ARRL and the FCC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that paves the way to implement the new and enhanced Volunteer Monitor program. The memorandum establishes the Volunteer Monitors as a replacement for the Official Observers (OO) program. Current OOs have been encouraged to participate in the new program.
“We are excited by the opportunity to codify our partnership with the FCC and to work together to achieve our mutual interests of protecting the integrity of our Amateur Radio bands,” said ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR. “This Memorandum of Understanding will serve as the foundation for a new level of partnership on this very important issue.”
ARRL has contracted with retired FCC special counsel and former Atlantic Division Vice Director Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, to oversee the ARRL’s role in the development and implementation of the Volunteer Monitor program.
Approved by the ARRL Board of Directors at its July 2018 meeting, the new Volunteer Monitor program is a formal agreement between the FCC and ARRL in which volunteers trained and vetted by the ARRL will monitor the airwaves and collect evidence that can be used both to correct misconduct or recognize exemplary on-air operation. Cases of flagrant violations will be referred to the FCC by the ARRL for action in accordance with FCC guidelines.
The intent of this program is to re-energize enforcement efforts in the Amateur Radio bands. It was proposed by the FCC in the wake of several FCC regional office closures and a reduction in field staff.
“Under this program, the FCC will give enforcement priority to cases developed by the Volunteer Monitor program, without the delay of ARRL having to refer cases through the FCC online complaint process,” Hollingsworth said.
Hollingsworth has identified three phases to the program: Development, Solicitation and Training, and Implementation.
- The Development phase will include drafting a mission statement, clearly defining the ARRL’s and FCC’s requirements and needs as part of the program, writing a job description for volunteer monitors, and developing a training manual for volunteers.
- The Solicitation and Training phase will involve identifying the geographic locations where volunteer monitors will be most needed, soliciting applications and guidance from Section Managers in reviewing applicants. (Those currently volunteering as Official Observers are invited to apply for appointment as Volunteer Monitors.).
- The Implementation phase will involve having the volunteers provide field reports to ARRL, with staff offering guidance to volunteers to ensure that the information collected meets requirements for FCC enforcement action.
Hollingsworth has committed to FCC and ARRL officials to ensure the adequacy of training for the new positions, to review the quality and utility of Volunteer Monitor submissions to the FCC for enforcement actions, and to advocate for rapid disposition of cases appropriately submitted to the FCC.
ARRL officials estimate that within 6 to 9 months the first Volunteer Monitors will be in place and ready to begin their duties.
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