FCC NPRM 16-239, Pactor 4, National Security Risks (cough) and the Rappaport (N9NB) Story

November 28, 2018

Last Updated:  12/03/2018

There is considerable ongoing chatter out there regarding the FCC NPRM Docket 16-239 and some questions regarding Pactor 4 and B2 compression legality.  The recent “Rappaport Suggests National Security Risks with Amateur Radio Violations” article in Mission Critical Communications has prompted more attention even if some of it is laughable.

It looks like the FCC recently asked some interesting questions in a good read here (PDF). Peter (DL6MAA) did a good job of answering their request and made some noteworthy points. Still this seems to have alarmed some Pactor folks about the future of Pactor 3 and 4. IMHO don’t be alarmed, this looks like the FCC is just doing some fact gathering versus accepting the FUD out there at face value. That is a good thing.

It is also interesting what the FCC didn’t ask about.

 

Short version of this rant for those worried about Pactor or Winlink being banned? Don’t worry, no matter how much certain folks may dislike it, neither Pactor or Winlink are going away. Pactor 1-4 protocols are documented. Pactor 1-4 connections can be monitored. Compression of data on a link does not equal encryption. I suspect the FCC will soon “explain” this to certain crowd once they sort through all the FUD and get the facts sorted out. Plus there is nothing stopping the FCC from “adjusting” the rules to deal with gray areas.

 

Moving on to the long version….okay very long version 😉

Note that this post started out as commentary on a handful of common questions, myths, misrepresentations, and an occasional good question, etc etc regarding this NPRM.  It has grown into a mini novel that I keep adding to it as time allows. Yes it could be written and organized better. I don’t proclaim to be a great writer and frankly you’re getting exactly what you paid for 😉 Take a patience pill and deal with it or move on.

Also note that I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV.

 

Since so much uninformed commentary surrounds this NPRM, here are a few pieces of mandatory reading. Mandatory reading if you wish to be informed enough to have a useful opinion versus just adding to the noise floor:

The ARRL’s original petition for rule making is here. This is what started the process along several years back. They fixed a mistake in the original filing with an errata here. You have to read and understand both of these filings. Too many latched onto that mistake (fixed) and it’s behind a lot of the unproductive garbage in the NPRM comments.

Then ARRL CEO David Sumner’s “It Seems To Us” column in the Sept 2013 QST Magazine.

The ARRL “FAQ” on RM-11708 is here.

The NPRM itself is here.

DL6MAA’s (SCS engineer) response to the FCC is here.

Read the official filings, not copies posted elsewhere. Go to the official source, get the full context, and think for yourself versus letting the alarmists push your buttons.

More reading:

The Pactor 2 Protocol document (8 page PDF) here.

The Pactor 3 Protocol document (11 page PDF) here.  Good read for a digital ham.

The Pactor 4 Protocol document (42 page PDF) here.  Another good read for a digital ham.

 

FACT:  The Pactor modes (1-4) can be monitored by anyone with an appropriate receiver and modem. There is also software available for monitoring Pactor. I’m not aware of anything stopping folks from writing more robust monitoring tools. The protocol’s technical characteristics are documented.

KEY POINT:  Where so many tend to get off track here is associating the B2F transfer protocol used by Winlink and other message forwarding systems as a part of Pactor. It is not part of Pactor, it is used by some applications that run on top of Pactor, HF Packet, Robust Packet, VHF/UHF Packet, and a growing list of soundcard modem based modes.

From the FCC letter to SCS it appears they are just doing due diligence on a mode they have recently issued temporary waivers for. The focus appears to be on confirming compliance with this portion of rule 97.309(a):

(4) An amateur station transmitting a RTTY or data emission using a digital code specified in this paragraph may use any technique whose technical characteristics have been documented publicly, such as CLOVER, G-TOR, or PacTOR, for the purpose of facilitating communications.

SCS provided links to detailed documentation that should more than suffice. While not specifically required here, Pactor 1, 2, 3, and 4 all have full official ITU emission designators of 304HF1B, 375HJ2D, 2K20J2D, 2K40J2D respectively.

Remember the matter before them only involves dropping the symbol rate restrictions. Claims of Pactor 3 and 4 legality came up and they decided to look into them since Pactor 4 is a current rule impacted mode that the FCC has issued several emergency waivers for.

Thus far (maybe I missed it) the FCC doesn’t seem concerned at all about B2F compression used in many digital applications, but that is subject to change. Part of me would like to see them issue an opinion on this and put a good chunk of the anti-Winlink drama to rest.

 

For some of you….be careful what you wish for.

Many feel the Winlink links on HF are encrypted or an attempt to intentionally obscure the meaning of a message. They are not encrypted nor secure from monitoring. They just use a documented protocol for compressing data being sent over a link for purposes of transfer integrity, small attachments, and a significant reduction in airtime used.

Details of the B2F protocol and compression used are publicly documented. The VB source code used by Winlink itself is available here for free. LZH has been around for ages and for the Linux folks the source and utilities are easy to find.

I would suggest those essentially wanting the FCC to ban encoding and compression of digital data on the ham spectrum to stop and do some research. Research just how far and wide such techniques are commonly used for legit and beneficial purposes. Picture the future of the digital side of our hobby without that. Unless you are a die hard analog only op this could easily backfire on you.

Yes the automated digital stations can be annoying and cause unintentional QRM. Dude, I get it. I operate APRS up in the top end of the 30m band and it gets ugly in there at times. With the solar cycle being where it is the lower bands have become even more congested. It is what it is.

Should we maybe create some structure to where the Winlink gateways should congregate versus being spread out all over the place akin to how the HF APRS folks stay up in the top khz of 30m? IMHO yes but that is a bandplan issue, not a mode legality issue.

Our HF bands are shared spectrum and yes even the automated stations suffer from QRM. Our HF bands are not a perfect world for a hobby like amateur radio and neither you, I, the ARRL, or the FCC can make them perfect. Try more tolerance, understanding, and keeping a bottle of Patience Pills handy.

If the amateur radio hobby is stressing you out then maybe you need a new hobby? Give fishing a try 😉  I’m with Mr. Foreman except I’d add camping to the mix. Riding into the backcountry to camp next to a stream or lake to get some fishing in = my happy place.

“Anytime I can sneak in a moment to fish and ride horses, I’m a happy camper!”
George Foreman

 

What is behind this latest dramafest?

