FCC proposes $50 fee for new ham radio licenses, upgrades and vanity applications

Many thanks to Paul Evans (W4/VP9KF) who notes that FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking–MD Docket no. 20-270–outlines a new fee structure for several radio services including the amateur radio service.

If I understand correctly, a fee would be collected when an FCC employee would need hands-on time to process an application. This would include all new amateur radio applications, license upgrades, and vanity call sign applications.

It appears many routine licence services that could be handled entirely through the FCC ULS system/website without human intervention might remain no-cost.

At least, this is the way I read the information from this FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Click here to download the PDF version of Docket No. 20-270. 

Most of the amateur radio changes are outlined under “personal licenses” staring at section 24.

To be clear, this is a proposal open for comment. These fees have not yet been adopted. I expect the ARRL will have a response.

Spread the radio love

24 thoughts on “FCC proposes $50 fee for new ham radio licenses, upgrades and vanity applications

  1. Tom Brian

    Another significant factor to consider is the cost of a ham radio license. You can listen to ham radios without a license, but you can’t transmit or communicate without one.

  2. William Dyrenforth

    That’s fine. I just need a contact point to send my invoice for personal time, money, expertise, and equipment usage during emergency communication support for ARES, SKYWARN and everything else we do.
    Perhaps the FCC should work on their BUDGET with Congress, not Joe Everyham, or rethink the sweet spectrum pricing that they give to communication companies.
    Bill Dyrenforth


    Terry Thorne KG5SRA

    i am disagreed of the 50.00 charge to renew my license I’m low income couldn’t afford the 50.00 dollars charged. This would put me off the air.

    Plus a 50.00 dollars charged would stopped anyone for trying to get into field on ham Radio operation would make it’s dying field and new person would walked away having to pay 50.00 dollars charged would make anyone walked away from the field ham Radio operator.
    I have been licensed since 2017 north of Houston Texas in a place called new Caney Texas. If anyone would try to get into the field ham Radio operator they would just walked away as being a license ham Radio operator. I’m very low income and could afford the 50.00 dollars charged to renew my license and that would put me off the air that I really enjoyed my license and I’m proud to be licensed as ham Radio operator KG5SRA.

    I really disagree about the 50.00 dollars charged to renew my license. Some of my friends that would bring some ham Radio operator boot leg operator without a license.

    I don’t want to lose something that I’m proud of since 2017. I’m trying to bring my son into the field that would open the world to him. He would disagree the 50.00 dollars charged plus I have other family members who I’m trying to get license ham Radio operator to open up the world to them but the 50.00 dollars charged would make them walked away being a license ham Radio operator they disagree on the 50.00 dollars charged for the license ham Radio operator.

    I KG5SRA disagree on the 50.00 dollars charged I couldn’t afford it what I get month to live on. It’s took me 28 years to get my license ham Radio operator what I really enjoyed being licensed ham Radio operator. If you do the 50.00 dollars charged will take me off the air for life and my friend and family couldn’t afford the license to be on the air.

    I live alone on the air keep me talking to people my friends and family all live in another states they told me they disagree the 50.00 dollars charged to be licensed ham Radio operator.

    I don’t what I really enjoyed because I can’t afford the 50.00 dollars charged to renew my license KG5SRA. I don’t want to be pulled off the air because my income. My goals when I up graded to general license is to save lives in my area but I disagree strongly I can’t afford the 50.00 dollars charged

  4. wayne yardley

    The proposed 50 dollar fee would be excessive and not be in the best interest of our government in that it would be an financial burden on alot of amateur radio operators .Amateur radio should remain free or asnear to free as can be managed an fee of 20 dollars for an 10 year license,30 dollars for an 15 year renewed license andif the amatuer radio operator remained active for those 25 years then at renewal time grant an lifetime license with an one last license fee of 50 dollars.This would satify the governments interest in paying for administrative cost and would provide an non-free but fair and balance trade-off of keeping amateur radio alive for an long time to come.Reskpectfully submitted by Wayne l.Yardley N0UDQ extra class

  5. John Savage

    i knew the free would end…especially with the current state of affairs and every segment of society crying poverty…..I have been a ham for about 15 years and am pretty active in various circles, and truth is some hams have brought this on and we are all felling it….I know many hams who since it went free a few years ago changed their call signs 4 and 5 times,,,initials, cute sayings / pets names,,,,come on, they took advantage of a service being rendered as a favor and abused it. I feel 50 dollars is to high and a limit as to how many changes you are allowed would be in order.

