FCC adopts a $35 license fee for amateur radio service applications

Icom IC-756 Pro Transceiver DialYou might recall that there was a proposal, earlier this year, for a $50 fee to accompany pretty much any amateur radio license application.

Today, the FCC published their Report and Order (MD Docket No. 20-270) adopting a $35 licence fee after reviewing numerous requests from amateur radio operators and organizations like the ARRL stating that the fee was excessive for a mostly automated process.

I’ve read through the relavant parts of the Report and Order and it appears the FCC have “split the difference” agreeing that $50 was too much, but free was too little considering the number of applications they receive and process annually. From page 11 of the Report and Order:

30. We adopt the categories of personal license application fees proposed in the NPRM. The Commission proposed a fee of $50 for each of these applications. The Sonoma County Radio Amateurs, Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), and many individual commenters contend that the proposed $50 fee for Amateur Radio Service applications is too high and will prevent amateurs from joining the amateur radio service; instead, they contend, the Commission should adopt no fee or a nominal fee. We agree with commenters asserting this fee is too high to account for the minimal staff involvement in these applications and therefore adopt a reduced amount of $35 fee for all personal license application fees.

From pg 16 of the Report and Order

Click here to read the full report (PDF). Most of the items relevant to amateur radio start at paragraph 30 on page 11 (above).

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29 thoughts on “FCC adopts a $35 license fee for amateur radio service applications

  1. W6NW Gordon

    I see 2 problems:
    1. ULS now allows Renewal, change of address for free.
    looks like ULS will need to make a Software change.
    2. FCC Fee paid to:
    B. VE Tram collect exam fee
    pass pay VE Team or Fee?
    Fail no FCC Fee?

    1. Bryan

      1. The fee is not yet taken effect. The FCC must announce the effective date 30 days in advance.
      2. If you pass and the VE team is submitting the application, my guess is you would have to give them the money or a check made out to the FCC. If you don’t pass, nothing is submitted to the FCC, so no fee for the FCC. The VE team is still allowed to charge a small fee for the test.

  2. Igor

    In 1980s when I grew up in USSR, in order to get a ham license I had to send an application for background check to KGB. And I had to wait for almost a year. And when I got approved, I had to move to a different city and state. Then I would have to apply again, because the callsigns were connected to the location. So I was never able to get one. In 1990s when I came to the US, I got my extra class license in 2-3 weeks after passing the exam and paying FCC $13

  3. TomL

    FYI, during the Amateur Radio News segment of tonight’s episode (12/6) of Ham Nation, this article was briefly mentioned (visually) and a short and fair discussion ensued.

  4. Edward Yancey Jr

    So, the government wants to charge amateur radio operators a fee for providing emergency communications during a crisis? I wonder how they would feel if HAM operators charged for their services.

    1. Lou

      Radio spectrum allocations and operating privileges are set by the government, not the “people”.

      If the FCC wanted to and with the consent of Congress, they could with a series of rulings that could make Amateur Radio illegal, restricted to a series of frequencies with power equivalent to FRS radios, etc.

      There are no constitutional protections or any laws that I can think of that guarantees US amateurs the right to anything.

      You have the right to walk down to your local gun store and buy a Glock but zero right to buy an Icom/Yaesu/Kenwood whatever if the FCC decides to revoke amateur permission to operate on a certain band or just not certify it for sale in the US.

      Yes, there’s plenty of people already illegally operating for the FCC to catch everyone but to think that the FCC/the US government cares about or needs radio amateurs in the event of an emergency is laughable at best.

      Is it a help? Sure. Are there technologies that make amateur radio slightly antiquated? Absolutely. If I’m in a jam, I’m reaching for my Garmin inReach. The Iridium constellation can be counted on unlike whether someone might hear my call on 2 meters.

      Even if I inflated the number of amateurs to a million, that’s still such a small enough number that no one in Washington would lose any sleep if they decided to roll over on us.

      1. ER

        “You have the right to walk down to your local gun store and buy a Glock”

        While you are correct that things in the Bill of Rights are rights, whereas HAM licenses are structurally under US law, esp case law, not rights, but privileges, I should like to not that you cannot just buy a glock at a gun store without submitting a 4473 and paying an FFL processing fee (and submitting to an FBI background check) you cannot. It is a felony for a gun store — anywhere in the US — to sell you a gun, new or used, without doing that. And if you have been adjudicated mentally ill, subject to any restraining order, have even misdemeanor family violence, or of course a felony that has a possible sentence of a year or more in jail, you are barred for life. You are not barred for life with those offenses from getting a armature ham license.