Now let’s not kid ourselves here, a review of the filed comments reveal this drama is filled with Winlink/Pactor hate. That coming from a guy who is not exactly the biggest fan of Winlink. I have warmed to it somewhat lately, but I still have some abuse, security (spoofing, viruses, etc), and management concerns with it. That is an issue with the application(s) involved, not the particular digital mode in use under that application.

One of my ham mentors was fond of that saying along the lines of “ham radio is just a reflection of our society. As such we can’t be surprised by what we see and hear.” My gosh how true is that today. Some fair questions can be asked here, some changes are needed, but some just can’t put the bucket of mud down and be adults.

This drama is really nothing new as this has flared up several times over the years. Sadly few seem to be able to separate Pactor 3/4 from Winlink and could wind up with some some dangerous precedents that could easily bite their own backsides.

I have always enforced an unwritten rule that the KYPN blog stays focused on ham radio, especially packet radio, and far away from politics, religion, and guns. Three often controversial topics that lately drive so much of our national conversation to unhealthy levels. So forgive me here but a lot of this latest NPRM debate I see playing out reminds me of the “gun debate” in our country. Lots of emotion, FUD, ignorance on multiple levels, absolutism, well intended folks simply not understanding all the angles of what they are commenting upon, lots of money (both sides), and endless politics/agendas. Too often it is all about “beating the other side at any cost” versus being reasonable adults open to both sides of things.  Welcome to modern America, SMH RME LOL.

PS – For the record I’m Pro-2A akin to Justice Scalia and Sheriff Ozzie. Scalia in terms of the 2nd Amendment IS an individual right to keep (own, possess) and bear (use/carry), but it is NOT a blank check..there have to be some rules/limits. A Sheriff Ozzie Knezovic in that we dearly need to stop the political nonsense and have a civil discussion about the mental health, cultural, and parenting aspects behind the problem versus solely focusing on inanimate objects. Folks we have kids killing kids. Let that sink in.

Okay, I’ve climbed out far enough on that particular limb, back to ham radio.

 

Do we really need to make these rule changes?

Yes and it should of been done years ago.

It is obvious that the current regulation by symbol rate is obsolete. The growing list of Pactor 4 waivers from the FCC for recent major disaster operations clearly illustrates the problem with the current rules.

Remember Pactor 4 requires no more bandwidth than Pactor 3. The current rules prohibit Pactor 4 due to it exceeding the allowed 300 baud symbol rate limitation, not because it’s some spectrum devouring monster. It runs at 1800 baud symbol rate which makes it illegal on U.S. amateur bands while legal most everywhere else.

Our current “regulate by symbol rate” approach needs to be changed to reflect modern communication techniques and modes. This change will bring the U.S. rules more inline with those in other countries, remember HF signals don’t stop at borders. It will allow more experimentation and development towards other higher performance and more spectrum efficient modes/modems. This will also help facilitate more efficient message transfers with modes like Pactor 4 that are well suited to EmComm needs.

We can debate how to get there in terms of the actual language of the rule changes, but advanced high performance modes like Pactor 4 need to be legal on the U.S. ham bands.

 

Jeff there is more to the hobby than just EmComm.

Yes I get that the hobby is not solely about EmComm. Yet many non-EmComm hams would be wise to remember that we don’t get to keep our very valuable (increasingly so) spectrum just for contesting and DXing. No that is not a dissing of those activities as I enjoy both, just stating a fact.

I recommend every ham take a minute and review rule 97.1 “Basis and purpose” and The Amateur’s Code.

 

Is there some good that can come out of this latest NPRM mess?

Sure there is. There are some fair questions to be asked and some rule changes need to be fleshed out. Sadly a lot of what is currently playing out here is not the way to go about it. Certain hams need be ashamed of themselves. I can only picture the eye rolling and facial expressions at the FCC as they read through some of the filed comments.

I actually think there are some things here that an official ruling/opinion from the FCC would be healthy for the hobby. Example? Does the common and decades long standing practice of using documented compression techniques on digital links equate to “intentional obscuring of message content” and thus a violation of rule 97.113?  As a long time packet/digital radio op I’d love to see this officially dealt with one way or the other.

Remember you will not find the word encryption in the Part 97 rules. There is nothing in the rules mandating everything be clear text. The relevant phrase here is “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.” How will the FCC will apply that to simply just “encoding” data flows with documented compression techniques commonly used for legitimate communications for purposes of transfer integrity, attachment capabilities, and significant reduction in airtime used, etc?

Heck if you want reduced congestion on the HF bands then you should be demanding that those transfers be done using compression techniques. Do you want that 10 minute connection to now take 20 to 30 minutes? I didn’t think so.

 

Is this NPRM dangerous to the hobby’s future?

I feel reasonably confident that the FCC will be able to dig out the relevant facts from under all the drama here. From there it should not be hard for them to clear both Pactor 4 (plus similar modes) and open/documented compression techniques for use on our bands via some well thought out rule changes/tweaks and formal opinions. That is if they even look at the compression topic. Good FCC rulings/opinions here will be healthy for the digital side of the hobby, not the end of it.

I doubt this will go the way some people think it will and they might as well get used to hearing more Pactor 4 on the U.S. airwaves. Pst…it’s already in legal use in other countries. HF signals ignore lines on a map so you’re already hearing it on the bands. It’s both sad and odd that this needed rule change has created so much drama. Oh well, welcome to modern America where everything has to be high drama and a crisis. LOL

 

Pactor 4 is being used that elsewhere?

Actually Pactor 4 looks to be very popular across the globe…..except the USA.

2018-11_Traffic_Summary

Winlink November 2018 message traffic totals. See note below.

Note:   Some will notice the low traffic counts for every other HF mode (ARDOP, Robust Packet, VARA) and assume they are hardly used which is not true. Remember this represents “reported” traffic and will be connection data from Tri-Mode (HF) and RMS Packet (V/UHF) gateways. Tri-Mode tends to be gateways running the Pactor and WINMOR modes. The other HF modes tend to be found on BPQ32 gateways which do not report traffic counts. Thus traffic count data for those modes is so far off it is useless. That said, still a lot of P4 message traffic on the Tri-Mode gateways.

 

Is there risk in asking the FCC to get involved?

Yes, of course. I would again remind some of these hams of that wise old ham radio saying along the lines of “Let us self-police our hobby and think twice before we ask the FCC to rule on something. We could wind up with a ruling that no one likes.”

 

The “National Security” implications?

