$2 Million prize for an Off-The-Grid Disaster Recovery Network: Is Ham Radio Gonna Play?

From https://wirelesschallenge.mozilla.org/:

How can we leverage wireless technology to keep people connected to each other and to vital information sources in the aftermath of a disaster where Internet access is unavailable or compromised?

The Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge seeks solutions that can provide connectivity in one of the most challenging situations: the immediate aftermath of a major disaster. When disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes strike, communications networks are often among the first pieces of critical infrastructure to overload or fail, leaving individuals disconnected from one another and from essential services and communications. With a total of $1M in prize money, the Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge seeks solutions that help individuals wirelessly access each other and information services like maps and messaging following a disaster.


Now that you’re sick and tired of ham radio after spending all night on a radio during last weekend’s Field Day, here’s another thing to keep you up at night.

It’s not very often that the people of the internet make a direct call to the nature of our hobby to do something novel to promote and advance how we communicate in disasters.

3 days ago, I found this in /r/darknetplan, a subreddit made for planners and developers of the decentralized internet of the future, where internet is shared through individual nodes (mesh net) and centralized services (like Gmail, or Facebook) became decentralized, where data is stored and shared via peer-to-peer connections rather than through a serverfarm.

It was then sent out via the APRS-SIG email list. This is when I realized ham radio has a pretty significant advantage: we’re already there.


Well, that was easy. We’ll take our $2 million now. 🙂

Just kidding; it’s not that easy. Applications are open for the $2 Million WINS Challenges until October, 15 2017. Even though AREDN seemingly has this in the bag, it’s up to you to actually bring it to light.

If there’s no amateur radio presence in this challenge, I think I’m going to quit the hobby. For real. I would do it, but I have a day job and a wedding to plan. Don’t kill the messenger!

With that said, while this competition is proceeding, I strongly suggest (or hope) the media barons of amateur radio (ARRL, AR Newsline, podcast media, etc) to talk about, support, sponsor, if not join forces with Mozilla and their WINS challenge. ARRL is in a very prime spot to get some facetime with one of the next generations of hams – those developing decentralized, off-grid wired and wireless networks.

Also, hi again; it’s been a while. I moved apartments, traveled a bit, and had a lot of ham radio downtime. I’m back though. I’ll probably start back up with the Phasing Line Podcast, if Marty still remembers who I am 😛

IMMEDIATE ATTENTION: Missouri Amateur Radio Parity Act

In the midst of our nation getting a new president, we can’t forget the battles going on at home.

I mean, the small battles matter too.

Missouri Amateur Radio Parity Act (MARPA) really needs your help. It’s basically the same parity act the ARRL produced for federal considering, but at the state level. Larry Scantlan KEØKZ is the main guy behind this bill, and he needs a ton of help showing the Missouri government that there is significant public interest in this bill. It failed last time because nobody showed up.

If you like listening to podcasts, check out 100 Watts and a Wire’s interview with Larry and what needs to happen right now. TL;DL: Larry fought his town’s restrictions on owning ham radio inside his own home! He contacted the aldermen of the city and discovered almost everyone was in agreement, and the laws were changed. He then took to the Missouri courts to do what the ARRL’s doing for the entire nation – fight unnecessary HOA restrictions on reasonable accommodations for ham radio equipment.

What you need to do:

Fill out a Witness Appearance form. It’s available right here: Witness Appearance 2017

Fill that out (you may need to add an attachment to fit your testimony in the box) and email it to Representative Bryan Spencer at bryan.spencer@house.mo.gov before the end of the day, Monday, January 23, 2017.

From Larry:


The most critical action needed to today from hams across Missouri is for everyone (and their family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers) to complete and return the Witness Appearance Form (see attached).  This document lets the committee members know that there is sufficient public support for them to consider this legislation in committee and allow it to move forward in the legislative process.  The chairman of this committee will make that decision, not only on the testimonies of those present at the hearing, but also by the number of these forms received.

According to Rep. Bryan Spencer, our Bill’s sponsor, he needs to be able to hand 400-500 of these completed forms to the chairman at the time of the hearing or, as he put, we might as well just write this off.  As of this email he had only received 3 completed forms in his office.

I understand that you may not be able to attend the hearing, and finding time to make a phone call to your representative asking for his/her support may take some time, but EVERYONE can print off this form, complete it, scan it and email it back.  Please email your completed Witness Appearance Form back to Representative Bryan Spencer at bryan.spencer@house.mo.gov before the end of the day, Monday, January 23, 2017.

It’s your turn to act and make a difference.

73,Larry Scantlan, KEØKZ
Wentzville, MO

See the Facebook page for more information and updates: https://www.facebook.com/groups/163548427426968/


NPOTA Activation of St. Louis Arch (NM12)

It’s October and I’ve not made a single NPOTA activation or contact. :O

You can mostly blame it on the fact I live in an apartment, and have been doing lots of traveling this year, and also that it takes a lot of effort to do a NPOTA activation, at least in St. Louis. The guys who set up the Arch activation said it took almost a month to set up a permit to operate. I don’t have the time.

But luckily this past weekend, I did.

The Arch is officially called the Jefferson Expansion National Memorial, commemorated for St. Louis’s role in westward expansion in the 19th century (i.e. the Gateway to the West) as well as Dred Scott’s case for his freedom in the Old Courthouse just west of the Arch.

The famous courthouse, and little tiny us.
The famous courthouse, and little tiny us.

Kyle N0KTK, Scott ND9E, and Chris WX5CW invited me to operate their station set up on the southwest corner of the current construction. The NPOTA designator for the park is NM-12. As of this writing, it’s responsible for 12 activations and 736 QSOs. I was responsible for 118 new ones!

20m dipole and 40m Alpha Antenna loaded vertical
20m dipole and 40m Alpha Antenna loaded vertical were our antennas. We also had a backup 40m dipole. Nearby LED lighting was pretty loud!

They had 2 stations, and activated 40m and 20m on CW and SSB.

Let me tell you, out of every contest I’ve worked I have never heard such pileups. Even with our 20′ high dipole and 100 watts in the middle of a city…it was exhilarating!

I brought my camera with me and took video, but didn’t get any half-decent audio of the radio. The surrounding area was super noisy because of road and construction noise, so forcing an operator to take off his headphones wasn’t a good idea. But seriously. Imagine 20 or 30 people all screaming their name at the same time.

Kyle N0KTK orchestrated the whole event.
Kyle N0KTK orchestrated the whole event.

It was super fun. Altogether I made about 118 QSOs in an hour and a half. We had about 20 people ask us how to get to the arch, but a handful of hams and non-hams came up and chatted with us.

I really appreciate the impromptu opportunity to run the station there. It was a lot of fun! What have I been doing all year?!?

Read my archives to answer that question. 😁