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Broadband for hams?



The most recent 'lively' discussion on the amsat-bb was related to further 
promoting digital communications which generated more than 60 responses.  
(entitled "Going Digital....Ham Radio?) 

In reading through the responses, it seems that some folks believe that we 
should just stick to what we have because it's 'good enough' for what hams 
need, i.e., simple, low bandwidth digital communications and that's certainly 
true for modes like APRS and PSK31. But ever since I've read the keynote 
speech by Lyle Johnson at the 1996 Digital Communications Conference 
(http://www.tapr.org/tapr/html/Flyle.banquet.html), which I highly recommend, 
I've been wondering if hams will ever be able to 'advance the radio art' with 
respect to broadband digital communications.  I have subscribed to the TAPR 
spread spectrum email list and it is almost without any discussion. (I will 
cross post this message for the sake of trying to stimulate some). I am not 
talking about technological advances, but rather having access to something 
for which the rest of the world will have to wait, the way we did with 
repeaters, phone patches, HTs, satellite communications, email (via packet), 
etc.

I ran across a web site today (http://www.midcoast.net/wirelessfaq.html) that 
is just full of information generated by a local ISP who is quietly beating 
us to the 2.4 Ghz band with non-licensed power levels and antennas.  Just 
think of what we could do if we were able to pool together our resources and 
co-locate a broadband connection with an existing repeater tower.  We could 
have high speed, persistent Internet connections for any hams within line of 
sight of the repeater.  This would be especially nice for those of us who 
live far enough from town that DSL or even cable modems are never going to be 
an option.  Maybe this violates the 'spirit of ham radio'...but it seems 
silly to share spectrum with commercial services and deny ourselves the same 
privileges that non-licensed users enjoy.  The main benefit for us is that we 
could have better power and antenna systems (and hence greater distance).  We 
could have portable broadband Internet connections years before anyone else. 

The problem in moving forward may stem from the 'no commercial' activity of 
ham radio.  Accessing a manufacturer's web site presumably would violate that 
rule.  Reading email has similar problems if the sender is not a ham. 
However, unlicensed operators are utilizing the same frequencies with no 
restrictions.  Why are we holding ourselves back?  It would be fairly easy to 
police against abuses, by periodically monitoring activity logs and 
preventing resource hogging amongst the ranks of our members.

For all I know, there may be some hams doing just this but perhaps are 
reluctant to speak about it publicly for fear of stirring up a hornet's nest 
with respect to the non-commercial policy we have with ham radio.  I know 
that even suggesting Internet email access through packet got a lot of people 
in an uproar because of the third party traffic implications.  This thinking 
is based on the scarcity principle of bandwidth.  Well, how scarce are the 
microwave bands we are not even utilizing?

I realize that this message was a bit 'off topic' for the satellite group, so 
if anyone has a problem with that, we can just move it in the spread spectrum 
group.  If you don't have access to the TAPR ss group, you can join without 
worrying about getting a ton of email.  The ss group generates only a few 
email messages a month.

73,

Lee Devlin, KØLEE  (K0LEE)
Greeley, CO
http://members.aol.com/lee810/ham.html
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