Oh give me a freaking break….face_palm_look

Allow Tommy Less Jones to mimic my expression after reading some of this ignorance of existing terrorist and drug cartel communication networks.

As someone with a LE background, has read a few EPIC bulletins in his day, and has been through some SIGINT training I can assure you of the following. If the terrorists or drug cartels want secure communications they either already have or can have them via a wide variety of tools. If any ham gear or modes are in use then that is only out of simple convenience and not because it was the only option available.

These folks are criminals that couldn’t give a rip about our precious FCC Part 97 rules or any changes we might make to them. Heck I can think of several ways for a cartel or terrorist network to use legit looking or sounding communications, in the clear, on ham/CB/LMR/Maritime spectrum to send “coded” messages that you wouldn’t give a second thought to.

Never mind all the better, faster, more secure methods these criminals already have available to them…..and are actively using.

 

But Jeff the FCC says they can’t monitor these new fangled digital modes?

First, note that I have that T.L. Jones expression back on my face.

Second, so you really believe that they can’t monitor them if they wanted to?  If not, then they could not just pick up the phone to Ft Meade or Langley and get whatever tool they need? Do you expect them to fully detail all their monitoring capabilities to us?

Folks if a new or existing ham radio digital mode creates a serious National Security risk then we might as well cancel the entire amateur radio service. The very essence of ham radio is developing new and creative ways to pass communications along. It is called advancing the art of radio communication and it is one of the primary reasons why the Amateur Radio Service (ARS) exists to begin with.

Folks we hams are not special, but we are part of a unique radio service. We will always be coming up with new voice and digital modes. Yes the FCC may not be instantly keeping up with all of them, but that’s not our fault. That’s not the fault of Winlink. That’s not the fault of SCS. Not the fault of the Pactor folks.

Frankly it’s not the fault of the FCC either. They have limited resources and a budget that they have to operate within. News Flash for some of you….as long as we (hams) stay reasonably within our lane they are not overly worried about what goes on in the ham spectrum. They have other higher priorities and problems to deal with.

The rules governing the ARS have to be limited and flexible for the service to thrive and advance the radio art as we progress into an increasingly digital future.

 

Transparency of ham radio communications?

Now this is a part of this drama worthy of some discussion. I do feel that our generally self-policing hobby requires reasonably open communications on our airwaves. Where we all will likely never 100% agree is the definition of “reasonably open” LOL.

So Jeff you must be against Pactor 4 and similar modes? Nope, you can monitor those communications if you buy the appropriate hardware and/or software. No different than if say you wanted to monitor Yaesu’s FUSION, D-Star, HSMM, and whatever the latest DD/DV mode of the year is.

Just because you can’t monitor a mode as easily as you would like or for free does not mean it is encryption or “intent to obscure the meaning of a message.” I think even the FCC will agree with that last sentence.

I think where we start getting into murky waters ripe for abuse is with the applications we run over various digital modes, not the modes themselves. When you drill down into what is behind so much of the drama in this debate it is obvious that Winlink is where most of it is focused.

There is no doubt that the Winlink system has been used for sending/receiving content in violation of the FCC rules. BTW so has AM, SSB, FM, CW, and the latest DV/DD modes. The Winlink leadership is aware of it otherwise gateway sysops would not of received the following message from them back in April 2015:

Date: 2015/04/29
From: W3QA
Source: WEBMAIL
Subject: Sysop Reminder

--SPECIAL MESSAGE--

All WInlink Sysops,

As a Winlink gateway station sysop and licensed operator you must monitor 
the traffic moving through your station. By monitoring, you can manage 
messages your users might create that violate the terms of your license. We 
have noted illegal content rising in recent weeks, especially for US 
licensees, where business content that benefits a licensed amateur, profane 
language, and certain third-party messages are violations of FCC rules. 
Please refresh yourself on your license's transmission content rules.

In case you didn't know, you have access to a sysop-only web app that lets 
you view and manage the messages posted or delivered through your station. 
Here's how to access it:

Log into the Winlink web site at http://www.winlink.org using the callsign 
of your gateway station. Click "My account" and log in. If you have never 
done this before, obtain your password as described on the login page. Once 
you are logged in click on the link "Sysop Message Monitor". This will list 
all current messages flowing through your station.

If you find you have received or sent messages with prohibited Message 
content, follow the suggested actions on the app page. You can review 
all Sysop Guidelines at: 

http://www.winlink.org/content/join_sysop_team_sysop_guidelines

Thanks for your generous participation and contributions to the global 
Winlink system!

Lor W3QA
For the Winlink Development Team
73 de w3qa
Winlink Team

Demanding a mode be banned or an entire system be shut down or crippled because it has been abused is not the correct answer. Those of us that can take a breath and put on the hat labeled “adult” will simply ask a few questions.

  1. How widespread is this abuse?
  2. What was the intent of the offending operator?
  3. Was it flagrant abuse, accidental, or just a misunderstanding of the rules?
  4. How was the abuse detected?
  5. Is this widespread or very limited in nature?
  6. Was reasonable corrective action taken upon detection of the problem?

The above is not dissing or blaming the WDT folks anymore than we should blame Edwin Armstrong for the embarrassing Festival de Violations mess on a certain 2m FM frequency in Los Angeles.

The Winlink admins became aware of a problem and took actions. The Winlink system now provides a way for gateway sysops to review recent messages flowing over their gateway. While I feel this needs to be taken further, it is a good start. A good start that addressed one of my biggest long standing objections to adding a RMS to our local node stack….Control Op visibility into the content flowing over the gateway.

Banning Pactor 3, Pactor 4 or [insert your most disliked digital message transfer mode here] would do far more harm than good. It is not about the mode, but misuse of the applications running on top of it. Deal with the misuse not the mode.

 

So Jeff you are saying you had no way to monitor for violations on your gateway?

Not true, it just wasn’t convenient enough for our particular setup. I manage a lot of infrastructure and only have X amount of time to do it all. I’m not retired so tools that make my life easier are welcome and play heavily into my decision making. Those running around with buckets of mud to sling at anything Winlink can spin that however they wish.

I could direct everything into the BPQ32 BBS for manual review. I could also manually capture frames (PortMon, Terminal logs, RX-only modem, etc), sequence the payloads, combine them, then decompress them for review. Those were just not real convenient for a Sysop with numerous other priorities and limited admin time. Plus our gateway is at a remote tower site…not like the radio and modems are downstairs in my hamshack.

