PACKET RADIO: Autoforwarding Rules

Steve Wolf, W8IZ@W8IZ

(This text from the W8IZ packet radio bulletin

board. It's formatted to fit a 80 character screen.)

(PR DOCKET NO. 93-85)

The FCC has relaxed the amateur service rules to enable
contemporary message forwarding systems to operate at hundreds of
characters per second while retaining safeguards to prevent misuse.

A message forwarding system is a group of amateur stations
participating in a voluntary, cooperative, interactive arrangement
where communications from the control operator of an originating
station are transmitted to one or more destination stations via
forwarding stations, which may or may not be automatically

Currently, the control operator of each station is held
individually accountable for each message retransmitted, resulting
in unnecessary content review and delays. The American Relay
League, Inc. (League) stated that the obligation of the control
operator of the first forwarding station should be the
establishment of the identity of the station originating the
message. Only when this is not done should these control operators
be held accountable for improper message content. Also, there are
currently no central supervisory authority in an ad hoc amateur
service digital network, making these unsupervised systems easy
targets for misuse by uncooperative operators and non-licensees.
Moreover, the Commission said that it could be difficult to
establish after the fact that a particular VHF station originated
a fleeting high speed digital transmission. For these reasons, the
Commission said there must be on-going oversight of the system and
the control operators of the first forwarding stations are in the
best position to provide such oversight.

Therefore, the Commission will hold accountable only the
licensees of the station originating a message and the license of
the first station forwarding a message in a high speed message
forwarding system. The licensee of the first forwarding station
must either authenticate the identify of the station from which it
accepts communications on behalf of the system, or accept
accountability for the content of the message.

The Commission also clarified that the station that receives
a communication directly from the originating station and
introduces it into the message forwarding system is the first
forwarding station.

The League and the Colorado Council of Amateur Radio Clubs
suggested that the Commission substitute the word "simultaneously"
for "instantaneously" in the redefinition of a repeater. The
Commission concurred and adopted this modification.

The Commission believes that these rule changes will enable
contemporary high speed message forwarding systems to operate as
their designers intended, while retaining the minimum safeguards
necessary to prevent misuse.

Action by the Commission March 30, 1994, by Report and Order
(FCC 94-76). Chairman Hundt, Commissioners Quello and Barrett.

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