Federal Communications Commission

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The Citizens Band (CB) Radio Service is an exclusive two-way communication service that is meant to be used by the public. It enables communicating through short distances and serves the localized information needs of the users. Since its invention, it has found its unique uses in an individual’s life. It is also used frequently for voice paging. It has been helping out the users in their personal and business life since the time it has got into attention.

Usage Of Rules:

All the FCC rules apply to you if you are operating your CB system in the following areas:

  • All the areas where the radio services are regulated by the FCC
  • On a vessel or aircraft that has been registered in the United States
  • On a vessel or aircraft that is unregistered but is under the ownership of a U.S. national or organization

Your CB station must comply with Part 95/Subpart E for being technically legal. For interpreting these rules, one should know the key terms used by the FCC and their meanings.
When you find the word “you” in a rule, it means a person operating a CB station. When the word “person” appears, the rules are concerned with the following:

  • an individual,
  • a corporation,
  • a partnership,
  • an association,
  • a joint stock company,
  • a trust,
  • a state, territorial or local government unit,
  • Other legal entity.

When the term “CB station” is used in the rule that indicates a radio station transmitting in the CB Radio Service.

Eligibility to use CB:

All the citizens are eligible to own and use a CB radio except for the following cases:

  • You are operating as a foreign government or its representative or any agency of the federal government
  • You have violated a law in the past due to which a cease and desist order has been issued against you. You cannot operate a CB system until this order is in effect.

CB radios were meant to facilitate the public in their communication. So no formal license is required from the FCC. Anyone can own and operate a CB system within the limits defined by the FCC.

Areas of legal Operation:

You have complete freedom of operating your CB station if it is situated within or over any area of the world where radio services are governed and regulated by the FCC. Those areas include:
[1] The 50 United States
[2] The District Of Columbia
[3] Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
[4] Navassa Island
[5] United States Virgin Islands, it’s 50 islets and cays
[6] American Samoa
[7] Baker Island
[8] Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands
[9] Guam Island
[10] Howland Island
[11] Jarvis Island
[12] Johnston Island
[13] Kingman Reef
[14] Midway Island
[15] Palmyra Island, and it’s 50+ islets
[16] Wake Island
If you are operating outside these areas, then the agencies or authorities of the concerned areas will apply their rules to your station and you are bound to obey. If any foreign government is involved or you have your CB station working on a ship or an aircraft, then you need to seek approvals of the concerned personnel for continuing the operations of your CB station.

Special Restrictions:

There are some special restrictions imposed on the CB operators under certain cases. If you aim to operate your CB station within the premises of the Department of Defense, then that department has the right to impose its special restrictions on your station and you are bound to comply. Commanding Officer would directly take care of these restrictions.

Similarly if you have installed your CB station on a property that is considered as a valuable asset of the country or has a great cultural or historical importance, then you are bound to comply with Part 1.1305 through 1.1319 of the FCC Rule. Otherwise you are not eligible to operate the CB station.

Antenna Height:

A CB antenna is a very crucial part of the CB system. It is actually the radiating system that carries out the basic and the most important functions of the CB system i.e. reception and transmission. It consists of a long whip and a base mount that helps the antenna to get connected to the vehicle’s chassis. For optimal performance, you need to mount your CB antenna on the highest and the clearest point of your vehicle. While you are deciding on the mounting location, keep the following things in mind:

  • If the antenna is being mounted on a vehicle, tree or a building, its height should only be up to 20 feet higher than the highest point of that particular mounting location.
  • It should only be 60 feet above the ground.

If you exceed these height limitations or if you have your CB station working near airport, then another set of restrictions will come into action for your case. Generally the ground elevations between the airport runway and your antenna are very confusing and it is hard to reach the exact figure of height that your antenna needs to be mounted at. You can then call the FCC field officer who would help you by making all the calculations easy through a worksheet and suggesting the antenna height that would be suitable for your CB station while being legal according to the FCC. All these regulations do not apply to the antenna mounted on a hand-held portable CB radio. As a precaution, always be away from power lines and be under an open area while setting, mounting, tuning or unmounting your antenna.