  6. David

    Of the billions of government waste, fraud, and abuse that go on year after year, and tens of millions of federal aid to Planned Parenthood, NPR, and others, bill sponsor Marsha Blackburn decides the Amateur Radio services should be in the same category as for profit and commercial radio services. Lacking from this law is a mandate for agencies to identify and implement efficiencies and cost savings measures. I bet with very little effort money could be freed up to completely offset the fees for Amateur licensing.

    However, fee increase to $50 is chump change to those with thousand dollar radios but to others its the cost of a Baofeng radio and accessories, the entry level radio for many youthful Hams.

    But its business as usual and the little guys get shafted. Amateur Radio licenses should be FREE for Americans. Where was the ARRL during development of the bill before it became law ? In fact the government should get out of Amateur Radio all together, and give the responsibility to the ARRL. I wouldn’t mind paying them for license issuance and management. I know the money wont be wasted. But the government is one giant cesspool of waste.

  7. Randy B.

    For 50 bucks for new or renewal, we should all get the following…

    1. License class upgrade straight to general or advanced. Eliminate Tech class. (I know what y’all saying already. We’re just buying our upgrade not EARNING it!) WELL THAT’S $50!! If it was still $15, I’d still say earning it is the way to go and a lot of stuff can be done with 50 bucks so they can choke on my DNA if they want my money THAT bad.

    2. PRIVACY. how are they gonna update the fees, but NOT the privacy of having your address hidden? (really shows their true colors in priorities there)

    What merits that HUGE price leap from $15, to $50? Just because someone has to personally handle each application? What a martyr! I don’t give a frequency if their momma in the hospital and they need the money badly, I want my money’s worth if they gonna charge $50. Hams should grow a backbone bigger than their antenna mast or buddy pole, speak up and make demands too rather being sissy yes-men. The FCC is NOT your friend.

    For the silver spoon fed dudes that say its just $50, YOU have the right to make demands too if THEY feel its right to bump up the price. Its 2020 and updates need to be made on BOTH ends that will benefit the ham radio operator AND the martyrs that think it’s right to mark up fees. They want 50 bucks? Then they gotta make changes while still keeping the incentive for new and long existing hams.

  8. Pete Ostapchuk

    So much for the non- pecuniary aspect of ham radio. What happened to the billions that the FCC got for the spectrum that they didn’t pay a dime for?
    Nobody can hold on to a nickel tighter than a ham. This will bring an end to those pesky hams helping out in times of disaster.

  9. Bob Rose, AA3RR

    1. This is not an FCC initiative. It is mandated yy law, a law (The RAY BAUM’s Act of 2018) that President Trump signed into law in March 2018. It requires the FCC to assess and collect application fees for all license services including the amateur radio service.

    2. The NPRM has not yet been published in the Federal Register (required by law). Once it is published int he FR, people will be able to file comments.

    3. There is no point in arguing whether application fees should be applied to amateur radio licenses. That has been settled by Congress. If you don’t like this idea you need to contact you Representative and Senators and let them know. The bill had a lot of support so chances are they are probably to blame.

    4. The only valid comments to be made concern the proposed $50 fee. In the NPRM, the FCC described costs related to other licensing services but there is no discussion about the costs related to amateur radio licenses.

    For the past 20 years there has been an growth in applications for new licenses. However, nobody has noticed or commented on the fact that applications for new licenses have been declining for the past six years. Instead of asking why, there was more concern about the impact COVID-19 would have on amateur radio licensing. In my opinion, the impact of COVID-19 will look like a little bump compared to the impact of application fees.

  10. Zack Schindler

    I bet that the week that the electoral college meets that the FCC declares that amateur radio is a threat to state security and all licensees will be canceled. And getting rid of the 1st and 2nd Amendments will follow after that.

  11. Jake Brodsky, AB3A

    For all those thinking of filing comments with the FCC, note that the web site is not responding to comments on this document yet.

