As the September 30 date for the closing of the Official Observer program nears, ARRL has expressed deep appreciation to the hundreds of volunteers who gave their time as Official Observers (OOs) to help preserve the integrity of the Amateur Radio frequencies.
The Official Observer program has served the Amateur Radio community and assisted the FCC Enforcement Bureau for more than 85 years. The OO program is giving way to the new Volunteer Monitor (VM) program, established as part of a formal partnership between ARRL and the FCC. ARRL and the FCC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) earlier this year that establishes the Volunteer Monitor program as a successor to the Official Observers. The first Volunteer Monitors should be in place and ready to begin their duties this fall.
“Thank you for your dedication and service,” ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, said. “It was the good work of the OOs over many years that laid the foundation for the FCC to recommend this new agreement for enforcement.” The FCC proposed the program following the closures of several FCC regional offices and a reduction in field staff.
Last February, Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, who once handled Amateur Radio enforcement for the FCC, was named to oversee the development and implementation phases of the Volunteer Monitor program.
Under the new VM program, volunteers trained and vetted by ARRL will monitor the airwaves and gather evidence that could be used to correct misconduct as well as to recognize exemplary on-air operation. ARRL will refer instances of flagrant violation to the FCC for action, in accordance with FCC guidelines, and the FCC will give priority to enforcement cases developed by the VM program.
Official Observers were invited to apply to become Volunteer Monitors, and many did. The requirements for being a Volunteer Monitor include:
+ Ability to utilize state-of-the-art receiving equipment and to access no-cost remote receive sites; strong writing and communication skills
+ An understanding of the importance of thorough documentation
+ Basic word processing and data entry skills
+ The ability to send such information, including recordings, to ARRL electronically.
Applicants also must be ARRL members, have no history of FCC enforcement action, hold a Technician or higher license class, and been licensed for at least 3 years.
Applicants underwent a training and certification program administered by ARRL and were vetted by ARRL through at least one oral interview and a preliminary evaluation by ARRL staff. Volunteer Monitors will serve 3-year terms at the pleasure of ARRL.