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FCC eliminates GMRS regulatory fee

The FCC has eliminated the regulatory fee required to obtain a license for the GMRS.

In a Report and Order released May 21, 2015 as part of the FCC's notice of proposed regulatory fees for fiscal year 2015, the commission issued a Report and Order to eliminate the regulatory fee for the General Mobile Radio Service effective this year.

The fee, which was previously assessed at $5 per year, added $25 to the total cost of a GMRS license, which has a term of five years. While it does not eliminate the cost of a license altogether, the complete elimination of the regulatory fee brings the total cost of a General Mobile Radio Service license from $90 down to $65.

According to the FCC, the fee simply wasn't worth the cost. in the Report and Order, the commission stated:

"After analyzing the costs of processing fee payments for GMRS, we conclude that the
Commission's cost of collecting and processing this fee exceeds the payment amount of $25. Our costs have increased over time and now that the costs exceed the amount of the regulatory fee, the increased relative administrative cost supports eliminating this regulatory fee category."

The GMRS license required two fees, the application fee and the FCC regulatory fee. The total cost of a GMRS license has risen through the years, mostly due to automatic, scheduled increases in the application fee. In 2014 the total cost of a GMRS license rose again, from $85 to $90. The cost of a GMRS license is currently greater than the cost of most higher end GMRS radios for which the license is required to operate, and more than double the cost of an entry level radio.

The disproportionately high cost of GMRS licensing compared to other types of radio service licenses and to the GMRS radio equipment itself has been a growing complaint among GMRS users, and is a primary reason why many who are aware of the license requirement do not purchase one.

The FCC, acknowledging the problem, gave it as another reason to remove the fee. "Once eliminated, these licensees will no longer be financially burdened with such payments and the Commission will no longer incur these administrative costs that exceed the fee payments.", the commission added in the report.

This is not the first time the FCC has considered the costs and caveats of licensing the GMRS. In 2010, the commission proposed to do away with the requirement for individual licensing altogether and instead license by rule. However, backlash from the community of licensed GMRS users helped stall the decision and as the FCC has since noted on their web site, "the proposal is still pending".

Is the elimination of the GMRS regulatory fee the beginning of the end of the individual GMRS license requirement? If not, will the application fee remain and continue to rise automatically on its own until it even surpasses the previous $90 fee?

Tell us what you think. Enter your comments below.

84 thoughts on “FCC eliminates GMRS regulatory fee”

  • Baron Von Schnitzengruber
    Baron Von Schnitzengruber August 7, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Who cares? The bigger question is why shouldn't Part 90 certificated radios be allowed on GMRS and why can't digital voice emissions also be used? Other than nosy eavesdroppers and snoops, who else would be effected by F1E emissions on GMRS? As it is, you can speak any language you want - our frequencies sound like Mexico in my state - so why can't you use digital, like you can on Part 90?
    If GMRS is for families and individuals to communicate, then why does the pedophile up the road need to listen to us in analog?

  • Leif Ericksen
    Leif Ericksen June 22, 2016 at 6:18 am

    I believe that the GMRS license fees should be eliminated or greatly as there are so many of those GMRS/FRS Radios being sold any many folks are clueless. After all the average person that purchase these radios for a kids walkie-talkie or community emergency services (CERT) looks and the manual and sees "FCC blah, blah, blah" and says I do not care. I just want to know how I use this stupid thing. Also consider the following, it may have been a child's gift, or a CERT team may have provided/suggested radios to its members for use in case of disaster.
    Case in point I was talking to the president of a local CERT team that told me they simply decided to use channel 2 (462.5875) on the radios that the team provided. He informed me that he was not aware it was a licensed service and would talk to his communications person. Also note, this team has NO licensed hams. Time for me to put on my volunteer instructor hat and teach a class so that any interested parties can get a HAM ticket. (there is interest in the team)
    Having free/reduced license or a free individual/group license for emergency service (CERT) would then make it so much easier for other volunteer Emergency Service groups to pickup the radios and start using them for aid in a disaster. This exposure could lead to more people becoming interested in Amateur radio. After all in a real disaster they may indeed be interacting with HAMS to support the event. At the same time we need to keep the Amateur License fees where it is at otherwise that could drive people away from wanting to use Ham radio, and everybody that is a ham has to admit we are crucial in times of a disaster.
    Arguments to reduce or eliminate the FMRS fees.
    - No test is required
    - There are so many FRS/GMRS radios out there
    - Very Few People read the manuals.
    - Radios are cheap and given to kids as Walkie-talkies
    - FRS is license free
    - CB is license free (it used to require a license)
    - Higher power great for disaster use, your team may be scattered
    - Introduction to radios may lead to interest in ham radio.
    Arguments against having it be free
    - Brings in to many abusers to the air (but many do not know it is a licensed service)
    - For existing user base... I have been paying for a license for years, this is not fair.
    - I have an established repeater I do not want just anybody using it!
    - other?
    I could go on but will leave it here for folks to chew on.

