There are a number of different radio services that are available to the general public to use. Some require a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and some are ‘licensed by rule,’ meaning they do not require a specific license. It is important to understand some of the rules of each to avoid heavy fines from the FCC, or at least to prevent drawing unwanted attention.
It is also important to know about the various services, even if you don’t intend to use them, as they can provide good intelligence and signals intelligence (SIGINT) in times of emergency.
PART 95 RULES
Effective September 28th 2017 new rules for Part 95 Personal Radio Service were issued following a Rule and Order that was issued April 27, 2017 for public comments. Part 95 rules cover the Family Radio Service (FRS), the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS), the Citizen Band Radio Service (CBRS but usually just called CB), Radio Control Radio Services (used for model aircraft etc.) and several other radio services. See this article for an in-depth look at the new rules.
There are two types of ‘license’ to use radio frequencies; one is a license specific to the radio service and the other is ‘license-by-rule.’ A license is specific to the radio service, i.e., if you have an Amateur Radio (ham) license it does not give you permission to operate in any other non-ham frequencies. Within Part 95 the FRS, MURS and CB are ‘license-by-rule’ so you do not need a license to operation on those frequencies. GMRS requires a license; this is a simple application, $65 fee and is valid for 10 years (was 5 years prior to the rule changes) for yourself and immediate family. Immediate family members are the licensee’s spouse, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and in-laws (as defined in §95.1705 (c)) The defining of who is an ‘immediate family member’ was an addition in the 2017 rule changes.
There are a number of different subparts throughout the Part 95 that address the certification of a transmitter. This is probably the most significant change in the rules and the one that directly impacts the use of the Baofeng and similar radios that can operate in multiple radio services. If you have a Baofeng then you probably know that it will, right now, transmit across a wide range of frequencies; 136-174MHz and 400-520MHz. Therefore, these radios will transmit on all the radio services listed above as well as the Amateur Radio 2-meter and 70cm bands, a number of public safety frequencies and even the marine frequencies. See this article for a more in-depth article on the rules.
See the following articles for the specific radio services