and Order released on January 29th.

In making their case that fees should be charged for these services, the FCC responded to many public comments that fees be waived because amateur radio is a useful service and therefore worthy of a free ride. They put their response like this:

“As we have noted previously, while 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 emphasis on that last point is mine but it’s plain as day. The federal government does not see ham radio as an emergency service. This comes as no surprise since our hobby is not officially an emergency service. Still, seeing it plainly expressed without nuance by those who regulate our service is a little jarring.

This should end any pretense or notions that we are somehow special. The government equates amateur radio with the marine or aviation radio services. The time has come to toss out all the nonsense about “when all else fails”.

As taxpayers we pay the salaries for those who work at FCC and as licensees we now will pay for those licenses. We don’t owe them anything and they owe us nothing. Our relationship with the government has become crystal clear: We don’t have one.