        Where I live in the states this requires a waiting period, a $125 FFL processing fee, $13 fingerprint fee and $35 registration fee. If I want to carry it as in the constitutionally explicit “keep and bear” I have to pay an additional $125 application fee, take a $350 two full day safety course, a $50 live fire course, and then every two years pay the later three all over again to renew.

        All of that is in addition to the 10% federal tax on pistols, 11% on rifles and 11% on all ammunition (which are themselves in addition to state, county and municipal sales taxes).

        $300 Pistol to keep at home + $221 fees and taxes: $125(transfer)+13(fingerprint)+35(registration)+30(federal tax)+18 (local sales tax)

        Mandated training, fees for carry are more on the order of $300 for the firare and $750 with much of it recurring.

        Now my US jurisdiction doesn’t think the 2A doesn’t to citizens, despite being in the bill of rights, and about 80%of Americans saying it does apply to citizens, but even if you live somewhere that respects the 2A and has very few fees, in fact in every state in that “$500” Glock there is already $45 in federal taxes that you just don’t see. You are also going to pay hundred of dollars in ammo taxes over say 20 years of putting 100 rounds down range four times a year as recommended.

        Now about 40 years ago, when I was 15 I got a ham license along with a dozen or so guys in our high school electronics club. At the time you had to know Morse which was the main btch about it. When I take the practice test I get about 75%, mostly from knowing ohms law, color code, and function and schematic symbols of electric and electronic components from days when we designed and acid dipped simple circuit boards.

        What I don’t remember nearly as well is the etiquette, programming to avoid stepping on others, So I am kind of googling and bouncing around different websites doing some research so I can find training and get a technicians again since I got gifted a couple of baofengs (yeah I know they are not first choice, but I have them now).

        When it comes to amateur license fees, it seems to me that the FCC and Federal government should make sure that any such fees do not go over over processing costs. It is hard to imagine the processing costs to be much at all given this is has to be virtually all machine processed.

        Now you are absolutely right that unfortunately for the long term interests of HAMs you are up against major money in the finite (iish) spectrum allocation. So there will always be danger because the competitors for spectrum are some of the most monied interests there are. Moreover even a non tech person with a family of four may have 10-25 devices already using spectrum (not even including the fact that each persons smartphone has maybe half a dozen transmitters on it

        1. Lucky

          I don’t know what crazy state you live in but I was able to buy a gun, take a whole day class with qualifying range time included and file and fingerprint at the sheriff’s office for what you paid for a two day class. $250 for a pistol, $100 for the class and range time and $50 to the sheriff’s office for fingerprints, background check and permit to carry

      2. Todd

        Regardless of whether or not there are any Constitutional protections, neither are there any Constitutional powers granted.

        We need to start pushing back and adhering to the 10th Amendment.

        The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

  5. Dan-K7DAN

    Did anyone catch WHEN this goes into effect? I may just go ahead and renew my license before it does. Here in Hong Kong we pay roughly USD$20 per your for our ham station license. de VR2HF (K7DAN)

    1. Dan-K7DAN

      I’ll answer my own question. Implementation date of the new fees will be announced later, per the Report and Order:

      193. Rule effective date. As the Commission implements the changes to our application fee
      schedule, we anticipate that OMD, along with the Bureaus and Offices, may be required to update some
      of our licensing databases, payment instruction guides and/or adjust administrative internal procedures
      before we may begin accepting the new fees for certain categories of application fee payors.
      Accordingly, we direct the Office of Managing Director, in consultation with the relevant Offices and
      Bureaus, to cause a notice to be published in the Federal Register announcing when rule change(s) will
      become effective, once the relevant databases, guides, and internal procedures have been updated.

  6. John K5MO

    I don’t mind paying for services rendered either but of course there’s income tax which is supposed to pay for governmental services.

    Then again, we pay for passports, etc. Regardless, $35 isn’t much.

    We all know government is of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats and for the bureaucrats

  7. Rob W4ZNG

    Funny, no mention of move/change of address in any of this. Eh, either way, I got in under the wire.

