ARRL has told the FCC that no additional Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VEC) are needed to oversee the administration of amateur radio exams by Volunteer Examiners (VEs). Examination opportunities have continued to be widely available throughout the US — except for a couple of months during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — and adding VECs to the 14 now in place would “have no effect” on the number of available exams, ARRL said. ARRL’s comments on February 4 were in response to a January 5 FCC Public Notice in WT Docket 21-2 seeking input on possible expansion of the VEC pool.
“In response to the Commission’s Notice, ARRL reviewed the amateur examination numbers for the past 5 years, including the COVID-19 pandemic period,” ARRL said in its comments. “We found that even though 10 of the 12 months for calendar year 2020 were times of severe disruption throughout the nation, including for FCC and ARRL headquarters staff, amateur examination opportunities and numbers were strong.”
Multiple web-based exam opportunities are available across the US, even on short notice, and in-person examinations are available in many areas where local regulation and special safety requirements allow.
“It has never been easier,” ARRL asserted, noting that exam sessions often are available within 2 days but rarely more than 7, if taking advantage of a remote, web-based exam opportunity.
“Instead of increasing the number of VECs, we would encourage volunteers to become accredited as VEs and to volunteer to help the current VECs wherever possible,” ARRL said. “Many of the VECs would welcome help.” ARRL said VEs, not VECs, are responsible for administering amateur radio exams.
ARRL VEC — the nation’s largest — has 30,000 accredited VEs, with 11,000 of them regularly participating in exam activities on a weekly or monthly basis.
The number of new and upgraded licenses has been in line with earlier years, “with noticeable increases in the 4 months following the lockdown that occurred in many areas in the early spring,” ARRL pointed out. New FCC licenses issued in January 2021 numbered 2,838, compared with 2,058 for a year earlier. Upgrades were also up significantly — 920 in January 2021 to 554 for the same month last year.
“The 14 separate and independent FCC-approved VECs readily accredit additional VEs whenever and wherever needed,” ARRL concluded. “Increasing the number of individual VECs would have no discernible benefit.”
Instead, ARRL said, increasing the number of VECs would expand the complexity of VEC coordination and management, increase demand on FCC resources to interface with additional organizations, and raise the potential for abuse and fraud.