Power Output:

There are certain strict regulations imposed on the CB operators specifically with respect to the power output. You should stick to the following power outputs only when operating your CB station:

  • 4 watts carrier power on AM mode
  • 12 watts peak envelope power (PEP) on the SSB mode

If, somehow, you have got a transmitter that gives the outputs beyond the above mentioned values, you should quit using it immediately or the FCC will seize it for better or for worse.

Linear Amplifiers:

You can connect power amplifiers with your CB system in the following ways:

  • As linear or external radio frequency amplifiers.
  • As a device that has the capability of signal amplification when it is made to connect with a CB system.

Other than the above-mentioned forms, you are not allowed to use the power amplifiers in any other way. You also need to ask for approval from the FCC before connecting a linear or external amplifier with your CB radio. The FCC will consider a linear amplifier as being yours if it is found within the premises of your CB station or if any other evidences are found that show that your CB station has been operating on power more than that allowed by the FCC. These regulations are only applicable to the CB station operators. If you are using any other radio service and hold a license for that, then you can easily use this external RF amplifier without any formal permissions.

Permitted Communications:

CB radios can transmit using the two-way plain language that is free from any coded terminologies. Such language includes the ‘ten codes’ and can be used with other localized CB stations, authorized stations of the government operating on the CB frequencies and even to units of your own station. These transmissions are allowed to convey information about,

  • Their private as well as business ventures
  • Cases of emergency
  • A traveler looking for help
  • Activities or drills conducted by the Civil Defense Agency that have been announced with the permission of local authorities.
  • If you are aiming to resume your communication or contact someone through the incoming signals, then you can transmit a tone signal through your CB radio. If this tone is loud enough to be heard from a distance, then make it last only for 15 seconds with breaks in between. For a tone that is sub-audible, you can transmit it till the time communication is going on.

Illegal Communications:

All your communications made through your CB station would be considered illegal if they fall under the following categories:

  • Your CB activity is, directly or indirectly, related to another activity that is against the law.
  • You are conveying obscene messages or using abusive terminology through this medium.
  • You are trying to hack the privacy of another CB station with the help of your equipment.
  • You are attempting to transmit one-way communication in situations other than those specified by the FCC.
  • You are using CB station as a sales forum or means of advertisement
  • You are using this network to provide recreational stuff and other material that can diverge the attention of people towards entertainment.
  • You are conveying misguiding messages through your CB radios like creating false emergency calls.
  • You are trying to make such transmissions that are moving beyond the allowed limits.
  • You are using your CB station as a political forum and using it for any specific political campaign.
  • You are trying to connect across the borders without the permission from the FCC.

Paying for Actual Use:

FCC has allowed to use your CB station for rendering some services and earning for those services. You are not allowed to charge any amount or accept any kind of payment only for the usage of your CB station.

Time Limit of Transmissions:

For the length of transmissions or conversations, following rules are specified:

  • Communications through your CB should be conducted in such a way that you are communicating with the other station only till 5 continuous minutes.
  • There should be a break of 1 minute at least before starting the next conversation.
  • Users are required to keep their conversations limited to as minimum practical time as possible.

Identification Methods:

While using a CB radio, you become a part of a wide CB network that is a public platform. Here it is better to keep your communication private and prevent your identity from getting exposed on the network. For making identification safe and easy on the CB network, following ways are suggested:

  • Usage of CB call sign allotted by the FCC
  • Usage of your name as identity
  • Usage of usernames based on K prefixes + operator’s initials + zip code
  • Usage of organization’s name and the operator unit number
  • Usage of a CB handle or nickname in addition to the above mentioned methods of identification

Remote Control Operations:

For operating your CB radio with a remote control, following guidelines are given:

  • CB station transmitter is not to be operated by a radio remote control.
  • It can be operated with a wireline remote control only after you have been permitted by the FCC to do so. For getting this permission, you should be able to justify your reason of using the wireline remote control.
  • If you manage to get the approval from the FCC, maintain it in your station records.


Traveler’s Assistance and Emergency Communication:

CB radios find their major use during the time of emergencies or when any driver needs help on the road. Following guidelines are there in these two situations:

  • Emergency communications should be given importance, no matter through which channel they are being broadcasted.
  • During emergency communications, rule 16 describing the length of transmissions can be ignored but all other rules need to be abided by strictly.
  • CB radio can also be used for helping a traveler for finding his way to his destination. During this type of communication, all the rules, except rule 16, need to be complied to.

