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Re: Going Digital... Ham Radio?

I have experimented with digital communications including packet, PSK31, and 
APRS.  I have found them to be fascinating from a hobby/experimenter 
standpoint, but like many others aspects of ham radio, of limited practical 
value.  I'm not saying that anything is wrong with that.  It's just that 
sometimes we like to make an argument for an application with its 
practicality in mind and as soon as we begin to do that, it naturally gets 
compared with a similar commercial service.

I was wondering how hams could use our operating privileges to take advantage 
of high speed wireless connections.  One compelling application that comes to 
mind is wireless Internet surfing.  But would there be a problem with that?  
For example, much of what you can do on the Internet has a commercial nature. 
 Even visiting the HRO web site falls into that category.  Would that be 
allowed?  If not, I can't think of how I would be able to make use of a high 
speed digital link.  Perhaps that commercial restriction needs to be relaxed 
for digital communications. (I suppose there are some who will say 'don't 
ask, don't tell' with respect to Internet surfing, but the minute there's 
contention for spectrum, someone will pull out the rulebook and say that 
Internet surfing is incompatible with amateur frequency allocations.)

Even though wireless Internet communications would be a compelling 
application, is it even possible to put up the infrastructure to make it 
work?  It might be easy enough to do it on a local scale, but suppose I 
wanted to access the service from the back country in Colorado or even 
Alaska?  Now that would have appeal to a lot of folks, but is something like 
that feasible?  Would it require geosynch satellites or a constellation of 
digital LEOs? 

Granted there are already non-licensed Internet appliances which operate on 
ham frequencies, but with the restrictions of low power and short distance.  
What can we do with the extra power and antenna privileges we have that 
cannot currently be done with the unlicensed devices?

Today people are choosing their home locations based as much on accessibility 
of high speed data connections as they are on the availability of electricity 
and water.  I think it would be great if we could come up with a way with 
amateur radio to lift the geographic restrictions (for hams) on accessibility 
of high speed Internet connections.

We sometimes look around the hobby and wonder why more people are not taking 
advantage of all the technologies we have available to the ham community.  I 
think it's because we are all waiting for the next 'killer app' to come 
along.  APRS is an application which restored life to packet radio after its 
equipment had been gathering dust in hamshacks around the world.  Prior to 
that, the first round of packet arrived before pervasive Internet connections 
and made email and BBS applications practical.  In a way, it was the 
predecessor to the Internet.  

What can the ham radio community do for an encore?

Lee Devlin, KØLEE  (K0LEE)
Greeley, CO
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