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Author Topic: FCC License Counts  (Read 220127 times)
N2EY
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« Reply #30 on: January 27, 2011, 05:31:13 PM »

Can you do a japanese count for us and place side by side? It would be interesting to know if JA land has more hams then the US.

The only source of JA license stats I know of is AH0A:

http://www.ah0a.org/AH0A.html

He has statistics from several countries, including the USA. Also notes on how his calculations are done.

However, it's important to know some things about the license rules before comparing numbers, because different countries do some things very differently.

For example, the numbers I post here are the number of current, unexpired FCC-issued amateur licenses held by individuals. They don't include club or other station-only licenses, nor licenses in the grace period.

Some other sources, such as hamdata.com, include licenses in the grace period in their totals. The result is a higher number.

In the USA, you can't get just an amateur operator license; you also get a station license. And all of them expire at the end of their 10 year terms, unless renewed. There are no fees for the license itself; the only fees are for exams and for vanity calls.

Japan has a completely different system. In Japan, operator and station licenses are separate.

Operator licenses are for life, and never need to be renewed. There are four license classes, and when a JA ham upgrades, the old operator license is not cancelled. So a single JA ham may be counted as many as four times. The current JA license system dates from 1952, so when you see the number of operator licenses, what you're seeing is the total number of operator licenses issued since 1952.

JA station licenses expire, and there's a small fee for them. Only a ham who wants his own station and callsign needs a station license. So the number of JA station licenses is far less than the number of operator licenses.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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N9RO
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« Reply #31 on: February 07, 2011, 09:21:17 PM »

If the reason for the count is to measure the health of the hobby then I think all these numbers can be very misleading.  Growing numbers if in only one segment of the population such as people over 55 may not be as good as it appears?  What we need to see is the age of those entering the hobby.  If we are growing among the youth (which I doubt) then I would consider that healthy growth extending the longevity of the hobby. 

Tim
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N2EY
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« Reply #32 on: February 08, 2011, 02:20:13 AM »

What we need to see is the age of those entering the hobby. 

The problem is that the FCC doesn't require birthdate info, and hasn't required it for many years. So there's no way to know how old US hams are as a group.

If we are growing among the youth (which I doubt) then I would consider that healthy growth extending the longevity of the hobby. 

Why does the age of new hams matter?

73 de Jim, N2EY
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KZ2S
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« Reply #33 on: February 08, 2011, 05:16:50 AM »

Just a little tidbit I thought was interesting, percentage of U.S. population with a Amature radio license is:
0.2%. Thats 1 person per 500, if every ham was active and available, to provide essential communications in a emergency. Shocked
« Last Edit: February 08, 2011, 08:17:11 AM by AB9YL » Logged
N9RO
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« Reply #34 on: February 08, 2011, 08:56:56 AM »

Quote
Why does the age of new hams matter?

I know many will disagree but history has shown youth tends to bring innovation and excitement something our hobby could use.  I recently read a claim stating the average ham is in his/her 60’s, however I don’t know how valid that statement is?  I do know, in my daily operating it appears I age 59 am oftentimes younger than the person I am working.  It would be even more interesting to break down the active ham numbers to age and mode and see if the newer digital modes are where the younger hams are?   If we could identify what area of the hobby the younger hams migrate too then that is where we should focus ham radio recruitment.   Although the numbers of hams appear to be growing if the average age is growing too the forecast is not good.  Just one hams opinion.

73
Tim, N9RO
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N2EY
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« Reply #35 on: February 08, 2011, 05:05:59 PM »

Quote
Why does the age of new hams matter?

I know many will disagree but history has shown youth tends to bring innovation and excitement something our hobby could use.

Where has history shown this?

If you look at the history of ham radio since at least WW2, it's been mostly the experienced, older hams with lots of resources who have done most of the innovations. SSB, RTTY, FM and repeaters, satellites, PSK31, meteor scatter, EME, SSTV....the list is long.

That's not a put-down of younger hams; it's just the way things usually work.

I recently read a claim stating the average ham is in his/her 60’s, however I don’t know how valid that statement is?

Anybody can make such claims, but there's no real way to back them up because FCC hasn't collected birthdate data on hams for many years.

I see those "average age" claims every so often, too. But the claimers never say how they got their data, nor even what they mean by "average" (median? mean? something else?).

I do know, in my daily operating it appears I age 59 am oftentimes younger than the person I am working.

But that doesn't really tell us much, because the sample is small and unrepresentative.

For example, if you operate during daylight on weekdays, you won't work many younger hams because so many of them are working or in school. If you work mostly 'phone, you'll miss the CW and data ops, and if you don't work 'phone you'll miss the 'phone ops. Same for all the different bands.