Telephone Patches and Telephony with CB:

You can also use your CB radio by connecting its transmitter with the telephone on the condition that your transmitter is not shared with any other CB station. Once you have made this connection, you need to get your duly registered phone patch device from the FCC to be used with your new CB connection. You should also respect the limitations that the concerned telephone company imposes on connecting your CB transmitter with the telephone. For being eligible, you need to stick to some rules specified by the FCC:

  • All the connections in this system should be made manually, without any help from the remote control.
  • A person should always be available at the CB station.
  • While making connections, transmitter operations should be monitored and communications made through this system should be heard.
  • If anything is going against the law, you are required to stop it there and then.


FCC allows the users to have a CB system without any license at all. But on the other hand, you need to adhere to the strict guidelines and rules set by the FCC for owning and operating your CB system. Following penalties are there for those who violate the FCC rules in the following ways:

  • For a basic or minor violation of the FCC rules or the Communications Act, penalties between $2000 and $5000 are charged, depending upon the nature of the violation.
  • FCC further orders you to stop your CB operations and might also seize your equipment.
  • If the case of violation is reported to the federal court, you may be charged with a fine of $500 per day of the violation.
  • If you have seriously violated any provision of the Communications Act, then the federal court can give the decree of your imprisonment for 1 year with or without the payment of a fine of $10,000.

Correspondence from FCC:

FCC sends notices and alerts to the users on various occasions for regular correspondence with them. One of the most common form of correspondence done is the discrepancy notice issued by the FCC. All such sorts of notices need to be answered within the time specified on the notice and with all the required documents. Be careful in sending your reply to that FCC office only that has posted it to your address. Your answers should be relevant and to the point but should not be condensed by referring to the other notices received. Following documents should be attached with your reply:

[1] A complete written statement about the apparent discrepancy
[2] A complete written statement about your efforts for making the amends and avoiding it in the future
[3] The name of the person operating the CB system at the time of the violation
All kinds of correspondence made with the FCC should be maintained in your CB station’s official records.

Notice of Interference:

Sometimes your CB equipment might cause interference with the other electrical devices working in the neighborhood because of some glitches in the setup of your CB station. In such a case, FCC will issue a notice to you in which it might instruct you to make some necessary adjustments in your system for removing this shortcoming. It can also include a schedule based on timings that your CB station is allowed to operate in. You need to follow that operation schedule strictly to reduce the interference issues.

Service to Transmitters and Antennas:

Following guidelines are given by the FCC in this regard:

  • Generally you are allowed to make the normal adjustments of your CB antenna to your CB radio on your own and are allowed for one-way transmissions for radio checks.
  • If you intend to modify your CB transmitter internally or repair any part of it, you need the approval from FCC and can only do it under the supervision of General Radiotelephone Operator appointed by the FCC for this task.
  • During all such adjustments and repairs, a dummy load or non-transmitting antenna should be used.
  • Then the radiating antenna may be used to transmit short test signals while you are adjusting the CB antenna to your CB transmitter or are tuning it properly.

Modifications to Transmitters:

FCC does not allow any user to make internal modifications to the CB radios in any case. This modification can include transmitting at power output more than that allowed by the FCC or operating the CB radio on any frequencies that you are not authorized to access. Repairing the CB radio or servicing it is not called modifying it. You can also change the plug-in modules when required as that is also allowed by the FCC.

FCC Inspections:

FCC can inspect your CB station at any time unexpectedly. You should keep your station and the records ready for examination any time. An authorized FCC representative will visit your CB station, inspect all your CB equipment and station records thoroughly and will submit a report on what he felt about your station to the FCC.

Keeping Station Records:

Station records are very important for building the credibility of your CB station. In this record, you need to keep all the documents showing any approval received from the FCC as well as all the notices received from the FCC and the responses made against those notices.

Contacting the FCC:

FCC is always accessible for all the users. You can check the approval status of your CB equipment or can lodge a complaint regarding interference or any other CB issue simply by contacting the FCC through their helpline or writing to them through post.

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