If you have followed me for long you know my support for the ARRL is nearly without limit. I’m a Life Member and firmly convinced that as the ARRL goes so goes all of amateur radio. But my undying support doesn’t mean the Board is incapable of making bone-headed decisions on occasion.

Today I’m talking about the vapid decision to establish a program to cover the initial FCC license fee for young applicants. This is the ARRL response to the FCC decision to levy a thirty-five dollar fee for amateur radio licenses in the US beginning in 2022:

The ARRL Board of Directors has formally endorsed a proposed program calling on ARRL to cover the $35 application fee for license candidates younger than 18 years old. The FCC is not expected to implement the $35 application fee schedule until sometime in 2022. The Board approved the “Youth Licensing Grant Program” at its July meeting in Hartford, Connecticut. The program concept, first raised at the Board’s annual meeting in January, was reviewed by an ad-hoc committee, which expanded the scope of the original motion by ARRL Southeastern Division Director Mickey Baker, N4MB.

Call me dubious that this isn’t really a self-serving action intended to “prove” that the ARRL is doing something about the lack of youth in the hobby… and laying some smack on the FCC in the process.

I’d be interested to learn how many amateur radio licenses are issued to those under the age of 18 each year right now, and more importantly, how many of that number should we assume would opt-out of amateur radio if they had to pay out of their own pocket?

I think that’s probably an incredibly small number though the Board is more optimistic having initially capped the number of annual grants at one thousand.

It’s also notable that this action isn’t purely goodwill, the ARRL is looking to get something out of it too:

Tests would have to be administered by a Volunteer Examiner (VE) team working under the auspices of the ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC). The new program also would “enhance ARRL’s position as the leader in volunteer testing,” the Board motion said.

This action might be beneficial for a handful of new potential licensees, but it won’t budge the meter reflecting the total number of new US radio amateurs. It feels like it was custom designed for feel good press releases and to afford the Board of Directors an opportunity to pretend they are adding value while making them feel good about themselves:

The motion carried with applause from Board members.