HAM Radio 101

The ARRL Volunteer Monitor Program: Keeping On-Air Activities on the Up and Up

Big brother isn’t the only one watching these days. The ARRL Volunteer Program is also keeping an ear to the ground—err, airwaves—not only to catch troublemakers and dole out consequences but also to recognize hams who exhibit extraordinary on-air operation. Now that’s a twist we like to see!

Established in January of 2020, the volunteer-run program represents a formal agreement between the ARRL and FCC to jointly monitor and regulate on-air activities. It was started to help the FCC after several FCC regional offices were forced to close and reductions were made to field staff.

Volunteers who choose to join the program are trained and vetted by the ARRL and work to closely monitor on-air activity and gather evidence to benefit hams with great ethical conduct or censure operators not as fond of following the rules.

Cases of flagrant violations are referred to the FCC by the Volunteer Monitor Program where they receive formal sanctioning according to FCC guidelines. These cases are given priority, bypassing the entire FCC online complaint process and going straight to the top of the figurative stack for censure. Not good if you’re a ne’er-do-well—but a nice reprieve for other on-air hams sticking to the straight and narrow (good for you)!

However, the straight and narrow can be a bit confusing when you’re new to the hobby and sometimes when you’re not, which is why the Volunteer Monitor Program recently sent out a few cautions to hams operating where they shouldn’t have been.

These cautions are a great reminder to stay in your lane on the airwaves. For those looking for a quick refresher on how to do so, ARRL Volunteer Monitor Program Administrator Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, suggests checking out section 97.301 of the ARRL handbook, this handy chart on the ARRL website that breaks privileges down according to license class, or reading up on the specific cautions most recently referenced by the Volunteer Monitor Program here.

And if helping others stay in their lane and rewarding those who do it undeniably well is something you’d like to do, we urge you to keep your eyes peeled for positions on the Volunteer Monitor Program once spots begin opening up.

Editor’s Note: Also take a moment to read “Five Types of Operators You Should Want to Be” and Five Types of Operators You Don’t Want to Be from blogger Mark, K8MSH, for great advice on what it takes to be either a paragon of the ham radio community or a “lid.”

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