  • I'm a licensed ham radio operator and believe the the fees associated with my ham radio are appropriate. That said, why would I purchase $50 FRS/GMRS radios when I'm expected to pay $65 FCC license fee. (just checked on the FCC website today 06/16/2016). Here is the deal, anybody can go to any electronics store, hell grocery store for that matter, and buy these radios with zero knowledge that they have to be licensed. If I wasn't a licensed Ham I wouldn't know that I need to get a license. I want to buy these for my teenaged kids to be in contact with me during a camping trip, but the fee is just plain absurd. Makes more sense to purchase some cheap CB handhelds. (If anybody has used a CB then you know that your range is significantly greater).
    Plain and simple, the FCC needs to chalk this one up to being too reactive. There are way to many citizens running around using the FRS/GMRS radios without a license to police. These radios should fall under the same prevue as CB & MURS and be license free.

  • I don't see a point of having a gmrs license if I'm only using it to talk up to 2 miles and not use a repeater. I mean do I really need a gmrs license if I'm using a handheld radio and not planning on going through a repeater.

  • Rick

    Most of the GMRS radios on the shelves are both FRS and GMRS. You only need a license if you use the GMRS or the shared FRS/GMRS frequencies in GMRS mode (above 1/2 watt). You do not need a license to use the FRS or the shared FRS/GMRS frequencies in FRS mode (1/2 watt or less). If you don't want to get a GMRS license, you can still legally use the radios for FRS only.
    Also, you do not need a GMRS license to listen. Many of these newer combo FRS/GMRS radio packs also offer NOAA weather channels and emergency weather alerts, so they are handy to have around in case of emergency. You don't need a license for that.

  • Don

    I wouldn't pay half the current cost as it is. I'm certainly not going to pay $90, $85, $65, or anything above $25. The fee shouldn't be that high. There's no justification for it. Furthermore, if you're going to charge a fee and require a license for the frequency, then manufacturer's should be required to take them off the shelves. As it is, I returned my radios because no where on the package did it say I required a license. Instead, I had to open the pack and read the manual that stated that.

  • They will eventually drop the license requirement just like they did for CB and Marine radios. They are just waiting until I pay my money.

  • Rick

    No problem, Carlos. Happy to help! :)

  • Carlos Rivera
    Carlos Rivera May 31, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Thanks Rick, I did not understand that part completely. Thanks for clarifying the point.

  • Rick

    Carlos, it is true. As the article clearly stated, the FCC eliminated the $25 regulatory fee. If you read the second paragraph, it says "the complete elimination of the regulatory fee brings the total cost of a General Mobile Radio Service license from $90 down to $65", as posted on the FCC web site.
    Once again, the GMRS license is not free, but with the elimination of the regulatory fee, the cost was reduced.

  • Carlos Rivera
    Carlos Rivera May 31, 2016 at 4:42 am

    I do have a question, is this 100% true? I just entered the FCC site and it still indicates on reports as of December 2015 that there is a $65 fee.
    I am in favor of no charge, but I do think all GMRS users must be licensed and/or registered. This will keep the frequencies more cleaner, give some space for illegal activities prosecution and give the FCC a measure of how the system gets crowded over time.

  • Steve

    I think when John Willis said that the ham license wasn't "free", he meant that there was a cost involved with getting one and that cost was having to pass a test.