The new Sysop Message Manager tool made things convenient enough that I was comfortable with adding the RMS application to the existing node/BBS stack. The ability to log in from anywhere and review gateway activity is very handy for someone that is often on the road more than home.

PS – I’ve yet to see a single message on my gateway that would get within a mile of dancing into the gray area of 97.113. This year’s activity could be summed up as a little AuxComm traffic for our 4th of July Riverfest, several messages from a weekly ARES Winlink & ICS training net, test messages, and lots of messages from where I used the system to test new SCS modem firmware for our Tracker DSP TNCs. All legit uses of our spectrum and well within the spirit of the ARS rules.

 

But Jeff what about WINMOR, VARA, ARDOP etc etc?

I don’t use those modes on my gateway. I prefer hardware modems for a variety of reasons.

Yes we can discuss that some of the newer ARQ soundcard modes/modems need to be much better documented. One could also argue that before they are legal for use on the ham bands they should be required to provide an interface (KISS, HOSTMODE ?) to allow for monitoring and the collection of monitored frames off the air like hardware modems do.

 

But Jeff it’s too difficult for me to capture a Winlink session and decompress the message from it.

May I suggest some of you take all this time and energy you spend bitchin’ and moaning about Winlink and invest it into a modem and a book on Perl or VB .NET.  Get off your backside, study up, write come code/scripts. If the need here is even only a fraction of what is proclaimed I sense an opportunity for you to learn something new, contribute something to the hobby, and even make some money if you wish. Triple win!

The link and compression protocol used on Winlink connections is well documented and publicly available. The VB source for the LZH compression is freely available here. You will also find a link there to a page containing full details on the B2F protocol. No “secret recipe” used in the making of a B2F compressed message and the Winlink session.

Step out of your comfort zone and learn something useful. That’s what the hobby is about….not having everything handed to you 100% plug-n-play on a silver platter.

PS – 97.1(d) says “trained operators” not “appliance operators.”  Appliance ops are a dime a dozen.

 

Jeff the B2F compression keeps us from even identifying the stations involved.

False. Monitoring the channel you can see considerable identifying information in the clear during session startup, message proposals, and signoff.  Here’s a snippet from a terminal monitoring a 10m RP connection into our local gateway from my mobile earlier:

session_startup_20181201

Seems to me the identities of both stations involved here are abundantly clear. Even seeing a message ID, to, from, and subject lines.

Since this is a packet mode connection the AX25 protocol means every single frame transmitted has identifying information clearly visible. If you monitor that and can’t figure out the callsign of both stations involved then I’m thinking you need to turn in your “ham card” LOL

Yes a Pactor link is going to look different (it’s not AX25), but the session startup and shutdown is still easy copy for anyone with the appropriate modem.

 

A Compromise?

Winlink and its B2F compression has many legitimate and valuable uses on the ham radio spectrum. It can also facilitate abuse of our spectrum on an internet email connected system like Winlink. As such I propose the following compromise solution:

  1. All Winlink message traffic flowing in or out of an RF gateway operating on ham spectrum shall be captured and archived by the CMS system. A good foundation for this is already in place. Telnet and MARS traffic exempted.
  2. This archive shall be publicly available on the main Winlink website.
  3. This archive shall include all non-exempted RF message traffic for at least one year.
  4. This archive shall be searchable by keywords, callsign, QRG, and/or date/time range.
  5. Gateway Sysops shall have the option of having the CMS system email them a copy of every message going in/out of their RF gateway for their own long term review/archival approaches.

Yes there a lots of details to be worked out in the above, but you get the basic idea.

Don’t give me the storage space excuse. This is 2018 and storage is dirt cheap. An archive of a years worth of every Winlink RF flowed message would fit on a freaking flash drive.

Don’t give me the privacy issues. Ham radio communications offer no expectation of privacy.

You can thank me later 😉

 

But Jeff, what about the concerns of increased congestion on the HF bands?

Okay, fair concern. Something tells me that if the suggestion above is put into place we will notice some reduction in the Pactor, ARDOP, WINMOR, VARA, (insert name of the latest new whizbang soundcard mode here) signals on the HF bands. A reduction as SailMail and the SatComm providers gain some new customers 😉

There are two ways of looking at the impact on band congestion. One is with more bandwidth allowing higher speed connections the congestion will be reduced some as many connections will complete faster. The other is that higher performance modes like Pactor 4 will enable users to download bigger files/messages. This will encourage increased usage that will only further add to the congestion on our HF bands.

Pactor 4 has been legal in many (most all?) other countries for years now. Thus I have to ask what should be a couple obvious questions. Has their regulation by bandwidth (vs symbol rate) approaches been a net positive or negative? Is Pactor 4 causing any significant problems in those regions?

Here’s a novel idea, let’s drop the obsolete symbol rate restrictions. Next let’s try allowing up to 2.8 KHz wide data modes in the existing HF automatic subbands for 5 years. Let’s try that for a few years and see how it works out here in the states.  Fair enough?

 

The EmComm/disaster communications angle?

If we have to send another “Force of 22” into a Puerto Rico post-Maria “it’s all down” environment do you or do you not want them taking with them one of the most effective and efficient HF digital messaging modes (Pactor 3/4) available?  Do you or do you not want them to be able to use compression on those links?  If you answered “no” to either of those then you need to go review rule 97.1 and the Amateurs Code again.

 

What if we get a bad ruling/opinion of no Pactor 3/4, no compression?

I don’t think the FCC is even going to address compression. I would prefer they did, but this NPRM is about dropping the symbol rate not a series of endless side issues. If B2 is killed off then the impact of that will be far beyond just Winlink. Winlink is just one of several applications that use it.

I just don’t see the FCC having a major issue with Pactor 3/4 as long as they feel its technical characteristics are sufficiently documented. Given past waivers and what started this, I doubt they will have a problem with it under current 97.309(a). There’s also the possibility they could say it comes up short and issue another waiver while they rewrite 97.309(a) to allow it and similar modes.

I suspect in a few months we will be laughing at all this drama and wondering why this had to be such a big deal.

 

To wrap this rant up….

Do you still feel these proposed rule changes will have any impact upon criminals operating at terrorist and drug cartel levels?  If so please allow me to propose three new Part 97 rules to ensure the security of our great nation at great risk in a dangerous world.

New Rule 97.901 would prohibit the possession, use by, and sales of amateur radio gear by/to anyone in/or associated with any terrorist, terrorist group or drug cartel.