It would be even more interesting to break down the active ham numbers to age and mode and see if the newer digital modes are where the younger hams are?   If we could identify what area of the hobby the younger hams migrate too then that is where we should focus ham radio recruitment.

I agree but without accurate age data there's no way to figure it out. Simply assuming that the younger hams would be most likely to use the newest modes isn't valid without real data.


Although the numbers of hams appear to be growing if the average age is growing too the forecast is not good. 

As I said before, we really don't know what the age distribution of hams is today.

Even if we did know, we'd have to compare it to what it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. And we'd have to use the same method of calculation.

What would really be useful is a graph that showed the age of all US hams, so you could see the distribution. Simply citing a single number as "average" doesn't tell much if the distribution is unknown.

It's also important to remember that people are living longer today than ever before. And they're staying active longer. Meanwhile, people are having fewer kids and having them later in life.

Compare the median age of Americans today vs. the median age 10, 20, 30 years ago - it's a rising trend.

I think we should welcome new hams of ALL ages. Young, old, in-between. The more the merrier.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #36 on: February 08, 2011, 06:26:05 PM »

Although the numbers of hams appear to be growing if the average age is growing too the forecast is not good. 

I think we should welcome new hams of ALL ages. Young, old, in-between. The more the merrier.

Agreed, Jim.  On another board Keith KB1SF claims that many of the new applicants he examines are older people who put off earning a ham radio license because of code testing.  Keith claims that many people first ask whether or not the code tests are still in effect.  Would an abolition of the code requirement 10, 20, or even 30 years ago have drastically changed the demographic makeup of American ham radio?

Even a reduction of the code requirement to 5 wpm across the board or even 5 wpm for the Extra only might have significantly changed the ham radio demographic.  We'll never know, but it's interesting to speculate on an alternate timelone.

73, Jordan
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N9RO
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« Reply #37 on: February 09, 2011, 06:48:20 AM »

Quote
Where has history shown this?
This has been studied scientifically for over 100 years; I based my opinion on a classic study done by Harvey C. Lehman and the well known Age and Achievement.   Relatively little creative work of  importance is done by persons past 50  Many outside of science have the same feeling, to quote Shakespeare “When the age is in, the wit is out”.   
Quote
That's not a put-down of younger hams; it's just the way things usually work.
Please provide us the scientific study you are referencing?

73
Tim
N9RO

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N2EY
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« Reply #38 on: February 09, 2011, 09:48:40 AM »

Quote
Where has history shown this?
This has been studied scientifically for over 100 years; I based my opinion on a classic study done by Harvey C. Lehman and the well known Age and Achievement.   Relatively little creative work of  importance is done by persons past 50  Many outside of science have the same feeling, to quote Shakespeare “When the age is in, the wit is out”.   
Quote
That's not a put-down of younger hams; it's just the way things usually work.
Please provide us the scientific study you are referencing?

But those folks are talking about creative WORK. IOW, what people do as a job. And they're talking in general, not about a specific endeavor.

They're not talking about ham radio, which isn't a job, and is a specific endeavor.

If the dividing line is drawn at 50, note that, for most of human history, the vast majority of humans didn't live all that much past 60. (Yes, some did, but look at the life expectancy of Americans over the 20th century for an example of how rare it used to be).

There are also folks like Ben Franklin who kinda bust the curve in all ways.

---

Look at the innovators and creative folks *in amateur radio* and you'll see lots of different age groups represented.

73 de Jim, N2EY



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N2EY
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« Reply #39 on: February 09, 2011, 03:46:59 PM »

Although the numbers of hams appear to be growing if the average age is growing too the forecast is not good. 

I think we should welcome new hams of ALL ages. Young, old, in-between. The more the merrier.

Agreed, Jim.  On another board Keith KB1SF claims that many of the new applicants he examines are older people who put off earning a ham radio license because of code testing.  Keith claims that many people first ask whether or not the code tests are still in effect.

Let's consider that one for a moment.

The Technician lost its code test in 1991 - 20 years ago.
The code test for all US amateur license classes requiring one was dropped to 5 wpm in 2000 - 11 years ago - and completely eliminated in 2007 - 4 years ago.

And yet prospective hams are still asking the question? Seems to me we need better publicity.

Would an abolition of the code requirement 10, 20, or even 30 years ago have drastically changed the demographic makeup of American ham radio?

Maybe - but probably not.

In my experience, the people who were least put off by Morse Code testing were the youngest people, and those who were the most against it were the oldest. The 1996 ARRL Readex survey bears this out. A look at the comments, or at posts in forums like this one, bears it out as well.

