[aprssig] APRS Gaps in SC, NC and WV?

Stephen H. Smith wa8lmf2 at aol.com
Tue Sep 15 15:11:27 EDT 2015

On 9/15/2015 12:49 PM, Robert Bruninga via aprssig wrote:
 > A collection of personal Green Vehicles will convoy across the country starting
 > on the 19^th .
 > In preparation, the APRS vehicle traveled from FLA to Virginia but there were
 > big gaps in coverage in some areas in SC, NC and WV.
 > Here is the track:
 > http://aprs.fi/#!mt=roadmap&z=11&call=a%2FKG6BGE&timerange=604800&tail=604800
 > I particularly note the lack of coverage along I-64 in WV near the Scout Camp
 > at the Summit Bechtel Reserve near the New River Gorge.
 > The tracker was about 25W.
 > Bob, Wb4aPR

There are "big gaps in coverage" in all parts of the country.  On my trip from 
central MI to the west coast and back two months ago, I was surprised by major 
holes in areas I wouldn't have expected.   Rounding the bottom of Lake Michigan 
and the south side of Chicago on I-94 and I-80, I was astonished at the 
complete lack of activity.

After not hearing anything for 15-30 mins at a time, I though I actually had 
antenna and/or radio problems, and stopped for half an hour at a rest area to 
change out radios and antennas. However, it was just plain lack of activity. In 
general, there appeared to be less APRS activity and coverage everywhere than 
on this same trip in previous years.

If you look at my live off-the-air map of Michigan VHF APRS activity at

<http://wa8lmf.ddns.net:14441/> ,

you will see that there is a hotbed of APRS activity in the greater 
Detroit/Windsor metro area in the south-east and along the west side of the 
state on the Lake Michigan shoreline and Grand Rapids. The rest of the state, 
including the capital area around Lansing-East Lansing (where I live) is a 
black hole for APRS.   It wasn't always that way.

In December 2013 a massive ice storm took down a lot of ham and commercial 
tower sites all over Michigan.  It appears that even now, over a year and a 
half later, the MI APRS network has not fully recovered. Virtually everything I 
hear in Lansing metro is now getting here via only two digipeaters -- "Chelsea" 
to the west of Ann Arbor, MI and N8TJG-10 in Battle Creek/Marshal MI.

I try to provide digi coverage in Lansing metro but it is truly just a 
low-level home fill-in operation with antennas only about 25' off the ground.

I am speculating that part of the declining coverage may be reduced access by 
hams to high-elevation commercial tower sites around the country. Over the last 
decade or so, site ownership has been rapidly consolidating with just two or 
three large management companies now controlling tens of thousands of sites 
across the country. Many land-mobile users  and cell carriers have washed their 
hands of tpwer ownership and site management, by selling off their sites to 
mega site management entities like Crown Castle or American Tower.

Many ham repeaters and digipeaters that previously were stealth co-located or 
"bootlegged" into prime sites have been driven out of many of these desirable 
locations.  Either by outright eviction by corporate site managers that don't 
want anything to do with hams, or by extortionate rent increases for tower 
access that have made the higher elevation sites unaffordable to ham clubs. 
Huge rent increases by the US Forest Service and BLM are also driving 
low-budget ham operations off prime mountain tops in many areas.


Stephen H. Smith    wa8lmf (at) aol.com
Skype:        WA8LMF
EchoLink:  Node #  14400  [Think bottom of the 2-meter band]
Home Page:          http://wa8lmf.net

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