New Rule 97.902 would create a new Universal License & Criminal Background Check system (ULCBC) at all ham radio gear Points of Sale.

New Rule 97.903 would stipulate that only spark gap transmissions will be authorized on amateur radio service after midnight UTC December 31, 2018.  #MakeMarconiProud

Problem solved. Feel better now? Feel safer?  Yes you can thank me later.

Yes the above section is a joke.

 

WA4ZKO


N0KFQ Silent Key

November 5, 2018

On Tuesday October 30, 2018 N0KFQ Kenneth Oscar Higgs became a Silent Key at age 88. The country, his family and the Branson Missouri community lost a good man. The packet radio community lost a good operator and a well known fixture in and long time contributor to the HF Packet BBS scene.

His obituary can be found here.

Ken, who went by “K.O.” was one of my early packet BBS mentors and helped me with the conflicting documentation out there on BBS HA when I was setting up my first full featured BBS. Years later when I worked with John (G8BPQ) on getting NTS forwarding added to BPQMail, K.O. was a source of good input as his FBB based BBS frequently handled NTS traffic.

To this day I’ve always kept an account on his BBS and would stop by occasionally, but not nearly as much as I should of. We all know how it is with us guys, we want to stay in better contact but “life” happens with family, work, etc.

KO’s wife Billie was also a ham (KB0WSA) and was also active in packet radio and ran one of the area packet nets for a long time. She passed away a few years ago. They both had a good life and witnessed a lot of history.

A comment from a friend’s email regarding KO’s death “We packet guys are all getting old and dying off.”  As I do my best to ignore the proliferation of gray hairs, I can’t disagree that attrition is doing a number on the packet radio community. We would all be wise to try and better engage the younger members of our hobby. Let us try to get more of them interested in and active on APRS and other packet radio applications. They are the future.

Well 88 years was a good long life. On behalf of KYPN and myself…. Rest in Peace K.O.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

 

WA4ZKO


K4KPN-6 6 Meter APRS Digi / I-Gate Full Availability

August 10, 2018

Observing a need for a 6 meter APRS I-Gate in this region, KYPN realized the K4KPN-4 BPQ32 node could probably meet this need without any additional hardware investment. Recent versions of the BPQ32 node software have considerable built-in APRS digi/gate capabilities that only need to be configured and enabled.

The past few months showed that the past trend of most activity on the node being on the UHF 9.6k, 220 1.2k, and 10m RP ports was still holding true today. Thus we pondered could the APRS features on the 6m port be enabled and would they coexist with the existing Node and its BBS, Chat, and RMS functions? If both could coexist then it was frankly a no-brainer to do it.  The 6m port puts out a stout signal that penetrates well into the valleys and hilly terrain common to the area.

The 6 meter APRS scene has seen bursts of activity over the years, but good 24x7x365 digi/gate infrastructure is very rare outside of a few pockets of activity. The rest has been more of  what I’d call seasonal activity of folks firing up on frequency to listen for packet/APRS DX during the late Spring and Summer e-skip seasons. Others use it as a less congested alternative to the mess that 2m APRS can be in some areas.

At one time there was a push to build up packet infrastructure on 50.620 across the country for the PropNet network. The WSPR mode and network came on the scene and its many advantages stagnated PropNET growth. What remains of PropNet seems mostly focused on PSK31 operations on HF. No PropNET packet operations have been noted on 50.620 for over a decade now. This means 50.6200 MHz is an underutilized frequency begging to be put to good uses.

Testing showed both APRS and conventional packet should coexist fine on the Jonesville BPQ32 node’s 6m port. Thus on the afternoon of July 9, 2018 KYPN spun up K4KPN-6 on 50.6200 MHz 1200 baud AFSK packet mode. K4KPN-6 offers both full WIDEn-n compliant digipeating and basic R-I-R (2-way) I-Gate messaging functions.

The current plans are to run K4KPN-6 24×7. The 6m port beacons an APRS compatible beacon every 5 minutes to help detect DX openings. Beaconing faster would provide a better chance of catching meteor burns, but 5 minutes was felt to be a good compromise value for a mixed use port.

The advanced APRS digipeater functions available in BPQ32 are downright slick and one can tell John gave them some thought. The I-Gate side has some cosmetic issues, but it is plenty usable from a functionality standpoint. I’ll try to run some changes/improvements past John (G8BPQ) this winter. He is busy sailing/traveling during the Summer months. Thus I avoid bugging him with non-critical feature requests and minor bug reports that can wait. John should be deemed a Saint for his patience with his user base and his willingness to continually improve BPQ32/LinBPQ.

So far K4KPN-6 looks like a valuable asset both locally and for the 6m APRS DX folks. Best of all with our existing 6m port on the Jonesville BPQ32 system there was no need to buy anything else. Just enable and configure the functions you want in the bpq32 config file and restart the node. Obviously you’ll need an APRS-IS login and password if you want to use the I-Gate functionality.

Node and application stack (BBS, Chat, RMS) remain available on the 6m port. The APRS functions are just another application running on the node.

 

6m APRS Path Recommendations?

Making use of the K4KPN-6 6m APRS digi/I-gate functions is no different than operating on 2m APRS. Paths of WIDE1-1 or WIDE1-1,WIDE2-1 are good choices for 1-hop and 2-hop paths.

 

6m APRS Beacon Rate Recommendations?

The 6 meter APRS frequency is not overloaded like the 2m APRS is in so many areas of the country. There is plenty of spare airtime on the channel. Thus the use of aggressive beacon rates is unlikely to be an issue. 5 or 10 minute rates for infrastructure sites should be fine in most areas.

Temporary use of even faster rates for testing or during meteor shower peak times should not be an issue and would increase the odds of snagging a burn. Mobiles can probably dial things down to 1 or 2 minute rates.

 

6m APRS Biggest Range Challenge? Noise Floor

The 50 MHz band propagates locally just like the 30-50 MHz VHF-Low band that you may be familiar with. Not so great in a pure urban environment. So so in a suburban environment, but ultimately best suited to rural environments where its range and terrain penetration qualities can shine.

Note:  There’s a reason why a surprising number of users remain active in the VHF-Low Band spectrum even though it doesn’t get much press. Current marketing/sales efforts are geared towards selling more expensive and complex systems on the higher bands. The range and simplicity of VHF-Low systems are still a good fit for some users.