IOW, the younger newcomers just up and did what was required.

It was also impossible for the code test to have been completely eliminated before 2003 because of the ITU-R treaty, section 25.5. The FCC stated in 1990 and 1999 that they would not eliminate or waive the 5 wpm code test for HF/MF licenses as long as the treaty requirement remained.

Even a reduction of the code requirement to 5 wpm across the board or even 5 wpm for the Extra only might have significantly changed the ham radio demographic.  We'll never know, but it's interesting to speculate on an alternate timelone.

But we do know.

In 1990, the FCC created medical waivers for the 13 and 20 wpm code tests. All it took to get one was a simple note from a doctor - any M.D. or D.O. - stating that the person would take "longer than average" to learn enough to pass 13 or 20 wpm.

How much longer was not specified. There was no requirement to mention the reason, nor did it have to be permanent, or require any kind of treatment. Anyone could write the letter, all the doc had to do was sign it.

What medical waivers did was to effectively eliminate the 13 and 20 wpm code tests for anyone who was willing to write a letter and get a doctor to sign it. VEs I knew in the 1990-2000 time frame said that at least 10% of the hams who tried for General, Advanced and Extra presented letters and got waivers. At some sessions the waiver percentage was much higher.

And note this:

In the 1970s, when the effects of incentive licensing were most pronounced and the license requirements probably the highest, US ham radio experienced fast growth. That growth continued into the 1980s at a somewhat slower rate.

When the medical waivers and nocodetest Tech appeared in the early 1990s, there was a burst of growth. But it didn't last; by 1997 or so the numbers were no longer rising.

The 2000 restructuring brought 3 years of growth, but after 2003 the numbers started down again.

That's all ancient history now.

Since 2007 we've had steady growth. Not enough to keep up with US population growth, but not a decline either. If we haven't already set a new all-time high, we will soon.

Of course the game of reduce-the-license-requirements can only go on for so long. It's similar to how lowering the price of something can bring a burst of sales for a while.
 
IMHO the main reasons for slow growth aren't the license requirements, and never have been. Other factors are the dominant ones, but they're much harder to recognize and even more difficult to change.

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AB2T
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« Reply #40 on: February 09, 2011, 09:47:15 PM »

In my experience, the people who were least put off by Morse Code testing were the youngest people, and those who were the most against it were the oldest. The 1996 ARRL Readex survey bears this out. A look at the comments, or at posts in forums like this one, bears it out as well.

IOW, the younger newcomers just up and did what was required.

I probably shouldn't say this loudly, but some children are more gifted intellectually than others.  I was just lucky enough to have the aptitude to pass all the exams offered when I was a kid.  Your experience is similar, save that you had even more obstacles than I did.  It's true that children are more likely to take to code since most do not labor under the delusion that "code's hard".  Also, language acquisition is easier for children.  Still, while a number of kids in my high school club had Extras, most remained (no code) Techs.  A few  struggled and pass the General.  In sum, perhaps 15% were Extra and most of the rest Techs.  A good yield, but nevertheless demonstrative of the influences of aptitude and motivation in the VE-era pre-restructuring days.  I wonder about the experiences of high-school students that have entered and advanced through the ham ranks after restructuring.   

Of course the game of reduce-the-license-requirements can only go on for so long. It's similar to how lowering the price of something can bring a burst of sales for a while.
 
IMHO the main reasons for slow growth aren't the license requirements, and never have been. Other factors are the dominant ones, but they're much harder to recognize and even more difficult to change.

A comment that I responded to on qrz.com illustrates the inevitable "class conflict" that surrounds the restructuring (ugh, Marxist constructs in ham radio forums? should stay away from that).  Blaming DX CW jamming on new operators who are "jealous" of older code-licensed hams is simply irresponsible and even malicious.  Anyone who was an operator before restructuring knows that malicious operators have always been a hallmark of DXpedition pileups.  Similarly, some older hams are peeved that a new ham can pass the Extra and get a W series 1x2 soon after.  Life's too short to worry about these issues of class and status.  The proof is the fist, not whether or not someone can plunk down the VISA for a vanity application.

I also agree that a continual and rapid devaluation of licensing requirements will bring short term gains at the expense of the social fabric of the ham community.  More dominant issues, such as demographics, gender disparity, and ethno-cultural homogenization in the ham community, are intractable for the most part.  It is irrelevant if a person has waited for decades to be a ham because he or she could not or would not master the code.  The formation of a new cohort of courteous operators regardless of entry point trumps individual misgivings about the direction of licensing reforms.  This formation of new operators must take place within a license structure that remains stable for at least a few decades.

