Thursday, January 15, 2015

Open Letter to The FCC - Education and Diversity in Amateur Radio

To whom it may concern at the United States Fedteral Communications Commission,

Over the last many years, amateur radio has been suffering from an image problem unlike any other form of communications media. The median age of licensed amateurs in the United States is between 50 and 90 years old. This age demographic is mostly males. There are well over 700,000 licensed amateurs in the U.S.

Out of the mostly male crowd in amateur radio, there are an unknown number of which are suffering from substance addiction, domestic violence issues in which the male partner committed great harm to the female partner, or who suffer from other problems involving a lack of basic education, secondary education, and unemployment.

The case of Brian Crow - K3VR is an example of male dominant behavior in amateur radio mostly stemming from lack of proper education.

Michael D. Elder of the Rush County V.E.C. with Jennifer Myles Dishman, recently posted a photo of themselves in a Facebook group. Above their photo together was a caption in mostly upper-case lettering. The caption was horribly misspelled, lacked proper sentence structure, lacked proper punctuation, and was overall a horrible mess to even attempt to interpret.

The referenced posting on Facebook was one more piece of evidence that the education level of U.S. amateur radio operators is on the decline. Amateur radio operators are there to help bring about international goodwill, grow the pool of electronic and communications expertise, and provide a last means of emergency communications.

How can any of the above take place when there is a lack of education? Currently, the FCC has no requirement for license applicants to prove that they possess educational competence of any kind.

Amateur radio operators who actively practice, regularly expose themselves to more than enough electricity to kill themselves, and expose communities to potential danger if their stations are not properly engineered, and if their antennas aren't safely assembled.

The study material for the FCC Amateur Radio Technician test is itself at least at the college level. Given that fact, it stands to reason that the FCC needs to start questioning how license candidates are passing these exams if they don't even have a high school language and spelling competency!

This should in no way bar a disabled person from studying for or taking any FCC exam with reasonable accommodation.

All of this begs the suggestion for the FCC to impose rulemaking that requires FCC license candidates to prove that they possess at least a college level language arts, spelling, and grammar level.

High school students still in school can be waived with a certified copy of their official school report card with no lower than a "B" average.

Along with these concerns, amateur radio suffers from a shocking lack of diversity of operators from various cultures, races, ethnicities, national origins, income levels, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, etc.

Over time, the facts have revealed that if an amateur operator reveals themselves to be non-white, low income, non-christian, or of anyother minority / marginalised group, they face great hostility and even threats to their personal safety from their fellow radio ops. TheFCC is likely not aware of this because no one is speaking up for fear of their safety.

With this now made public, we hope that our fellow licensed radio amateurs will take a step back and ask how they can help eliminate bias and bullying from amateur radio. Maybe firming a new partnership with the ARRL can be of value here.

We also ask the FCC to step in to ensure progress is made towards a heightened requirement for education and diversity.