Don’t laugh at Low band. VHF….  I know of a 46 MHz system installed in the early 1980’s that is still in use. Now that’s serious ROI. Also note that the VHF/UHF Part 90 narrowbanding mandate did NOT apply to VHF-Low systems.

Back on topic….

All things being equal 6 meters has more range potential than 2m. Problem is in the real world of RF all things are rarely equal. On 6m you are probably using a lower gain base antenna and most likely a less efficient mobile antenna system compared to say 2 meters. In most real world installs some of this will be offset by higher standard transmit powers, less free space losses, lower feedline losses, and better terrain penetration. All that aside, the main range limiter for 6m operators today is the higher local noise floor (NF) compared to the higher bands.

The old enemy of power line noise remains, but it is now joined by a wide variety of noise spewing consumer electronics clobbering both HF and the lower VHF spectrum. Sadly this is a problem that will only get worse unless the FCC cracks down on a lot of the cheap poorly designed/filtered junk behind so much of the problem. Even then it would take ages for device attrition to clean up the spectrum much. Plus we’ve become a society that expects everything to be super cheap versus paying for higher quality equipment.

Where you live and operate can make a huge difference and must be factored in unless you like surprises. I was stunned at the NF differences between the old KY QTH and our temp place here. Living out in farm country most of my life definitely spoiled me. I wouldn’t call this “urban” by any means, but having several neighbors nearby = a lot more noise on the bands. I was initially worried about the big power distribution lines a few hundred yards away out back. Turns out they are actually the least of the NF problems here LOL.

Every amateur radio band has it’s pros, cons, and unique propagation characteristics. Six meters is no exception to that rule. It remains a local workhorse of a band that also offers some fun DXing at times. It is called the Magic Band for a good reason.

WA4ZKO /7


6 Meter APRS Lives

June 21, 2018

Update:  Dale N0KQX has joined in from SW Kansas as of June 24th. N0KQX-6 has already been heard several times at K4KPN-4 in KY.  The K7BC-6 Virginia I-gate appears offline since the 21st. A few more I-gates on frequency would be nice. I believe I can enable gating on K4KPN-4’s 6m port (ah the flexibility of BPQ32) without impacting general packet operations on that port. I plan to test that option on my next trip back thru 4-land.

It’s not every day you hear and “digi” off the 50 MHz APRS digipeater at the Pentagon.

K4AF-6_20180619_6m_APRS_map_pent

Map showing location of the K4AF-6 six meter digipeater at the Pentagon. I believe this is part of the MARS radio station located there. Frequency is 50.620 MHz using 1200 baud AFSK packet.

 

June 19th 2018 a nice strong opening into NE Virginia revealed that the 50.6200 MHz 1200 baud 6 meter APRS and long time 6m packet “calling” frequency still has some action on it.

K4AF-6_20180619_6m_APRS_KYRDG_Terminal

The monitor for the 6m (50.620 1.2k) and 10m packet/robust packet ports at the K4KPN-4 N. Kentucky node. K4AF-6 is at the Pentagon. K7BC-6 is a few miles to the SW. Both are just over 400 miles away. Opening was very brief. June 20th would produce a stronger opening. Times are UTC.

 

On June 20th things would liven up even more with the Conway AR node “CON50” W5AUU-6 (likely bleed-over from 50.615 MHz) coming in. There was also an extended and strong e-skip opening to Wash DC with APRS packets bouncing around and being digipeated like it was 2m APRS at times. Several K4KPN-4’s beacons were getting digipeated and I-gated into APRS-IS via K7BC-6 in Springfield VA.

 

6m_aprs_raw_pkts_20180620

The June 20th 6 meter APRS opening into the Wash DC area lasted for over an hour. K4AF-6 was even audible at times on a HT (Yaesu VX-8DR) setting on my desk. Gotta love the Magic Band of 50 MHz!

Distances involved where about 410 miles from Kentucky to DC. So I wouldn’t call it really short skip, but definitely shorter than normal. General rule of thumb is when 6 meter e-skip shortens up to 250-300 miles then it’s time to start checking 144 MHz for possible e-skip on that band.

Good to see there is still some life on 6m APRS. Band openings can make things interesting, even on VHF packet. Also nice to see there is some packet radio gear at the Pentagon MARS / AR station(s).

K4KPN-4’s 10m port beacons every 10 minutes and the 6m port beacons every 5 minutes with APRS compatible beacons to help detect band openings. The 50.620 MHz 1200 baud port on K4KPN-4 also supports WIDE1-1 digipeating in addition to normal packet radio connects.

 

WA4ZKO

 


SCS Tracker DSP TNC Firmware v1.7F Available

June 19, 2018

SCS Tracker DSP packet radio TNC firmware version 1.7F is now available for download from the Files section of the Robust Packet Yahoo Group or via the the beta firmware option in the SCSupdate program.

An easily overlooked source code formatting error snuck into a subroutine portion of the code in a way that didn’t throw any errors when compiled. This impacted the HDLC state machine’s ability to properly track multiple incoming frames. This is the bug detailed in some of my recent RP Group postings.

While this should be considered “beta” firmware for now, it appears to have solved the above problem. My initial testing is showing the problem resolved. If you use your Tracker DSP TNC for VHF/UHF packet then you should strongly consider installing this free firmware update.

NOTE: I have SCS looking into another packet mode bug that is on the transmission side of things. The TNC will never send more than 2 frames regardless of MAXFRAME settings. This may be a Winlink Express bug and more testing is needed. This would generally only impact 9600 baud users with degraded upload speeds.

Do note that RPR is hard coded to limit maxframe to 2 by design. This issue does not impact RP mode.

My thanks to John KX4O of VAPN for his help and testing.

Thanks to SCS for their excellent ongoing support and desire to further improve the Tracker DSP TNC for both ARPS and non-APRS uses.

WA4ZKO


K4KPN BBS & RMS Gateway are Available

June 9, 2018

KYPN would like to announce the full availability of the KYPN Dry Ridge BPQ32 based packet radio site as of June 9, 2018.

The following packet radio applications are available:

K4KPN-1    BBS
K4KPN-4    Node
K4KPN-13  Chat/Conference Server
K4KPN-14  RMS Gateway

The above packet radio applications are normally available 24x7x365 to appropriately licensed amateur radio operators on the following frequencies/modes:

SYSTEM PORTS:
441.0500 MHz 9600 baud *
145.6900 MHz 1200 baud
223.6600 MHz 1200 baud *
28.1480 MHz USB dial, 28.1495 CF, Robust Packet “NET10R” *
50.6200 MHz 1200 baud **
* High availability, primary port.
** Dual-use port, both general use & 6m APRS WIDE1-1 Digi

All 5 bands and 3 modes are published to the Winlink channel listing.