    You can express a quick and respectful comment at https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express
    if you don’t want to go the formal route. The formal Docket Number is

    20-270 | Amendment of the Schedule of Application Fees Set Forth in Sections 1.1102 through 1.1109 of the Commission’s Rules

    You should be able to just type the 20-270 part and the rest of it should fill in automatically

    1. Bob Rose, AAeRR

      The NPRM has to be posted in the Federal Register before comments can be received. It a=has not yet been posted in the FC+R

  12. Erik

    Maybe they just want to kill the hobby faster, then they can have another reason to privatize and sell those very valuable airwaves

  13. Tom Servo

    I guess the Verizon kickbacks have dried up and Ajit Pai is looking to generate new sources of income.

    The FCC is like the Post Office: it’s a service, not a business. Unless this money is necessary to cover the cost of man-hours for these manual actions, it sounds like a money grab.

    And for anyone who says that we should be paying for the services we use, we do — it’s called “paying taxes”. If that doesn’t cover handling the trickle of amateur radio license applications that flow in each month, the FCC has bigger issues.

  14. Michael Black

    I never followed the license fees in the US, but in Canada we had an annual license fee for the station license (so no fee for testing or the certificate of proficiency that you got after testing.

    I think it was five in 1972, I’d have to check. And it seemed to go up pretty fast. It had to be $20 or $30 the last time I paid. My memory is we did pay more than those in the US, but we paid every year so maybe not total. I can’t femembee.

    But then about 20 years ago, the fee was dropped. You pass the test, you get a license good for life (unless you do something to cause it to be revoked). There’s a method for changing callsigns, I can’t remember details.

    One weird thing, before there’d be the annual renewal notice, sometimes the DOC would have inserts about changes. And it did mean people who lost interest in the hobby wouldn’t renew, so license count was mostly accurate. Without the renewal, there’s less connection to Industry Canada (which was in charge the last time I looked).

    It seemed at the time that they decided ham radio wasn’t really worth bothering with, so this unburdened them (the testing had already shifted to a system like the VECs in the US)

    Fifty dollars seems a lot, but I don’t know how this relates to fees the last time the US charged, and inflation. It almost seems like the FCC is trying to invoke a uniform standard on license fees

  15. Jake Brodsky, AB3A

    The FCC wouldn’t know a good policy if it dropped on the collective desks of the commissioners tomorrow. The more these people put ham radio out of reach, the more people will simply do whatever they want to illegally.

    This is a dumb idea. But that hasn’t stopped the FCC before, and it won’t stop them now.

    1. Bob Rose, AA3RR

      The decision to collect application fees is not an FCC idea. It is mandated by the Ray Baum’s Act signed into law by President Trump in March 2018. The FCC is required to follow the law.

  16. K7DAN

    Typical government inefficiency. It would probably take one experienced staff a maximum of 5 minutes to process a ham license, that’s $600 per hour! How about hiring an outside contractor who would gladly do it for $300 per hour and charge $25 for the processing. Thomas, it’s time for you and me to set up a new company and get this contract! :=>

  17. Robert Gulley

    Interesting proposal – I suspect it would keep more potential hams out of the amateur radio numbers because there are many people who feel the $15 fee for testing charged by the ARRL is too exorbitant, so $50 would definitely keep them from taking the tests. As a VE, I have heard numerous complaints about the $15 fee, leading those to test with other groups whose fee is $0.
    The complaints are not that they cannot afford it, typically, but rather they just think it should be free. I suspect the same will apply to the proposed $50 of the FCC.

  18. Lou

    No fee for under 18 and over 65 would be just fine.

    Honestly, if you’re between 18-65 and can’t find $50 to pay the licensing fees, some financial counseling and an examination of one’s life priorities might be in order. I know if I had someone interested, I’d be happy to help them pay their initial licensing fees. Can’t think of anyone though….

    Amateur radio is a hobby. A dying hobby despite everyone’s best efforts.

    Mandating a fee would probably reveal the true number of active amateurs versus our currently inflated numbers.

    I’d wager that the half of those with a license are actually active and using their privileges.

  19. john

    Feel very ambivalent about the proposed fee to process new radio ham licenses.
    On the one hand I think people should pay for the services they require/use.
    On the other hand, $50 would represent a substantial burden on youngsters (more likely their parents) just starting out in the hobby.
    One possibe solution; no charge for those applying for their license who are under 18 years of age.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.