FCC Eliminates Amateur Radio Vanity Call Sign, GMRS License Regulatory Fees

In a Report and Order released on May 21, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the elimination of the regulatory fees for the amateur radio vanity call sign program and the GMRS licenses. Their reasoning: economics.

From the FCC FY 2015 Report and Order

fcc-seal_rgb_embossIn the 2014 Fiscal Year Report and Order, the FCC concluded that they did not yet have adequate support to determine whether the cost of recovery and burden on small entities outweighed the collected revenue or whether eliminating the fees would adversely affect the licensing process. They stated, however, that they would reevaluate this issue in the future. Since adoption of the FY 2014 Report and Order, Commission staff have had an opportunity to obtain and analyze support concerning the collection of fees from these regulatees.

The GMRS and amateur radio Vanity Call Sign regulatory fee categories comprise on average over 20,000 licenses that are newly obtained or renewed every five and 10 years, respectively. After five years, the GMRS licensee is responsible for renewing the license (or cancelling) and the Commission is responsible for maintaining accurate records of licenses coming up for renewal—an administrative burden on both GMRS users and on the Commission for renewing and maintaining records of these licenses. After analyzing the costs of processing fee payments for GMRS, we conclude that the Commission’s cost of collecting and processing this fee exceeds the payment amount of $25. Our costs have increased over time and now that the costs exceed the amount of the regulatory fee, the increased relative administrative cost supports eliminating this regulatory fee category.

The Vanity Call Sign fee category has a small regulatory fee ($21.40 in FY 2014) for a 10-year license. The Commission often receives multiple applications for the same vanity call sign, but only one applicant can be issued that call sign. In such cases, the Commission issues refunds for all the remaining applicants. In addition to staff and computer time to process payments and issue refunds, there is an additional expense to issue checks for the applicants who cannot be refunded electronically. The Commission spends more resources on processing the regulatory fees and issuing refunds than the amount of the regulatory fee payment. As our costs now exceed the regulatory fee, we are eliminating this regulatory fee category.

The Commission will therefore eliminate the GMRS and Vanity Call Sign regulatory fee categories after the required congressional notification is provided. Once eliminated, these licensees will no longer be financially burdened with such payments and the Commission will no longer incur these administrative costs that exceed the fee payments. The revenue that the Commission would otherwise collect from these regulatory fee categories will be proportionally assessed on other wireless fee categories. This is a “permitted amendment” as defined in section 9(b)(3) of the Act, which, pursuant to section 9(b)(4)(B, must be submitted to Congress at least 90 days before it becomes effective.

With the elimination of the regulatory fees, the GMRS license will drop from the current cost of $90 to $65 for a five year license. Requesting an amateur radio vanity callsign will incur no fee. The fee reductions will go into effect after a 90 day notification period.

The FCC will not be issuing refunds to licensees who have paid the regulatory fee prior to the elimination of the fee.

Is this a good thing? Will reducing the costs of a GMRS license spur people to license their GMRS equipment? Feel free to leave a comment below.