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I had applied for a vanity callsign which wasn't available. That was in March. The FCC license system shows my old callsign is still in effect.

Today, after a longer absence from my mail, I open a "Notice of Dismissal" which says in a wordy way lots of scary stuff:

Your application is in a dismissal status effective 03/09/2021 without prejudice in accordance with Section 1.934 of the Commission's Rules for the reason(s) indicated below. If you still wish to be licensed, you must file a new application, ... If you currently hold a valid license, you may continue to operate under the parameters of that authorization.

If you are currently operating under authority provided by the Commission's Rules based on your submission of the above references application, you must immediately cease operation until such time as you come into compliance with the Rules.

...

The call sign(s) you requested is/are not available. To pursue another call sign, submit a new vanity request.

  • I currently hold a valid license, and therefore I may continue to operate under the parameters of that authorization.
  • I do not need to immediately cease operation until such time as I come into compliance with the Rules, because I am in compliance to begin with, especially because I am not currently operating under authority provided by the Commission's Rules based on my submission of the above referenced application, but instead, I am operating based on my existing license and the existing unchanged call sign.

The FCC makes it sound as if I'm in trouble. Based on my thoughts above, I believe I can safely ignore the "Notice of Dismissal." Am I correct?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to hamSE, Gunther, and thanks for your posting. In StackExchange "procedure," the best way to achieve your goal of informing others would be to post the same info as an actual question, then answer your own question. (Yes, you can do this, and gain reputation points in the process!) I imagine your question asking, "Do I have to cease operating and apply for a new license?" with the companion answer comprising the latter part of your posting above. $\endgroup$ – Brian K1LI May 11 at 9:50
  • $\begingroup$ It sounds like you applied for a callsign outside of your operating privileges. For example a 2x1 (extra class) and you're a general class licensee. What call did you apply for and what is your license class? $\endgroup$ – Greg Williams k4hsm May 12 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ You think this language is threatening? Have you ever paid taxes in the United States and read the forms there? Dealt with the DMV? Tried to get a passport renewed? $\endgroup$ – davidbak May 12 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ Looks like normal, matter of fact, legalese to me. $\endgroup$ – jwdonahue May 13 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ I agree, it looks pretty normal, though not friendly. The "you must immediately cease" part is under a conditional that doesn't apply to you. I don't see anything threatening. These bureaucratic documents are very literal, so any threat that isn't explicit shouldn't be inferred. $\endgroup$ – LarsH May 13 at 20:43
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Isn't bureaucracy wonderful? Perhaps I can translate into plain English:

Your application is in a dismissal status effective 03/09/2021 without prejudice in accordance with Section 1.934 of the Commission's Rules for the reason(s) indicated below. If you still wish to be licensed, you must file a new application, ... If you currently hold a valid license, you may continue to operate under the parameters of that authorization.

We looked at your application on 3/9/2021, but unfortunately we had several applications for this call. According to our published procedures for fairly resolving this conflict we randomly selected someone to receive the call from all the applications on this day, and unfortunately it wasn't you. 🙁

But don't worry: you can still use your existing license, and apply for another vanity call.

If you are currently operating under authority provided by the Commission's Rules based on your submission of the above references application, you must immediately cease operation until such time as you come into compliance with the Rules.

We really appreciate that you follow the Rules.

The call sign(s) you requested is/are not available. To pursue another call sign, submit a new vanity request.

Please try again, and better luck next time!

Your friend,
The Federal Communications Commission


The only parts of the letter which are really specific to you are:

  1. The date in the first paragraph
  2. The last paragraph.

Everything else is boilerplate legal diarrhea which is included with every application they might dismiss, not just for vanity call signs, and not just for the amateur radio service. The objective is to minimize their responsibility, and maximize yours.

It makes a little more sense considering the party on the receiving side of this letter is often not a ham, but a huge commercial interest like Verizon, Comcast, or AT&T. Imagine Verizon asks, "can we commandeer this spectrum?" or "Can we have a special regulatory exemption which would be hugely beneficial to us at the expense of our competitors and/or allow us to exploit the public for profit?" The FCC must send a very carefully worded "nope" to avoid a costly legal challenge.

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    $\begingroup$ This a wonderful answer, thank you for translating to plain English! One question: is VerizoCasT&T really a factor here? I can imagine a notice with this kind of legalese regardless of whether they existed or not. $\endgroup$ – Michael Geary May 12 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ legal diarrhea, this is great $\endgroup$ – htmlcoderexe May 12 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ Goodness, that was plain English? I see. $\endgroup$ – Peter - Reinstate Monica May 12 at 11:14
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelGeary You have a point, we can only speculate about why the FCC has decided to spew this legalese. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II May 12 at 13:21
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I am not a lawyer, so I cannot provide actual legal advice. However, I have dealt with a lot of governmental legalese in the past, so I am perhaps partially qualified to parse the legalese you've posted.

