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Amateur Radio Message Relay Alive and Well

posted Jan 14, 2017, 2:08 PM by C. Matthew Curtin
Among the public services provided by amateur radio is the means to handle “third party traffic,” i.e., written messages from one place to another. Members of the public or not-for-profit entities that serve the public can give a message to a radio operator who can create and relay a radiogram from one place to another, quickly and effectively getting a copy of that radiogram in the hands of the recipient—written exactly as it was as originated. That service, dating back to the earliest days of amateur radio, remains alive and well today.

In the past few years, COTN has been active in training exercises, joining Franklin County CERT, as well as participating in the annual Simulated Emergency Test (SET). Our performance in these exercises has shown that we are able to work on behalf of the public to keep victims in contact with far-flung family and friends, to relay messages between emergency management agencies, and to deploy to incident sites to keep information flowing from an Incident Command Post to Area Command.

Even as locally we experience increased visibility and operational success, some volunteers have noted changes in NTS leadership by ARRL and subsequent removal of the Pacific Area and Central Area contact from ARRL's NTS page. Others have noticed the creation of Radio Relay International (RRI), an independent not-for-profit entity created for the purpose of coordinating the efforts of radio amateurs to handle third-party traffic. RRI now operates traffic relay in West and Central areas and operates in part of the NTS Eastern Area.

As discussed in detail in the September and December 2016 issues of QNI, there is indeed a disagreement between leadership at ARRL and within now-former NTS leadership and ARRL also finds itself in litigation on these matters. As a matter of policy, COTN will not engage in the dispute or take sides. These regrettable matters are far removed from our daily operation. Because of the longstanding practice of using net liaison stations, we are able to move traffic from amateur to amateur seamlessly irrespective of the associations that the stations maintain. COTN is a part of ARRL's Ohio Section of the National Traffic System and has no plan to change that. As we say in our daily net script, we are a training net and all licensed amateurs are welcome to check in. We are happy to relay any legal traffic from any station without regard to affiliation.

COTN leadership will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that COTN maintains the necessary liaison relationships to be effective in its mission to use amateur radio to keep communication flowing even when all other means have failed.
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