Number of Ham Radio Licenses to Reach 750,000 by 2017

The number of unexpired amateur radio licenses in the United States was 733,594 in November 2015, an annual growth rate of 1.05% and five year growth rate of 4.52%.

If this growth trend continues, the number of licensed amateur radio operators in the United States will reach 750,000 by 2017.

License Forecast (2016-2017)

Nearly half of all US licensees hold the Technician license (49.4%), followed by General (23.5%), Amateur Extra (19.0%), Advanced (6.6%), and Novice (1.5%). Despite the large number of Technician licensees, the Amateur Extra class license continues to have the fastest growth rate at a average of 2.54% per year since 2011. The number of Amateur Extra licenses increased 10.5% since 2011 to 139,515.

Extra Class Forecast (2016-2017

The FCC’s restructuring of license classes in 2000 continues to affect the number of Advanced and Novice class licenses.

Since 2011, Advanced class licenses dropped 16.7% to 48,272 from 57,989.

Novice class licenses have dropped 25.2% since 2011, down to 10,988 at the end of 2015. If the number of Novice licenses continues to drop at this rate, the number of unexpired Novice licenses will dip below 10,000 for the first time in late 2016 or early 2017.

Novice Class Licenses Annual Growth/(Decline)
2011 14,687
2012 13,850 (5.70 %)
2013 13,116 (5.30 %)
2014 12,112 (7.65 %)
2015 10,988 (9.28 %)
2016 (Predicted) 10,221 (6.98 %)
2017 (Predicted) 9,507 (6.98%)

Growth in amateur radio licenses remains strong since the elimination of the Morse code requirement in February 2007. Coupled with significant changes to the General class question pool that same year, the number of US licenses has increased 11.8% from its post-2000 low of 655,842 at the end of 2006.

Radio Buoys Operating in the 160 Meter Amateur Band

The Federal Communication Commission has elevated the Amateur Radio Service to primary user status between 1,900 kHz and 2,000 kHz.  In its decision, the Commission asked for comments about U.S. commercial fishing fleets who are using end-of-net radio buoys under the false assumption they are legal.

I filed comment on this question earlier this week, and it appeared in FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System today.  You can read my comment here.

Radio Buoys Operating in the 1,900 to 2,000 kHz Band (PDF)

Consumer Protection, the FCC, and the Internet

The FCC probably will revoke every license in my file after this post.

Here it goes anyway.

I am speaking as someone who spent the first twenty years of his working life in broadcasting.  At one time or another, I’ve held amateur, commercial and experimental licenses issued by the Commission.  I’ve worked in the industries they regulate.  I have seen how changes to rules and acts of Congress change the landscape of the “public good” radio and television are meant to be.

Based on my experience, I cannot see how treating Internet Service Providers as Title II utilities will be any better for the consumer.

The Cable Act of 1992 required cable systems to carry local television broadcast channels.  While it prohibited cable operators from charging broadcasters to carry their signals, this “Consumer Protection” act also allows broadcasters to demand that cable systems pay them to carry their signals.

This is why cable companies kick off major broadcasters from their line up from time to time.  They can’t reach an agreement on how much you, er, the cable company, will pay the broadcaster to carry them.

These rules also are the reason why your cable bill is far more expensive per channel today than it was before Congress protected you.

Local Marketing Agreements, or LMAs, caused another host of problems.  These rules led to ownership consolidation where we now have two or three monopolies running terrestrial radio.  The number of television owner groups have gone down dramatically under these rules as well.  We have the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to thank for this situation.

Broadcasting, as a career, is nearly destroyed unless you’re in sales.  Ask any technical-side employee, like an SNG engineer or MCO, what it’s like today.

Owners treat Chief Engineers, especially at radio stations, like janitors who happen to have computer networking skills.  They are paid accordingly, not as Professional Engineers with a license, but as contract labor with no benefits, no insurance, and on call 24/7 while chained to a pager or a cell phone.

In my opinion, classifying Internet Service Providers as Title II utilities is not good.

Utilities are state-licensed monopolies.  Think of how many water companies you have to choose from, if you don’t see my point.  Licensing means franchise fees, which means taxes that companies will pass on to you.

Will the auction process apply to ISPs now?  The government reaps billions of dollars to reallocate radio spectrum, and the switch to digital television opened up Giga-Hertz of spectrum that could be used for nationwide broadband wireless internet.

The price you pay for a 50 MBps connection will go up.  It just will.

I don’t see this as a Republican or Democrat issue.  To me, it’s watching yet another slow motion train wreck instigated by a group of people who know nothing about the businesses or technologies they regulate.