Several countries have 'lifetime' operator licenses, and I don't see why we shouldn't just as well.
There are so many other cases where we give credit for having passed examinations decades ago, that it seems a little weird not to just do it for all tests.
Actually the only case I know of is the Tech-prior-to-March-1987-to-General upgrade thing. In all other cases, the licensee has to have kept the license renewed.
There are some complications. First, what constitutes proof of an expired license, and acceptable proof of identity? If John Q. Smith shows up with a callbook entry that says he held a license in some other state sometime in the distant past, how do we know it's valid?
Exactly. On top of that is the fact that before about 1967 the Callbooks did not show license class. And except for Novices the callsign wasn't a license class indicator.
Also, how do you handle expired licenses of classes that are no longer issued? Is a pre-WWII Class B a General or a Technician now?
A General, because if the person had just kept renewing, that's what they'd have.
Is a Class A an Advanced or an Extra?
Advanced. For the same reason.
Of course, I think pre-war Class A and B's should be grandfathered 'up' - there aren't many of them still around. What about the Class C Conditionals and Technician (C)? I believe the proposal spelled out how these should be handled, but it gets very complicated.
Conditionals became Generals in the 1970s. Pre-1987 Techs can get a free upgrade to General.
I believe the current 10 year span for a STATION license is a fine thing, and should be retained. But the OPERATOR license should be good for life. If you want to start requiring 'checkrides' like they do for pilot licenses, then that's something to consider.
The problem there is that FCC has moved more and more to reduce the distinction between station and operator license - so why should they create more admin work for themselves?
There have been a number of proposals to FCC about "free upgrades" and such. One that I remember came from QCWA, and proposed that all who held Generals, Conditionals and Advanceds before November 22, 1968 should get a full privileges. The claim was that they'd had full privileges back-then, that "incentive licensing" was a failure, and so they should get back what they'd had ~40 years ago.
FCC said, in effect: "No, just take the test if you want the privileges".
I mean, folks - the current Extra has been earned by elementary schoolers, including at least one 7 year old! Yes, a bright 7 year old with lots of help, but still, a 7 year old! And this isn't new - back in 1948, W3OVV earned her Class B at the age of 9 - 13 wpm code, essay-question written, FCC examiner, the whole thing.
73 de Jim, N2EY