  • john stover

    Not much to add to all of the comments...
    I've been a Ham since the late 70's.
    I was a licensed CB operator until the license was no longer required.
    I was licensed in CB Class A before it became GMRS.
    I let that license lapse during some tough financial times.
    We had a GMRS repeater in South Bend throughout the 80's.
    I would renew it if it were $25, just to be able to be legal, but I'd not pay more than that.
    A small fee might prevent frequency congestion by keeping down the number of applicants. FRS still works well for short range traffic. As someone else mentioned, there's little enforcement in GMRS licensing, it's just a money-maker. Automate it and cut the cost way down for those of us who feel a need to be legal.

  • Rick

    Hi Robert, although GMRS shares the same 70cm band as the amateur radio frequencies, it is a different service, and those specific frequencies are reserved for the GMRS only. Shared FRS/GMRS frequencies are just that, they are shared between the Family Radio Service and the General Mobile Radio Service, respectively. those shared frequencies are legal for FRS only at half a watt or less, anything above that is considered use on the GMRS and requires a GMRS license.
    As for the GMRS specific frequencies, they do require a separate GMRS license. An amateur radio license does not include the use of those GMRS frequencies.
    Your ham radio license covers the 70 cm band between 420MHz and 450 MHz. The 8 GMRS and 7 shared FRS/GMRS frequencies are on 462MHz. The FRS only frequencies are on 467 MHz. Those FRS and GMRS frequencies are outside the 70 cm US Amateur Radio Band.
    I hope that clears up the confusion.

  • Robert Pollard
    Robert Pollard May 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    As a new ham am a little confused. Do licensed ham need to get a separate license for gmrs other than frequencies shared with frs?

  • Brian

    Eliminate the license. It would be impossible to locate and prosecute every single GMRS operator without a license. Furthermore, even those with a license don't always broadcast their call signs. Therefore, how does the FCC know if the person broadcasting is indeed licensed?
    I'm a licensed ham and eliminating the license agreement may possibly get others interested in radio. Yes there is that undesirable "element", like in CB, who do really stupid things on the air. However, we should be trying to introduce people into radio instead of people just using their cell phones to chat (yes, actually radio transmissions).

  • Rick

    Tom, the 5 watt limit refers to small base stations. The maximum depends on the type of station. From the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations:
    95.135 Maximum authorized transmitting power.
    (a) No station may transmit with more than 50 watts output power.
    (b) [Reserved]
    (c) A small control station at a point north of Line A or east of Line C must transmit with no more than 5 watts ERP.
    (d) A fixed station must transmit with no more than 15 watts output power.
    (e) A small base station must transmit with no more than 5 watts ERP.
    [48 FR 35237, Aug. 3, 1983, as amended at 53 FR 47717, Nov. 25, 1988; 63 FR 68975, Dec. 14, 1998]

  • Tom

    So I was just on the FCC GMRS page ( https://www.fcc.gov/general/general-mobile-radio-service-gmrs ) which was last updated Dec of 2015 and it appears to me that the maximum power for GMRS is now limited to 5 watts. Nowhere does it mention repeaters or the 50 watt limit which I understood to be the ERP limit for a GMRS station. Is this a change or am I missing something? Hmmmm. Anyone? ~Tom: WQLE490

  • Greg

    What's the fuss ? I hear nothing on the GRMS for FRS frequencies, and it doesn't look like there is any real interest. Where Amateur Radio continues to grow (thanks to no code requirement that served no purpose other than to discourage), GRMS and FRS will continue to fade like some hairstyle fad. I have a couple walkies but they only serve in limited situations such as when my wife and I relocated talking from vehicle to vehicle. Otherwise these walkies sit in the closet waiting for their next long in the future use.

