Ignoring for the moment the constitutional issues with the FCC itself, the entity’s regulations on amateur radio (HAM) are, in some cases, horrific violations of the constitution. As some background, I have been interested in amateur radio for a long time, but I recently decided to actually bite the bullet and go for my license. You can find more about that here. I did this for a number of reasons. First, I like to push myself. I’m also interested in the technology, and its use in emergency response. But for this article I will focus on the legal aspects and being considered part of the class of amateur radio operators. In this way, I can be involved in any lawsuits against the FCC, with respect to protecting the rights of amateur radio operators.
The first matter to address is the need for a license at all. We have a right to utilize any means at our disposal to communicate with one another. Now, one might want to argue that failure to comply with specific guidelines could impose on others trying to also exercise their rights to communicate with others. That’s true. But these kinds of restrictions treat people as potentially harmful, from the get-go.
The right to peaceably assemble is violated by this licensing rule. While we may not be assembling physically, we are assembling through an available means of communication. So long as we are not impeding someone else’s right to assemble in a similar fashion, that should be enough. But even if you have a license, there are a lot of restrictions.
Profane speech may be offensive, but it is still speech. It is very likely conveying an idea, even if that idea is offensive. Therefore it is also protected under the first amendment. However, because of the semi-open nature of amateur radio, operators are not allowed to use any profanity or vulgar speech on the air. Furthermore, because the goal of amateur radio is communication, usually related to the hobby, things like playing music is also prohibited, in general.
Perhaps some of this restriction makes sense, on older methods of communication. But it really makes no sense if we are using DMR, which is a form of digital communication. DMR allows for a more controlled means of communicating with individuals. Because each person using DMR is assigned a unique identifiers and the radios can be set to communicate with specific identifiers or groups of identifiers, unwanted content can be blocked out. Indeed, it would be possible to even have “NSFW” indicators in the ID so that parental controls could be enabled.
Illegal search and seizure is another issue. The FCC does not abide by the Fourth Amendment. It relies on the argument that investigations into civil matters is not covered by the amendment (FCC Inspection Fact Sheet). Therefore the FCC has taken it upon itself to have the power to demand inspection of any station, without any warrant or other justification. You are required to immediately submit to a search, if the FCC demands it. Unfortunately, while there have been a number of court rulings that admit that the Fourth Amendment is not limited to criminal investigations, the courts have not yet fully recognized our protections (Justia).
While I do hope to have fun with amateur radio, I have really gotten involved in the activity in order to oppose these unconstitutional restrictions. After all, you cannot just sue to oppose a law. You must be impacted by the law in order to sue. Being a licensed amateur radio operator, I will now be impacted by these restrictions, and so it will now be easier to involve myself in lawsuits related to amateur radio operations.