Recommended user software:

KYPN recommends Outpost Packet Message Manager version 3.0.0.333 for BBS access. Full installer is available for download here.

KYPN recommends Winlink Express v1.5.12.0 or newer for RMS access. Available for download from here.

More details can be found on the K4KPN-1 packet BBS under messages #1 thru 8.

More details in future blog posts and the work in progress draft KYPN System FAQ.

 

The KYPN team.


Packet Update, Winlink, Is Ham Radio Dying? Puerto Rico

May 26, 2018

Since the inbox shows some got worried when we went west early with only the APRS gate/digi project done I guess an update would be a good idea.

We went west for a friend’s wedding.  Pro Tip: Few things can compare to a wedding set against the Teton Mountains. Since we spent most of the post-holiday Winter season in 4-land I also had several 7-land biz/personal items needing attention. I flew back and the XYL is driving back as she wanted to stop and visit with her Iowa family.

For the worries about the packet stuff getting done this Spring/Summer? Well I had been waiting on two Liebert UPS systems to come in so I can finish up the power and remote control side of the “packet/HF” rack. They are in and this looks like a somewhat slow weekend/week ahead so we’ll see what gets done this week. completion time = good question. Between work and Dad’s health issues I’m not going to commit to any timelines on hobby stuff as I can barely nail down a work schedule beyond a week out. It is what it is, family and work come first.

What’s going to be put on the air?  Well I can say for sure that a 10m RP port and a UHF 9.6k port are coming. Our core occasional EMCOMM needs can be met by a local packet BBS with a 10m RP port plus a UHF 9.6k port. I’m still back-n-forth on spinning up the 2m/220 1.2k stuff. Granted we have lost several local ops in the last decade or so due to SK and job related moves, but I’m frankly more than a little shocked at how dead ham radio seems around here and across Kentucky.

A lot of area packet and voice infrastructure has came and gone within the last few years. “Lack of usage” is usually the reason given. Even worse I often hear sysops of existing gear commenting that they really can’t justify keeping unused stuff on the air. Several have said they’ll run it till they take storm damage then it will not be repaired. Use it or loose it folks.

APRS activity for “Dayton” seemed to be down somewhat. On that note, one of the western Kentucky ops emailed me that he came up for Dayton and could not hit a single Winlink packet gateway with his D710. I looked at the Winlink gateway map below and could only ask where are all the gateways? Lexington/Frankfort is a dead zone??? Several of the WKY gateways seem MIA. The SE KY gateway doesn’t exist, it is actually just a misconfigured Georgia gateway.

ky_rms_pkt_map_dayton_wknd_20180520

The other day I was at a tower site and tapped into a VHF-Hi antenna port to a nice true 6 dBd omni up at 210′ AHAG that I can hit repeaters from Lexington/Richmond, Louisville, and up into Dayton/Columbus from. Fired up Winlink Express, pulled the freshly updated channel list below and could not hit anything. Granted I was just using 4-5w from a FT-817 (very possible 25/45w could change things) to a 150-160 MHz optimized antenna. Still that’s not much of a gateway selection list compared to a few years ago. Lot of previously active systems around here are gone, misconfigured, or off the air for some reason. Yes I checked for the EMCOMM group.

RMS_Packet_few_20180526

Past chats with some of the Winlink sysops I know all reveal a common thread. Folks talk of wanting this or that infrastructure and it sees a brief burst of interest then activity just fades away. One sysop that shut his gateway down told me it was seven months before someone asked about his gateway’s status LOL.

In fairness this is not just a packet problem, we also see similar with the current state of D-Star, DMR, and the analog repeater scenes. I ran our group’s portable analog repeater from a couple sites from October 2017 till early May 2018. I kept it patched into a couple systems so I could both record and monitor any activity on it.  Over all that time the repeater’s total transmit time was just over 52 minutes. 99% of that was just the IDer running from lots of kerchunking, only four unique callsigns heard beyond mine, and two brief QSOs. As I told the guys, no need of risking that to storm damage for that amount of activity so it is back in storage till this Fall.

Several have commented that the hobby is dying a slow death. While I’m not going to be that dramatic the hobby is definitely facing some serious activity related challenges in most areas of the country. This even includes areas which used to be hotbeds of activity. We now have a boatload of paper hams and hams that have gone or remain inactive for a wide variety of reasons.

Kentucky has nearly 10,000 licensed hams so “where the heck are they?” is a fair and obvious question. I found it revealing awhile back when the primary ham radio mailing list for the state revealed only about 450 subscribers when they began a move to another mailing list system. I just looked and only around 190 have migrated to the new system after several months. One does not need to be a Harvard MBA to be floored by those numbers. Yes it’s easy to be a Negative Nate on this stuff, but Step 1 to fixing a problem is recognizing that you have one.

When asked about the latest ARRL licensing proposal I can only respond with “I  don’t think lowering our standards once again is going to change much. The downsides are many for a hobby of technical pursuits. I do thank the ARRL for the free lunch.”  For those wondering about the “free lunch” portion of that? Well I made a lunch bet back in 2016 that if ARRL membership continues to decline then expect another push to lower licensing standards.

To be blunt, the further “dumbing down” of the hobby is not the fix unless the problem revolves around fixing the flow of subscription/advertising money. You know it’s not like passing the current General class test is so difficult. Common to hear stories of folks that take the Tech test, pass it, then be handed the General for giggles and either pass it or barely fail it. It’s not like during the last solar cycle we had Techs piled up deep on the sweet chunk of 10m spectrum they already have access to. Since chasing “quantity” (ahem money) hasn’t worked out so well maybe it’s time to try focusing on quality?  I could go on and on but this post will likely be long enough as is LOL.

So back to VHF/UHF packet…..

Considering all the above I’m obviously going to have to ponder how much 1200 baud VHF gear I want to put on the air. Would it see enough BBS and Winlink usage to justify it? If it wasn’t for already having the gear and putting in the extra rack space for the remote HF-UHF station then it wouldn’t even be on the table for consideration.

 

My stance on Winlink….