  • David William,
    You're parroting the breathless PSRG who blames all ills on Tandy. But Tandy has nothing to do with the problems GMRS faces.
    Tandy did (with the backing of Motorola et al, mind you) propose FRS. And everything Tandy promised about FRS has been true: the original FRS radios and users didn't harm the GMRS at all. I recall when the FRS radios came out. By design their transmitters and antennas couldn't propagate a signal outside a very small area. They also shared only half of the GMRS channels (the simplex channels at reduced power and deviation, putting them at an enormous disadvantage to GMRS users on those channels), and none of the GMRS repeater input or output channels.
    To the extent that anyone is to blame for the rampant flaunting of GMRS licensing and operating regulations, it is the FCC, who blithely created rules that they had neither the ability nor the intention to enforce.
    And if it were true that manufacturers contributed to this problem, guess who was conspicuously absent (in any effective way) as a source of these cheap high-power GMRS/FRS bubble-pack radios? Tandy/Radio Shack.
    No, it was the companies that you speak of fondly, namely Motorola, Uniden, and Midland, who opened the floodgates with the cheap high-power bubble-pack GMRS radios that the people have used to take over the GMRS, and the sheer popularity has overwhelmed the FCC's ability to enforce the rules (or even track abuses). But are you suggesting that the FCC should make sure that useful radios are not affordable? How in the world would you suggest that that promotes the public interest?
    GMRS' growing pains are indeed similar to what happened to 27MHz Citizen's Band in the '70s. But you have the cause and effect wrong: in both CB and GMRS, massive popularity of the service overwhelmed the FCC -- the "silliness" you speak of was committed both before and after the FCC gave up policing CB, and it's going to be the same with GMRS. The only difference is that with CB, the FCC was forced to admit that licensing did nothing to help policing and was merely red tape routinely ignored by both honest citizens and malicious antisocials alike, whereas they have simply not yet admitted the same thing about GMRS.
    But what's really got your pants in a bind is that as a result of GMRS' exploding popularity, you've lost something you never had a right to in the first place: exclusivity. You felt that by paying your GMRS licensing fee, you had a right to keep others off of "your" channels. Or at least, keep enough of them off that you didn't have to notice that you share the airwaves. You'd be just as annoyed if millions of lawfully-licensed GMRS users were occupying "your" channels. But the truth is that you never had the right to empty channels to use as your own. You just got to pretend that you did while GMRS was relatively unknown.
    In implementing the FRS, the FCC wasn't caving to Tandy's corporate greed. They were recognizing that the public at large had just as much right to a useful section of the radio spectrum as the elitist GMRS users like you.
    What followed was that the masses, recognizing how useful UHF FM radios are, wanted more capability than FRS gave them. More specifically, they wanted what people in several other countries (think Europe's PMR446 and Australia's UHF CB) already had: handheld radios with practical range and reliability. So they turned to your precious GMRS.
    In retrospect Tandy asked the FCC for too little. The FCC should have simply split GMRS in half, and allowed half of the channels to be a genuine modern unlicensed UHF FM CB service with around 5-10W power limit, and the other half to be a strongly-enforced UHF BRS with allocations, fees, and other such regulations. Then the people like you who want to keep "their" channels to themselves could have paid for the privilege in elevated licensing fees and expensive low-volume radios, and the public could have had the useful and modern radio service it demanded. The public is going to take it anyway once they know it's there (they already have), and there's nothing the FCC can do about it.
    Nor should it: the FCC answers to the American public, not the other way around. If it recognizes that, and gets off its butt, the FCC can at least enforce effective type-acceptance rules so GMRS radios are of decent quality and have fair power limitations to minimize the impact to other nearby radio services. But that's really all you can reasonably expect.
    Arguably, had the PSRG been more reasonable, and willing to work with those who wanted a more "democratic" unlicensed UHF service, everyone might have gotten enough of what they wanted to be happy. But no, from the beginning the PSRG and GMRS licensees wanted the bulk of the 460MHz pie to themselves. Well, now they have to share everything they had with the proles.
    You can still get a license and radios that allow you a degree of exclusivity. Go get a part 90 LMR license and assignment on UHF or VHF frequencies. What, you don't like the fact that you can't tell your friends to go to Walmart and get a $25 radio to talk to you on "your" channels? Take the bad with the good. Then buy a bunch of $30 Chinese part-90 radios, program them to your licensed frequencies, loan them to your friends when they need them, and move on.
    Or, said less snarkily, maybe the FCC should abandon all of GMRS to license-free use, but outlaw repeaters. Then, make it much easier for existing GMRS repeater operators to coordinate and license frequencies in the UHF and VHF LMR pool. I suspect that is behind some of the noise from the FCC that they are considering a future ban on repeaters and new limits on power and antennas, and why those changes, unpopular as they may be with long-time GMRS licensees like you, may be the best thing the FCC can actually offer you.
    One parting thought. When you say "Tandy" and "lobby" in the same breath with such obvious distain, you really need to be slapped with a little reality: What is PSRG?
    A lobbyist organization.


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