ARRL, FCC, and Ham Radio. Increase The Number of Licensed Technicians by Helping CB Users.

Last month the FCC introduced petition RM-11828 to receive public comments regarding the expansion of Technician Class amateur radio license holders “to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, and 15 meters.

This makes the Technician Class license a little more attractive to beginners and the hope is that more people will become amateur radio operators.

It has received quite the backlash from existing ham radio operators. Mostly due to the effort they had to put forth to acquire the General License in order to fully utilize the other bands.

I understand and agree with both points of view. I currently hold a technicians class license. I’d love to have the extra privileges, but honestly I have only barely begun to explore the VHF/UHF and all the different modes out there. I feel that having a next step incentivizes technicians to continue their education of radio, go the extra mile, and get their General Class license.

However, I couldn’t help but think of the original purpose of this petition. Which is to encourage more folks to get licensed and interested in the art of radio in the first place.

I’ve been observing chat rooms, forums, Facebook Groups, YouTube Channels, and of course talking to people in real life about how they got started in radio. A vast majority of them say that they got started using CB Radio. Citizens Band. Chicken Band. Children’s Band. Or as I like to call it, the 11m Band. I am one of those folks that also got started on CB, and still use CB. Radio of all forms for me is all about making friends, meeting good people, education, and communication.

Instead of the controversial changes to the technicians class license, I think they should focus their efforts on changing part 95 CB radio guidelines. Take a step back and look at the forgotten world of CB and how it influences users to explore all things radio. With the help of the ARRL and FCC, this proposition might actually make a difference. Or it might just be yet another crazy rant from yours truly.

Let’s explore.

CB Radio is Limiting and Rules are Broken

Once CB users begin to understand how capable radio technology can be, they quickly see how limiting CB radio is. Currently, the FCC regulates AM mode on the 11m band to only 4 watts. The SSB mode is regulated to 12 watts and users are prohibited to use external amplification for either mode.

People break these rules all the time which leaves ham radio operators upset. For good reasons too. Hams go through a fair amount of effort to earn privileges to use the air waves and do things legally. When unlicensed folks take advantage of the lack of enforcement, it’s a recipe for distaste and bitterness towards CB users. Although I admire the ambition and ingenuity of CB radio users to get out there and talk to folks from around the world using massive amps, I think there’s a better, and more legal way, while also encouraging folks to actually get licensed and enjoy the hobby in ways they may have never imagined.

The ARRL is a fantastic organization that fights for our rights to use the amateur radio bands to experiment, innovate, and communicate. We need them on the side of CB users. How can they help? By proposing to the FCC that they should make an adjustment to the Part 95 certification for CB Radio devices.

I’m proposing to allow CB Radio Manufacturers to create radios with the following new power output maximums:

  • AM Mode – 25 watts
  • SSB Mode – 100 watts

CB users already scoffing and saying, “LOL. There are guys that use 1000 watts. That ain’t enough!” and hams are saying “Hell no. CB Users break the law and don’t respect the airwaves.” Remember this isn’t about the illegal CB users, this is about the manufacturers and beginners that just bought a brand new CB radio. How can we make it an effective form of communication for them? By letting them talk on AM with a little more than 4 watts is a good place to start.

For the past 25 years CB users have faced the music and realized there’s simply not a lot of people out there using CB anymore. They need to be able to talk longer distances in order to stay interested in radio in the first place. Some may say the wattage isn’t enough, some may say it’s way too much. I say it’s a perfect compromise and will provide noticeable improvements to people using stock radios without modification.

Is CB Radio Effective Communication in Today’s World?

4 watts on AM using a standard magmount antenna can get you a good 5 mile range at best. If the CB user has a radio that supports the SSB mode, then the radio switches to a 12 watt power output and allows the user to reach another 30-50 miles sometimes even hundreds or thousands of miles when solar conditions are good.

Beginners that use a 4 watt radio get frustrated when they do a radio check on Channel 19 and nobody can hear them. It’s simply not an effective form of communication, unless your friends are close by.

4 watts on AM using a standard magmount antenna can get you a good 5 mile range at best. If the CB user has a radio that supports the SSB mode, then the radio switches to a 12 watt power output and allows the user to reach another 30-50 miles sometimes even hundreds or thousands of miles when solar conditions are good.

A lot of people think CB radio is the easiest way to get started with radio communication in general. They don’t have to take a test. They can go to Walmart and buy a $40 radio and a $30 Lil’ Wil and think they are good to go. Then they quickly realize how limiting their CB radio equipment is. So instead of exploring amateur radio possibilities, by nature, look for ways to improve what they already have. Bigger antennas, bigger amps, or even hacked 10m radios. Or they might get so frustrated, that they just drop the radio hobby altogether.

By increasing the wattage to 25 watts for AM, I believe this would make CB radio much more of a pleasant out-of-box experience and make CB more of an effective communication tool. I think it would also make new radio users less likely to use illegal amplifiers. Frankly, in terms of power, I don’t think it’s a lot to ask for.

By increasing the wattage to 100 watts for SSB, new users could reach farther distances and begin to explore the wonderful world of HF, which is more than enough to get someone hooked on radio.

Human Curiosity

Naturally, human curiosity strikes and users begin to wonder what other things radio is capable of. 100 watts could allow them to reach distances of 50-100 miles on not-so-great propagation days. Once CB users explore the SSB mode, they tend to start building their own antennas, understanding bandwidth, propagation, ground planes, and getting more bang for their buck without the need of large amps.

These aren’t even big numbers. Some CB users have amps that are literally thousands of watts. But those users are few and far between. I would like to believe that the number of users that use stock radios without external amps outnumber the ones that do.

Although some hams may disagree with me on this, I would much rather have the FCC increase the power output guidelines for part 95 certified devices than have a bunch of CB users using illegal amplifiers that when used incorrectly, can bleed over to the 10m bands.

Respect from the Radio Community

CB users can sometimes feel like outcasts in the radio community, which is a shame because there’s good people out there. Not to mention such a simple hobby breeds future technicians in amateur radio. I think by making the 11m band more effective with better radios, a little more wattage, and improved range, will increase the number of beginner radio enthusiasts. It gives them an outlet to experiment with an unlicensed method of communication to see what it’s capable of.

I truly believe that something so simple could help bridge the cultural gap between the CB users and amateur radio operators. Plus it puts CB back in the limelight just for a bit, to give it the credit it deserves for bringing radio communication to the mainstream. It reminds folks that radio is still out there, and it’s innovating constantly.

If CB users are shown that there are folks that still care out there, they’ll learn to respect the air waves, and will begin to earn the respect of ham radio operators, and hopefully the ARRL as well, who can work with the FCC to get the job done. Everybody eventually wins. CB gets modernized and increased customer satisfaction due to range improvements, and the ARRL gets more members as a result of novices experimenting with radio.

What do you think?

One thought on “ARRL, FCC, and Ham Radio. Increase The Number of Licensed Technicians by Helping CB Users.”

  1. If they don’t do something about the obsolete rules and regulations ham radio will die that’s all there is to it

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