[aprssig] APRS legality

Wes Johnston, AI4PX wes at ai4px.com
Tue Jan 27 11:43:27 EST 2009

Let's look at the evolution of paging applications used on ham...

PL tones used to activate a repeater.  Then CTCSS was included on radios.

Then in the 1980s and 90s, DTMF was used as selective calling... remember
the 7 digit (3+ * + 3 digit DTMF paging codes?).  Just as the old two tone
pagers opened the squelch on a radio receiver, these DTMF paging systems do
the same thing.  Now we opened the squelch of another ham's rig and he got a
3 digit code on his screen that let him know some info - who was calling

Now we are proposing that we send (gasp) some data over a voice repeater to
be used to convey information... Information that will be orginated by a
ham, for a ham, with the likelyhood that the recipient would goto a 2m radio
pickup the mic and start talking.  Or, maybe that person would pick up a
data terminal, type in a message and send it back to the original party.
Hmm... Oh wait, we've been doing this for 50 years using RTTY and AX.25 TNCs
with attached keyboards.

Sounds to me like we are getting hung up the symantics of this all because
someone threw the word "POCSAG" in the mix.  I don't care what protocol we
use to communicate (POCSAG, AX25, RTTY, PSK31 varicode) as long as it's a
published standard, it's a legal mode.  And as long as a ham originates the
message with the intent of communicating with another ham, it's an
authorized use.  It doesn't matter if that ham communicates back with voice
or in kind over, say, pocsag.

Now some of us might say that the use of a "pager" tangles things a bit b/c
it's only a receiver... and if a person is transmitting to a /receiver/
then, that is broadcasting.  Phoey.  Remeber back in the good old days when
your transceiver was in TWO cabinets?  You had a receiver and you had a
transmitter.  What, pray tell, is wrong with using the pager as a receiver
to signal a ham, and then that ham using either a)some sort of packet
terminal or b)a voice rig  - to close the commuincation loop?

I think these arguements demonstrate that the /use/ of a paging receiver is
legal so long as the message is by a ham for a ham.

Now as for the legality of the _information_ which might be conveyed using
this method.... Consider that we had autopatches hooked to public phone
lines.  It was legal for HAMS to dial in and go out on the repeater, so the
"protocol" was legal, but it was clearly against the rules to use the ham
radio 1/2 of such a system for profit.  So if I sent a message out to hams
telling them the SAR net was about to meet, that's ok, but if I sent
messages advertising the $5 pizzas I sell, that's not legal.  But it's not
legal becuase of the content of the message, not the mode.

So I assert that the burden of /use/ that is fit and proper under part 97
falls on the licensee.  The mode is legal.  Any of us can use the mode... we
just have to make sure we use it in a legal manner.

I wonder if any of this would have been an issue if there was a "pager" that
used ax.25 instead of pocsag... oh wait, there's hamhud. It just
doesn't look as cool clipped on my belt ;-)  Maybe Steve Bragg would like to
change the hamhud slogan to "Ham hud, the original 2way ham pager."

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