Third-Party Traffic

    One of the Local QRPers was along the other day, this one with a look of concern in his eye. "I have been thinking about DX nets, and I believe they are illegal.", he said, sitting down and looking us right in the eye. "Some things never change", we replied confidently, "and there have been arguments for and against lists since the Early Days of DXing. They have been called cheating, spoon-feeding, immoral and a dozen other things, but love them or hate them, if they were illegal, they wouldn't exist." Of this we were confident. The argument over DX nets never ends. Like the Energizer Bunny, it goes on and on and on!!

    Just as we were sure we had headed this one off, the QRPer threw a fly in the ointment. "That's what I thought", he replied, "but there is a fundamental FCC regulation that will have every net controller issued a citation and if they continue to run their nets, they will eventually lose their ticket!! And I believe it's as solid as the rock of Gibraltar."

    We had to know more, for this appeared to be a new spin on an old story. "What reason have you found?", we asked. The QRPer was quick to reply: "Part 97.114 of the FCC regulations. This prohibits third-party traffic with those countries where a third-party agreement is not in existence." Son of a Gun! This was a new one . . . we'd expected a variation of the old standard about giving the 'last two' as beginning a transmission without your whole call. So we simply nodded to the QRPer and said "Tell us more."

    The QRPer was happy to comply. "It makes perfect sense. Let's say a DX station from a country with which we do not have a third-party agreement checks into a net. A station from ZA, for example. This is fairly common, right?" We had to agree that this happened a lot on nets. "OK," the QRPer continued, "now the net controller makes a list of stations wanting to work this DX." We nodded in agreement. "When the net controller runs the list, he always says something to like, ' AB, make your call' and the station ending in AB sometimes says 'Sorry, but I've lost propagation. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow night.' You must have heard this sort of thing." We had to admit that when we had listened to DX nets, it was not uncommon for a station on the list to lose propagation after the list had been taken. We still were confused at the possibility of a violation, so we asked the QRPer to explain what was illegal about this.

    "Nothing illegal yet," the QRPer continued, "but invariably the net controller will then call the DX station, the ZA for example, and say: 'ZAxxx, sorry, but yyyyAB says he has no propagation at this time." We looked at the QRPer and said nothing as he continued on. "Now, it seems to me that this is a case of the net controller passing traffic, in this case a message of no propagation, from the stateside station ending in AB to the DX station in Albania. And since the US and Albania have no third-party agreement, is the net controller not in violation of part 97.114?"

    We had to think about this, because the QRPer was starting to make sense. The more we thought about it, the more we were convinced he might have a point. On the other hand, why hadn't this question been asked before? Maybe it had, and we just hadn't heard the answer. So we looked at the QRPer and said: "Have you asked around about this?" He replied: "No, I haven't yet, but I intend to find out. Should I call the FCC and ask them?" We scratched our head for a moment and then replied: "No, we wouldn't do that. It may be better to ask the experts. Why don't you check in to one of the 20-metre nets like the one on 14.227 MHz or 14.247 MHz and ask one of the net controllers. They will likely have some thoughts on the matter that will clear this all up. They might even have some advice for you."

    "Good idea!", the QRPer answered and he was off to the shack, sure that a solution to his dilemma was only a question away! As for us, we went into the shack and set the VFOs for the net frequencies. We had planned to go to the DX Club meeting with the Old Timer, but we decided to see what was happening on the DX nets . . . sometimes you will find a new one when you least expect it!


This story is in the public domain and may be reproduced in any format. - VE1DX

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Last updated on Thursday, 12 April 2007