The FCC announced via a Final Rule in the Federal Register that the cost of an Amateur Radio vanity call sign will increase 80 cents, from $14.20 to $15. The new fees take effect 30 days after publication, making 4 September 2012, the first day the new fee is in effect.
Earlier this year, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order (NPRM), seeking to raise the fee for Amateur Radio vanity call signs.
The vanity call sign regulatory fee is payable not only when applying for a new vanity call sign, but also upon renewing a vanity call sign for a new 10 year term. The first vanity call sign licenses issued under the current Amateur Radio vanity call sign program that began in 1996 came up for renewal six years ago.
The FCC is authorized by the Communications Act of 1934, as amended to collect vanity call sign fees to recover the costs associated with that program. According to the FCC, the fees that are collected from vanity call signs are used to offset the cost of monitoring and researching new call sign requests to prevent the issuance of duplicate call signs. When asked why the fee is payable upon renewal, the FCC stated in 2011 that "[m]ore than likely, fees that are collected only on new issues and at the time of changes in call signs will not generate sufficient revenues to offset the cost of managing and monitoring this work at the Commission, the FCC stated in 2011. Therefore, we conclude that the basis upon which the Commission collects fees on Amateur Radio Vanity call signs will not change."
The vanity call sign fee has fluctuated over the 16 years of the current program -- from a low of $11.70 in 2007 to a high of $70 (as first proposed in the FCC's 1994 Report and Order). In Fiscal Year 2012, the FCC expects to grant 14,300 vanity call signs, bringing in $214,500 from the vanity call sign program, and looks to recover a total of $339,844,000 in fees from all the Services that it regulates.