Friday, April 03, 2009

Punished for passing a code test?

I was looking at the Part 97 regulations relating to transmitter power the other day, when I noticed something odd.  The operative regulation here is § 97.313, which I'm going to reproduce in part below because it's hard to link to ecfr searches:
(a) An amateur station must use the minimum transmitter power necessary to carry out the desired communications.
(b) No station may transmit with a transmitter power exceeding 1.5 kW PEP.
(c) No station may transmit with a transmitter power exceeding 200 W PEP:
(1) On the 10.10–10.15 MHz segment;
(2) When the control operator is a Novice Class operator or a Technician Class operator who has received credit for proficiency in telegraphy in accordance with the international requirements; or
(3) The 7.050-7.075 MHz segment when the station is within ITU Regions 1 or 3.
(I left out the sections past (c); they relate to the various bands on which everyone has power limits.)  The section of interest here is (c), and specifically (c)(2), which limits Novices and Technicians who have passed a code test to 200 W.  Since the regulation doesn't specify any bands, it applies everywhere.  Technicians who have not passed a code test are unaffected and therefore have the same power privileges as any other operator. 

In effect, this means that Tech Plus licensees (a dwindling lot, to be sure) actually lost power privileges even as they gained emission privileges.  And since there is now no other distinction in the regulations between Tech and Tech Plus, the net result of this drafting error is to limit the power privileges of Tech Plus licensees.

I am sure this is not what the FCC intended; I assume they intended to limit the power of Technicians and Novices operating in HF to 200 W.  Clearly § 97.313 should be amended, to clarify that section subsection (c)(2) only applies below 30 MHz (or whatever the FCC actually intended) and to remove the reference to "proficiency in telegraphy" language that is now obsolete.

Of course, they could amend it to restrict Technicians to not exceed the powers set forth in § 97.13(c)(1).  Those power limits (the limits above which the licensee must conduct an environmental evaluation) have been established as limits to ensure safety, and it would be reasonable to assume that a Technican-class licensee may not possess sufficient expertise to conduct such an evaluation properly, and on that basis restrict power levels that might endanger the public to General-class licensees or higher.  But that's just an idea.