A line in the first paragraph of a recent FCC Order caught my eye: “Compliance with the Commission’s licensing rules is important because they are intended to prevent unlicensed radio operations from dangerously interfering with authorized radio communications services in the United States.” 

How “important”?  Try $12,000 worth of important. This particular order was directed at a company that failed to renew their radio license, but continued to use their radios for two and a half years after the missed renewal date. The oversight cost the company $12,000 in fines and forced them to create and submit a formal three year plan to ensure future compliance.

Because license renewals come around every ten years, some licensees don’t think about their licenses more often than that. While this company could have avoided the $12,000 fine by remembering the ten-year renewal date, radio licenses actually require more frequent attention to avoid other fines. Just like your business has to accommodate rule changes imposed from the outside by federal or state agencies for insurance or employment practices, you could be making what seem like minor shifts in your radio system that actually require FCC notification. Missing those notifications can be expensive. 

When you first receive a FCC license, you obtain a FCC Registration Number (FRN) and a password that allows access to the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS), their database of license information. The geographic coordinates you provided with your license application designated your specific site for radio operations in the ULS records, whether you are operating portables or a repeater system. Those geographic coordinates will also protect you from having another system’s license granted either next to or on top of your location. The coordinates, along with associated ground elevation, structure and antenna information, become your complete FCC ULS location identity. Your frequency, station class, emission designator and authorized power show what type of system you are operating. Once your new license is granted, those parameters define it. 

It is your responsibility to review your license when it’s first granted to ensure it reflects what you requested for geographic coverage and other details. Once the system is built and on the air, it’s a good idea to again review the system parameters against the license to make sure every component in the license matches your actual system.

When you start using your radios, you must notify the FCC that your system is operating as it is licensed. This is called a construction notification and it’s required by the FCC whether it is a new license or you have changed your license to reflect new frequencies, location or operating parameters.

Timing is important on this notification. If the construction notification is not completed within one year of the license granting or renewal date, the FCC will terminate the license.  

The best approach to compliance is to designate someone at your company who will be responsible for your license. Just like staying up to date with those state and federal insurance and employment rules, a FCC license does require ongoing effort.  

Over 150 companies use EWA’s License Management Service to take care of compliance with FCC rules, regulations, and the necessary filings, and it automatically notifies you in case of any needed actions. Your radios are an important tool for your organization and compliance planning can guarantee uninterrupted communications and avoid fines.