73, Jordan         
« Last Edit: February 09, 2011, 09:53:04 PM by AB2T » Logged
N2EY
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« Reply #41 on: February 10, 2011, 04:26:16 AM »

I probably shouldn't say this loudly, but some children are more gifted intellectually than others.  I was just lucky enough to have the aptitude to pass all the exams offered when I was a kid.  Your experience is similar, save that you had even more obstacles than I did.  It's true that children are more likely to take to code since most do not labor under the delusion that "code's hard". 

Not just code, either. Remember that the written exams have to be passed, and that before 2000 there were five of them required for Extra, rather than today's three.

Also, language acquisition is easier for children.  Still, while a number of kids in my high school club had Extras, most remained (no code) Techs.  A few  struggled and pass the General.  In sum, perhaps 15% were Extra and most of the rest Techs.  A good yield, but nevertheless demonstrative of the influences of aptitude and motivation in the VE-era pre-restructuring days.  I wonder about the experiences of high-school students that have entered and advanced through the ham ranks after restructuring. 

In a recent QST there was an article about hams who had earned scholarships. All of them were high school seniors. The article took a couple of pages to list them all.

It should be remembered that some young folks get their licenses well before high school. The current record for a General is six years old, and seven for the Extra. I suspect that such accomplishments bother some older hams, for some reason.
  

Of course the game of reduce-the-license-requirements can only go on for so long. It's similar to how lowering the price of something can bring a burst of sales for a while.
 
IMHO the main reasons for slow growth aren't the license requirements, and never have been. Other factors are the dominant ones, but they're much harder to recognize and even more difficult to change.

A comment that I responded to on qrz.com illustrates the inevitable "class conflict" that surrounds the restructuring (ugh, Marxist constructs in ham radio forums? should stay away from that).  Blaming DX CW jamming on new operators who are "jealous" of older code-licensed hams is simply irresponsible and even malicious.  Anyone who was an operator before restructuring knows that malicious operators have always been a hallmark of DXpedition pileups.  Similarly, some older hams are peeved that a new ham can pass the Extra and get a W series 1x2 soon after.  Life's too short to worry about these issues of class and status.  The proof is the fist, not whether or not someone can plunk down the VISA for a vanity application.

It's been possible to go from no license to Extra in one exam session since the mid-1970s. The present vanity system has been around since the early 1990s, and there were 1x2 sequentials long before that (mine is a sequential call from 1977).

There have always been clueless newer hams who caused QRM and made dumb mistakes. Maybe there were fewer in the old days, maybe there were more, no real way to tell.

What has changed with time is the visibility. In the bad old pre-internet days, if a newbie asked a dumb question, it didn't get very far. Same for a cutting remark by an old-timer. Today, such things can get a very wide online audience.

There's also a sort of "internet forum syndrome" that afflicts a few folks. This is the behavior where, rather than read a book or googling, a person just asks a question and expects a customized answer. The endless discussions of G5RVs and T2FDs are an example.

In any social system there are issues of "class". What matters is how class is defined.

For example, is class determined by knowledge, skill and achievement? Or by conspicuous consumption? Is it simply a matter of time-in-grade, or a matter of how that time is used? Is the top class something anyone can aspire to and reach, by what they do? Etc.

I think what bothers some folks is that the real marks of a high-class radio amateur (courtesy, skill, knowledge) cannot be bought; they can only be earned - regardless of the license class or tests passed.


I also agree that a continual and rapid devaluation of licensing requirements will bring short term gains at the expense of the social fabric of the ham community.  More dominant issues, such as demographics, gender disparity, and ethno-cultural homogenization in the ham community, are intractable for the most part.  It is irrelevant if a person has waited for decades to be a ham because he or she could not or would not master the code.  The formation of a new cohort of courteous operators regardless of entry point trumps individual misgivings about the direction of licensing reforms.  This formation of new operators must take place within a license structure that remains stable for at least a few decades.
        

But the license structure has never been stable for a few decades. At least not in the USA. Look back over the entire 99 year history of Amateur Radio licensing in the USA, and every decade or so there's an upheaval in the license requirements.

For example:

The pre-WW1 system was interrupted by the war, and what came back afterwards was different.

The 1920s saw the radical changes from 200 meter spark to the short-waves, international regulations and broadcasting.

The 1930s brought the FRC, FCC and the ABC system.

The 1940s had the interruption of WW2.

The 1950s brought the Novice, Tech and Extra in the 1951 restructuring, shortly followed by the 1953 Generals-get-all giveaway.

