ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio® welcomes news of a scheduled vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider removing symbol rate restrictions that restrict digital modes, foster inefficient spectrum use, and dampen incentives for innovation.

In the draft Commission decision, the FCC would replace the current HF restrictions with a 2.8 kHz bandwidth limit. The Commission also announced that it will consider a Further Notice in which it will propose eliminating similar restrictions where they apply in other bands and consider relying on signal bandwidth limits. If both actions are adopted by the Commission, there will be a period for public comment on the Further Notice issues.

In announcing the proposed Commission actions, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said that “We’re bolstering amateur radio. We will vote on a proposal to incentivize innovation and experimentation in the amateur radio bands by removing outdated restrictions and providing licensees with the flexibility to use modern digital emissions.”

ARRL requested and strongly supports replacing the symbol rate limits on the HF bands with a 2.8 kHz bandwidth limit. ARRL also supports eliminating the symbol rate limits in favor of the already-existing bandwidth limits where they apply on the VHF and UHF bands and eliminating the similar limits 2200 and 630-meter bands.

ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV, said the changes will result in a tremendous time savings during disasters, when every second counts. “We will be very pleased to have the FCC remove the restrictions on symbol rate for the amateur bands. This will eliminate the need for temporary waivers during an event and provide the ability to train and exercise using the higher symbol rate, allowing increased data capability to our served agencies and partners.”

Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (AZ-08) introduced The Amateur Radio Communications Improvement Act (H.R. 3241) on May 11, 2023, to require that the FCC eliminate the obsolete HF digital symbol rate limit with a 2.8 kHz bandwidth limit.

The Congresswoman subsequently addressed the issue with Chairwoman Rosenworcel in a Congressional oversight hearing. The changes are supported by many state emergency management officials.

ARRL will continue to engage on this matter.