    $35 as a processing fee seems on the high-to-OK side. At least the FCC looked at the issue and said “$50 is too high.” Congress *did* pass a law that said they have to do this, after all. As long as it stays a processing fee and not a tax-to-use, I’m OK with it. Judging from past performance though, I’m guessing the fees will creep up. Either that, or we’re small enough potatoes that we’ll be ignored and the fees won’t creep up. If there’s one thing the FCC excels at is ignoring the ham community, so that’s reason for hope(?).

  8. joe

    I have said this about ARRL before for years, to anybody who will listen. ARRL is the Radio version of the NRA. Organizations of compromise. Think about this: A proposed $50 fee. Then, a proposed compromise of $15 reduction of that proposed fee; a fee which isn`t in effect yet. Is it possible that a behind the scenes deal was struck? ARRL and government in general, know all too well that Amateur band allotments to licensed Hams are targets of big corporate and military interests, and have been for decades. If numbers of Hams dwindle enough, then that is all government needs in order to declare that there is no justification for Amateur “privileges” to continue.

  9. Michael Black

    I’d point out that about twenty years ago Canada dropped all licensing fees for ham radio. So they issued new certificates for everyone, and no mail since.

    I’m not sure how that affects things, but it seems like they decided it was cheaper to not charge fees. But forever before that, we’d get an annual renewal notice, and they’d use the mailing for inserts about any impirtant issues.

    Previously you’d pass the test, no fee but maybe a small one once the move to volunteer testers, and then your station license which provided the callsign. There was a fee for the license, $5 or a bit more in 1972, and slowly going up over the years. Not too high, but if we had to pay every five years, the lump sum woukd be a problem for me and others.

    So paying a fee felt like you’d get something in return.

  10. 13dka

    German wireless robbery: Exam fee… 80€ for the novice license, 110€ for the ‘A’ license + 70€ for issuing a callsign, no discounts for anyone. Yearly costs for “frequency usage” (because frequencies are getting all baggy from using them) plus “electromagnetic compliance fee” (because your emissions are automatically more compliant if you keep paying for them) between 25 and 32€. The first year of ham radio costs a newcomer ~175-210€, that’s currently $215-260 in your money, or 12 Baofeng dualband handhelds on Amazon. Does that put your fees into some perspective? 🙂

  11. Bill

    If I understand correctly, this stems from the Ray Baum act that President Trump signed into law in 2018. A proposed $50 fee was lowered to $35. If you can’t afford $35 once every ten years then you probably have much bigger problems than ham radio fees. After all, that comes out to $3.50 per year. Literally pennies per month.

    Personally, I’m surprised this didn’t happen much sooner, given how much the FCC has been downsized over the years due to budget cuts. It’s really hypocritical to push for a smaller government, then complain when tax dollars aren’t available to subsidize administrative costs for a hobby that only a small fraction of Americans participate in.

    As for the future of amateur radio, I suspect this will have little to no impact on it. Grumpy old geriatrics on 75 meters, “emcomm” obsessed whackers, and an ARRL that refuses to look toward the hacker and maker community for young blood will do far more damage than a mere 35 bucks.

  12. TomL

    And who’s expensive suburban DC house does this help pay for? Once the regulators change the law at the stroke of an electronic pen, the price never goes down and always goes up in the future. Power becomes more and more concentrated and the voice of the little guy/gal gets more and more ignored! This was supposed to be a service for the public good. Seems like the value of the public good is getting eroded over time (until it becomes eventually becomes too expensive to have a public good)….

    1. Lou

      I think most people would agree that the US Government has not been in the people’s corner for many years.

      Democrat or Republican. Red state or Blue state. It doesn’t matter.

      Unless you can afford to engage a lobbyist or throw around enough money that you have select politicians on speed dial, no one in Washington really cares what you/we think.

  13. John

    So, $35 across the board then.

    I don’t mind paying for services used but I thought they might have exempted those under 18 applying for their first amateur radio license.

    I’ll be cutting the FCC a check in a few months time to renew my license, hope I’ll be getting a paper copy and some pdf file as an email attachment.

        1. Scott

          According to paragraph 43, there is no cost for minor changes and administrative updates. I would assume that would include changes of address.


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