The 1960s brought incentive licensing, which was most strongly felt in the 1970s.

The 1980s brought the VE system, Bash books, 10 year licenses and CSCEs.

The 1990s brought medical waivers, a nocodetest license, a new vanity program and the 2000 restructuring.

Those are just the high points; if you look carefully at the history there are even more changes that seemed small at the time but had big effects. For example, the CSCE system meant that a ham could upgrade one test at a time, focusing all their effort on a single test element until it was passed. Which changed the game somewhat.


73 de Jim, N2EY
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N2EY
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« Reply #42 on: February 17, 2011, 04:14:50 PM »

Updated numbers from:

http://www.arrl.org/fcc-license-counts

the number of current unexpired FCC issued amateur licenses held by individuals on February 16, 2011 was:

Novice:            15,595    (2.2%)
Technician      342,263  (49.1%)
Technician Plus         0    (0.0%)
General          156,140  (22.4%)
Advanced         59,218    (8.5%)
Extra              123,276  (17.7%)

Total               696,492

73 de Jim, N2EY
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AA4HA
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« Reply #43 on: February 18, 2011, 10:19:08 AM »

But those folks are talking about creative WORK. IOW, what people do as a job. And they're talking in general, not about a specific endeavor.

They're not talking about ham radio, which isn't a job, and is a specific endeavor.

If the dividing line is drawn at 50, note that, for most of human history, the vast majority of humans didn't live all that much past 60. (Yes, some did, but look at the life expectancy of Americans over the 20th century for an example of how rare it used to be).
There are also folks like Ben Franklin who kinda bust the curve in all ways.

Look at the innovators and creative folks *in amateur radio* and you'll see lots of different age groups represented.

Older and younger hams all bring something to the table. A middle-aged ham (I) who has worked as a communications EE for 25 years brings a great deal of collective wisdom but I may not be the furious (midnight coder) writing the latest replacement for WSPR but I could design a super selective receiver for that purpose.

The folks who have been 'round a long time can sometimes just look at a setup and say "that ain't gonna work". They may not be able to give you all of the theoretical reasons for why that is the case but they probably went down that road before and are speaking from experience going back 40 years.

Younger folks may love to go out and do tornado spotting, emergency nets or have a software defined radio. This does not make them any less a ham than the 70 year old who still owns a stockpile of tubes for his ARC-5 transmitter.

This hobby should be drawing it's strength from the wide cross section of experiences and talents. I was surprised to see a recent eHam posting about a young woman who made a fabric covered Yagi antenna that looks like a fashion accessory. That is just as valid as the folks who get out there with converted military gear.

Yes, probably, the age demographic of ham radio operators is increasing. So is the life expectancy of the average American. When we get older we tend to have more disposable income, until we hit retirement and usually have more disposable free time to dedicate to the hobby.

Watching my father work a 2 meter phone patch from our car after we broke down on a back-road in 1974 was amazing to me. Wondering what he was doing with all of that 1/4" copper tubing and PVC pipe to make odd looking antennas for our roof was entertaining. All of those things contributed to amateur radio and drove my interest into radio engineering.

Tisha Hayes
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
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« Reply #44 on: February 19, 2011, 10:52:00 AM »

Flipping through the numbers over the past few months it is interesting to see the very gradual roll-off on novice and advanced OP's. I can see where advanced licenses will be around much longer. Not just because of the numbers, but if you are an amateur who went through the trouble of going that far you are less likely to give it up.

I have tried to engage a few of the novices to see if they wanted to upgrade their licenses to pick up more privileges but many say "oh, I have not been on the air for X number of years". I do not know what the success rate would be in bringing these folks up to a general class license.

I would like to see the ARRL do some sort of mass mailing to all of the novice class licensees, informing them of how easy it would be for them to upgrade to general. If we do nothing, many of those numbers will continue to decline.

While the ARRL sends out lots of information to members (every week or two I get another letter from them on this or that) they do very little for the non-members, many of whom have dropped out of the hobby as their licenses gradually expire.

Novice to General would be an easy argument to make.
Advanced to Extra is filled with too much emotion regarding old breed vs. new breed and should just be left alone.

The large number of tech licenses are not a bad thing. It is not as if we do not have enough general, advanced and extra licenses to keep the HF bands alive. I would think that we may see a slight decline over time in tech licenses as some of the  the post 9/11 EMCOMM folks do not renew. If that is going to happen it should be visible with a dipping off of tech licenses about a year from now as the 10 year terms are expiring and some of those folks have moved on with other interests.

Tisha Hayes
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
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