As the O.P. aptly pointed out, probably the most important "operant" part of the verbiage posted reads:

If you are currently operating under authority provided by the Commission's Rules based on your submission of the above references application, you must immediately cease operation...

[Emphasis mine.]

The key words are "IF ... you are operating" and "based on your submission ... above."

In other words, this statement most likely means "if you have been operating your station under any interim rules using this callsign, you must cease doing so." By extension, it would also mean "if you have no other call sign, you must cease operating entirely until you've asked for a different callsign." It would also (by omission) mean "none of these warnings apply to operations permitted by other rules or permits that are associated with other callsigns."

To be safe, you should consult a lawyer well-versed in this kind of law to be sure, or... directly seek clarification from the FCC.

Hope this helps!

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to ham.stackexchange.com! $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 May 11 at 21:02
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If you are currently operating under authority provided by the Commission's Rules based on your submission of the above referenced application, you must immediately cease operation until such time as you come into compliance with the Rules.

It's not uncommon for an application to a government agency (especially for an application to renew an existing permit or license) to allow the applicant to proceed as though the application was granted until/unless the application is denied. I don't know of any specific examples with the FCC, but a common example that I see day-to-day is elevator permits in California, for which CA Labor Code § 7302 states that:

Any person who has requested the issuance or renewal of a permit if the request has not been acted upon by the division may not be prosecuted for a violation of this section [requiring a permit to operate certain conveyances such as elevators].

Basically, you're allowed to operate the elevator as long as you've applied for the permit. This allows for day-to-day operations to continue even if the agency is behind on processing the permit applications (or the processing is otherwise time-consuming). I imagine there are similar rules for at least some applications to the FCC.

This generic language is telling you that if there was anything you were allowed to do solely by having submitted the application to the FCC, you're no longer allowed to do that. Since I don't believe a pending application for a vanity call sign grants you any such rights, this doesn't actually forbid you from doing anything that you could do before receiving this notice.

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    $\begingroup$ Yup. Say the application that was dismissed was an upgrade to Extra; then that paragraph would be notice that your right to operate /AE under 97.9(b) and 97.119(f)(3) was terminated. A vanity request doesn't carry any such rights, but it's the same dismissal letter no matter what. $\endgroup$ – hobbs - KC2G May 12 at 17:10
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This isn't overly harsh, it's overly formal. I get that from the first sentence.

My translation:

Your application is in a dismissal status

We aren't going to give you what you asked for

[...] without prejudice

but we won't hold it against you and you can ask again.

This is what makes it "not harsh". If it said "with prejudice" that would translate to "...and you'll never get it, and don't ask again or we'll get annoyed with you, possibly with penalties."

And just in case you missed that, they repeat it at the end with more specificity:

The call sign(s) you requested is/are not available. To pursue another call sign, submit a new vanity request.

Everything else in between (which all starts with "If") either doesn't apply to you, or basically says you can continue with your existing license. (Assuming you weren't trying to renew it.)

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    $\begingroup$ In particular, "You can't have this call sign because somebody else has it now, but if in the future it becomes available again, you can reapply." $\endgroup$ – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- May 13 at 4:17
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IANAL, but I spent a fair amount of my career writing and negotiating contracts. Others have addressed the meaning(s) of the language in the notice, I wanted to address more of the "why is it written this way?"

First, my reading of the "scary" language is that all it is saying is that:

" If you are/were already using the requested callsign, then you must stop using it right now. "

That's all, nothing more. You weren't using the requested callsign, so that part doesn't apply to you.

The reason it's written that way is that

  1. It's technically a legal notice so it has to be written in "legalese" (formal legal English), and
  2. It's an authoritative notice from the government, so it has to be clear, directive and leave no wiggle room.

For instance, if it more politely said "should" instead of "must" you'd end up with a court case where defense attorney's would argue (sometimes successfully) that the notice didn't make it clear that their client had no choice in the matter. Likewise, if it didn't say "immediately" someone would argue that they waited a "reasonable period of time" before they stopped using the wrong callsign, which they interpreted as 6 months. And so on. They have to be clear, strict and absolute in their wording or someone will try to squirm around it.

There's nothing personal here, it's just a formal government legal notice explaining what your current situation is in no uncertain terms.

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    $\begingroup$ To the group, I had to look up IANAL; it stands for "I am not a lawyer". Hello @RBarryYoung and welcome to ham.stackexchange.com! $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 May 13 at 18:04
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    $\begingroup$ @RBarryYoung, Kudos for providing this; my experience has been that MANY people don't have a clear understanding of WHY legalese is often phrased so forcefully and with such complexity. Hmm.... which suggests to me that reading the Internet RFCs are a good place to start educating oneself about this. Prescriptive/proscriptive technical standards are a lot like legalese! For example, internet RFCs clearly define how they use the terms "MUST", "SHOULD", and "MAY" so that a developer can know in advance whether their implementation will be considered compliant. $\endgroup$ – Forbin Jun 11 at 20:13

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