Citizens Band

Citizens Band (CB) Radio Service is a two-way voice communication service for use in personal and business activities. The service uses 40 channels in the assigned frequency range of 26.965 to 27.405 MHz, and the effective communication distance is 1 to 5 miles. An FCC license is not required to use this service.

CB Rule 3 provides users with all the authority they need to operate a CB unit in places where the FCC regulates radio communications, as long as an unmodified FCCaccepted CB unit is used. An FCC-accepted unit has an identifying label placed on it by the manufacturer. There is no age or citizenship requirement for using this service.

CB users may use an on-the-air pseudonym or “handle” of their own choosing and may operate their CB units within the territorial limits of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Caribbean and Pacific insular areas. Users also may operate their CB units on or over any other area of the world, except within the territorial limits of areas where radio communications are regulated by another agency of the United States or within the territorial limits of any foreign government.

In addition, users can use their CB units in Canada, subject to the rules of the Canadian Department of Communications. The power output of the CB unit may not be raised, since raising the level of radio noise would be unfair to the other users sharing a channel. Users also must not attach a linear amplifier or any other type of power amplifier to their CB unit or modify the unit internally.

Doing so cancels its type acceptance, and the user forfeits his or her authorization to use it. There are no height restrictions for antennas mounted on vehicles or for hand-held units. For structures, the highest point of the antenna must not be more than 20 feet above the highest point of the building or tree on which it is mounted or 60 feet above the ground.

There are lower height limits if the antenna structure is located within 2 miles of an airport. No CB channel is assigned to any specific individual or organization. Any of the 40 CB channels can be used on a “take turns” basis. Since CB channels are shared, cooperation among users is essential; communications should be short, with conversations never more than 5 minutes continuously. Users should wait at least 1 minute before starting another communication. Channel 9 should only be used for emergency communications or for traveler assistance.


“Ten-codes” is abbreviations of common questions and answers used on all types of radio communication. Professional CB users use these codes to send their message quickly and easily. Additionally, ten-codes can be readily understood by users when poor reception or language barriers must be overcome. Although the FCC authorizes CB operators to use ten-codes, it does not regulate their meaning.

Initially, users were required to obtain a CB radio license and call letters from the FCC before they could go on the air. However, the FCC became so inundated with requests for CB radio licenses that it finally abandoned formal licensing and allowed operators to buy CB radio equipment and go on the air without any license or call letters.

Although no license is required to operate a CB radio, the FCC’s rules for CB radio operation are still in effect and must be followed. These rules cover CB radio equipment, the ban on linear amplifiers, and the types of communications permitted on the air. Manufacturers are required to provide a copy of the operating rules with each CB set.