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NCVEC Endorses Trial of Amateur Testing via Videoconferencing:

from The ARRL Letter, Vol 21, No 31 on August 12, 2002
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NCVEC Endorses Trial of Amateur Testing via Videoconferencing:

The FCC's Bill Cross, W3TN (at podium), told the NCVEC conference that a formal FCC opinion was not necessary to authorize the Anchorage VEC videoconferencing trial. [ARRL Photo]

The National Conference of Volunteer Examiner Coordinators has endorsed experimental use of videoconferencing technology to conduct Amateur Radio testing in remote areas of Alaska. Meeting July 26 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the NCVEC voted 6-3 with two abstentions to back a one-year trial run to be conducted by the Anchorage Volunteer Examiner Coordinator.

Jim Wiley, KL7CC, of the Anchorage VEC told his VEC colleagues that it's very expensive to provide Amateur Radio test sessions to the thousands of Alaska residents who live in remote areas. The vote followed discussion on whether having a VE team remotely monitor a test session while an unlicensed individual proctored the exams on site would comply with FCC Part 97 rules. Section 97.509(c) calls for three VEs to be "present and observing" the examinees.

"It was a classic 'how to do something' discussion," the FCC's Bill Cross, W3TN, of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, told ARRL. Cross was among several FCC staff members attending the annual gathering. "I told them that the VEC and the VEs are responsible for the proper conduct of the exams and that no rule changes appeared to be necessary because the rules do not address the 'how to' of exam administration." Cross said VECs already have authority under Part 97 rules to determine the manner in which their VE teams conduct examination sessions.

Cross emphasized no VECs would be required to coordinate exam sessions using a testing method they were not comfortable with. He said the conference seemed willing to allow the Anchorage VEC to conduct a trial of the program, once it's described in greater detail.

Wiley said he believes ham radio tests can be administered using videoconferencing technology without compromising exam integrity while maintaining "the same level of confidence in the testing process" that now exists. He agreed to provide progress reports to the NCVEC on the videoconferencing trial.

ARRL VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, said he abstained from voting because he did not believe a vote was necessary, since the FCC's Cross had indicated that the concept could be applied under existing rules.

In other business, the NCVEC gathering turned back a proposal to bring back multiple-choice format Morse code examinations. The vote was 9-2. The NCVEC also decided unanimously to create a Web site over the next few months to post news, question pools and other exam-related information.

John Creel, WB3GXW, of the Laurel Amateur Radio Club VEC in Maryland chaired the NCVEC conference.

FCC Special Counsel for Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth complimented the VECs on another successful year. While reporting that examination-related enforcement cases appeared to be dropping, he urged VECs to "remain awake at the wheel" to ensure the integrity of the volunteer examination system. [John Creel, WB3GXW, Photo]

John Creel, WB3GXW, chaired the NCVEC conference.


The ARRL Letter Vol. 21, No. 31 August 9, 2002

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