Here’s some good news for those who may have missed it: anyone holding any of the following U.S. FCC licenses (Marine Radio Operators Permit , General Radiotelephone Operator, GMDSS Radio Operator, Restricted GMDSS Radio Operator, GMDSS Radio Maintainer, or GMDSS Radio Operator/Maintainer) that didn’t expire before March 25, 2008 is now licensed for life. No more renewals, ever! But regulatory relief may sometimes have its strange paradoxes, and this was one of them: in a weird kind of way, I’ll sort of miss the FCC. Why on earth would I miss dealing with a government bureaucracy? Because, contrary to the usual expectations, the FCC really had it together and their license renewal process was exceptionally well run. I would go so far as to say that it should serve as a model for all other government agencies. My last renewal couldn’t have been any easier. I received a notice in the mail, the day before crew change, that my renewal was coming up about three months before the actual expiration date. In the notice was a letter explaining that you could renew by mail, with the required form stapled to it, or over the internet, and that help was just a phone call away if you had any trouble at all. Sure enough, the online renewal process (which I did mid-hitch while at work on the boat) was both self-explanatory and seamless. I was done in just a few minutes. Just out of curiosity, I called the helpline and, without going on hold, was connected to a very nice lady who explained to me that if I needed any help renewing online she would be happy to talk me through it step by step. I thanked her and declined, explaining that I was not (as a mariner) accustomed to such great service and courtesy, and simply was wondering if the promised help actually existed at all. She laughed, said it was no bother because “that’s what we’re here for” and to “have a nice day!” Between that and having my new license waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home a week later I have to say that yes, I’ll miss the FCC’s way of doing business. Simple, pleasant, and efficient.
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