Don’t Have A Fiefdom? Get One!

Don’t Have A Fiefdom? Get One!

Well, isn’t that what amateur repeaters are….fiefdoms? Not that we don’t allow others to use those repeaters, but we certainly don’t let others control them and we don’t often connect them unless we are enlarging our own personal fiefdom. It’s not hard to imagine that in the days of feudal lords and fiefdoms, that trade came and went and the drawbridge was DOWN most of the time. The drawbridge would go UP when the lord felt threatened. If they had repeaters back then, it would be located on the castle grounds for sure!

Quite often I think about linking repeaters and what we could accomplish by doing so. Every time I have these thoughts I am brought back to the idea that I need to control my repeaters and therefore, my fiefdom. When I wonder why we are not doing far more with the resources we have, I realize that we are all attempting to control our fiefdoms. The FCC has allowed us to do this and we do. Shoot, there is no better indication of this than the large number of paper repeaters out there. Not long ago I claimed I could name 10 paper repeaters in my area. I named 11. There is no greater fiefdom than the one that exists in your head. Go ahead, claim that territory! Prevent anyone else from using it! Establish your fiefdom!

Actually, this rant is not so much about paper repeaters as it is about what we could accomplish with our wonderful resource….the repeater. Okay, so all the repeater does is to extend our range. That equates to extending your range of influence and that ties nicely into the fiefdom concept. But what I want to see is networking of some sort. There is so much we could accomplish.

Since we are dealing with fiefdoms and feudal lords (otherwise known as repeater owners, of which I am one) we are not going to see my dream fulfilled. But hey, dreams are necessary and sometimes they do come true. I’d been thinking of an amateur cellular network for some time and have written about it elsewhere. I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to come to fruition though. What about APRS though? Isn’t that a network of repeaters (or digipeaters)? Well, yes it is, and it is incomplete.

There is no mandate that an amateur establish a repeater at all, much less a repeater of a particular sort. Thus we have gaps in coverage. I was really disappointed once when following an APRS-equipped friend of mine while he was mobile on a long trip. APRS coverage did not exist along much of his route, even along major Interstate highways. This is nothing more than a shame. What’s to be done about it? Given the nature of the rules, I suppose nothing will get done. We must rely on our feudal lords for benevolence and APRS coverage.

To become even more wishful, what about my dream of the traveling amateur having the ability to receive an SMS text over a distant repeater? What if that amateur could link some far-off repeater back to his home repeater at will? I suppose the feudal lords would need to be feeling very benevolent for that to happen. And to top it off, what am I doing to make this all happen? I can say this much: My two currently operating repeaters are tied into two different systems that potentially have worldwide reach. One system is connected to Allstar Link and of course, you can access it from anywhere there is Internet access. The other system is always connected to a WiRES-X room and that also has worldwide reach. So, I have put at least a few cents where my mouth is.

Let me add this disclaimer before I go further: Yes, there are linked systems, interties and so forth. Not all lords are as feudal as others. But there is so much more we could do. If I want to talk to you, you must be in the realm of my feudal lord. Otherwise I must go into the realm of your feudal lord (i.e., I must go onto his repeater). I have no way of knowing where you my fine fellow, happens to be unless I start trespassing on the feudal property of other lords. True, most lords are quite forgiving these days and the feuds rarely boil over, but the friendship only goes so far. Why cannot I enter your callsign into my radio and be routed to you as long as your radio is on? THIS is what this column is about. With all the technology we have and all the fiefdoms that exist, we are not networking like we really could. We are not making amateur radio serve us nearly as well as we could.

I am not blaming the feudal lords. Without them there would be no repeaters at all. You’ve got to have rich people around. They are absolutely necessary. I am not rich but I can tell you that my investment in my repeater systems is quite substantial, not to mention the time involved as well. Then there is the upkeep. The electricity consumed was more than I had imagined. Add in the linking and so forth and suddenly you understand why the lord gets feudal sometimes. Okay, so the club-sponsored repeaters are more democratic. True to some degree. Perhaps it would be accurate to say they are controlled by a group of lords. That’s just the way it is.

Alright then, what to do? I suppose we will be led by the technology. Maybe my dream of more useful repeaters will be realized when the technology of the radios themselves reaches new heights. Read my column “I Have Another Dream” in the Blog section of . I simply think it is a waste of resources for my $XXX radio to be useful out only 20-30 miles before I have to change to another repeater that I had to know in advance I would need to use. And if I did not also have to tell you in advance to meet me there, there would be no conversation. Why can’t I talk to you all the way to California from Georgia? Surely the technology is there to do so. Why are we not employing it? Why do I have to make 11 button-pushes for every repeater I might want to use along the way? Why can’t the device learn, either from the Internet or from the airwaves, what resources are available? Surely the technology exists.

We hams talk a lot about making ham radio relevant. This is how we can do it: By creating networks, whether they be static or ad hoc. We can create our own Internet for that matter. Want to be relevant? Create an Internet. I’ll bet you will be REAL relevant all of a sudden!

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