I’ve never been overly warm to the VHF/UHF side of Winlink. It doesn’t make as much sense as the HF side of Winlink does. One of the locals did make a reasonable argument that since the Dry Ridge site serves several counties across a handful of power grids and ISPs then there are a few EMCOMM scenarios when VHF/UHF packet Winlink access could be useful, especially at 9600 baud.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Winlink for a variety of reasons. Some are security related, the abuse that goes on, software stability, software roadmap stability, and ability to audit what content is flowing over systems under my license. Let’s examine each one of these..

  1. Security remains a big concern. Moving things onto a certain cloud provider doesn’t help make one feel all warm and fuzzy but I get why they did it.
  2. The abusive use of Winlink on HF remains a concern. Sounds like it’s gotten worse now that the solar cycle has forced more and more of the HF Winlink folks down onto already crowded lower HF bands.
  3. Software stability issues remain. Client software glitches are one thing, but gateway software needs to be rock solid. We are now how many years into the development of the RMS software?
  4. The software roadmap appears as spastic as ever. There is really no reason why the version silliness needs to go on to the degree that it does. I mean come on after all this time surely we can have long term production versions that do the basics and do them well. Then have a beta fork for those that wish to play with whatever new shiny soundcard mode is the current rage. If I put RMS services on my gateway and it’s a never ending PITA of having to upgrade and revalidate new software versions then RMS will quickly go bye bye. I can always use the SMTP functions in BPQ32 for my own limited “Plan D” backup email needs.
  5. The ability of the sysop to audit content flowing over his/her RMS gateway is a mandatory requirement in my book. If you can’t inspect the content flowing over your system then how do you detect abuse and ensure rule compliance. While it’s not as good as it could be I will  credit the WDT for giving RMS gateway sysops some ability to review messages flowing over their gateways. Does it need improvements? Yes, but it is a start in the right direction.

So as you can hopefully see there are many things being considered in regards to what will be reinstalled and what new features will or will not be available.

 

Packet TNC options…..

Some have commented they would consider saving up for some packet gear if they knew with some certainty about what is going to be available long term. 10m RP (Robust Packet), 9.6k UHF, and maybe the 6m/220 1.2k baud AFSK ports should be around for the long haul. Due to how noisy the VHF band can be in some of our needed coverage locations I may convert the 6m 1.2k port to RP also. If I put the 2m 1.2k and 220 1.2k ports back online their future will be dependent upon their usage levels which I will examine in a couple years to see if they are worth maintaining.

Two decades of experience showed the 220 band was more useful than the 2m port. This was due to being cleaner spectrum and greatly reduced desense/bleed-over issues when we worked along side our public safety systems which are predominately 150 MHz. 145 MHz also tends to be full of various noise/QRM sources and that problem is only getting worse.

 

The ARRL / ARES Puerto Rico Adventures?

My KP4 trip was months afterwards and unrelated to any of that hot mess. I’ve heard both some first hand accounts and a lot of second hand stuff including the thought provoking interview the HRN crew did with a couple ops that went into post-hurricane KP4 for disaster relief. In short I could write a mini-novel on that topic. I’ll just hit on a few key points here that will be lengthy enough.

First – The ham radio failures in more than a view major drills and disasters of the last couple years should serve as major wake-the-heck-up calls for the EMCOMM folks. I’m around a lot of LMR and EMA folks for my day job. Trust me today many of these leaders are not impressed by the local ARES groups and are going to call the MARS folks first. Lot of this is due to past bad experiences and the often correct observation that their MARS teams are both better equipped, better trained, and thus more likely to meet a particular EMCOMM tasking.

If ARES wants to sell itself as the ones to call for when all else fails then ARES better be equipped, trained, and well practiced at operating under such conditions.  Hint – it takes more than fancy radios and go kits.

Second – Please DO NOT send folks into disaster zones with only soundcard modes for Winlink needs. Yes I concede that it sounded like they had to put that HF gear together quickly (didn’t already have it????) with portability and accountability in mind. Still for the love of Pete equip them with quality Pactor modems that are going to work better under the often marginal conditions of such deployments. Keep the soundcard modems as backups if you wish. That “you get what you pay for” saying has some merit to it.  Hint – there are reasons why SCS doesn’t sell soundcard Pactor software when they could make a fortune if they did.

PS – SCS would probably deeply discount Pactor modems to such official staged HF disaster go kits if asked via the proper channels. They have been generous towards good causes in the past. Hint hint hint hint!

Third – Even at this point in the solar cycle, down there, that time of the year, the higher bands will often be your best friends so take appropriate antenna system(s) with you. This “we’ll do it all on 80/40m” mentality continues to be a recipe for failure. 60m NVIS will be handy and having a good antenna for the WARC bands is a really good idea. Be aware that 15-10 meters may not only be open some during the day but may provide some nice SNR on the link. The propagation predictions within the Winlink software are barely useful for the lower bands and can’t predict all the propagation modes on the higher bands. A good op learns HF propagation, understands both solar cycle and seasonal changes, is aware of single/multi hop short skip possibilities on the higher bands, checks the beacon subbands, and tries to use the highest band available for a particular path.

Forth – It seems time for AMSAT to start dreaming big again. Imagine what could be done with a 9600 baud store-n-forward digital bird or two up there. Yes that is easier said than done, but we also need to think beyond HF.

All the above aside, at least some aspects of the KP4 deployments in 2017 were moments ham radio could be proud of even if it was an ugly year for ARES stateside. We also got a real world lesson on the importance of knowing how to handle formal traffic and the NTS folks have things to be proud of.

I see some latched onto the lack of good ICS over the deployment cycle. Not thoroughly knowing both sides of the problems revealed afterwards I would refrain from bashing that aspect of things. As someone that was a first responder for nearly two decades I can tell you that regardless of what you are told beforehand you need to go in prepared to walk right into chaos. You’re not there because things are going well. You must be flexible, able to prioritize, work as a team, and able to adapt on the fly to various surprises. These are situations poorly suited to those that can only function off checklists in textbook scenarios. Ultimately they got a limited crew in, did some good, and then got everyone out safely. Could it of gone better? Of course it could of. There will always be room for improvement.

Non-ham politics of the Puerto Rico disaster? Well in many ways KP4 was a long neglected mess before recent events put it front and center. It did not get that way overnight and it will not be fixed overnight. I think the bigger question is will the repaired infrastructure be well maintained long term? Can their previously struggling economy recover from all that has happened?

WA4ZKO