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Drawing from direct personal experience in the defense contracting industry, I can guarantee you that if a major Class-A clusterfuck disaster hits somewhere in the US, you'll see the military and federal response heavily using satellite. In-the-clear VHF, UHF and shortwave radio, sure, a lot of it, and the military equivalents thereof for their own communications, but you'd also see things like homeland security command trucks with 1.8 meter VSAT terminals on the roof parked outside major metro areas' hospitals.

Satellite can also be used to quickly restore portions of a badly damaged telecommunications system (mobile phone carriers and LTE networks) by giving an islanded/disconnected network a new multi-Mbps uplink to the outside world. With the right ground terminal equipment and transponder capacity you can do 130 Mbps full duplex through a relatively small portable satellite terminal. Such a pipe can be connected to a LEC network, to a mobile phone carrier, to a major ISP, to just about anything given the right network engineering expertise.




FEMA spent the money to equip US local first responders with short wave radios as a backup comm system. But they have trouble getting non-FEMA agencies to use them and test them occasionally.

The problem isn't the radios. It's that the culture of operating with very limited communications bandwidth and slow message forwarding has been lost. Writing out messages on paper to be read over the air and copied by hand at the other end is totally alien today. You have to design your operations to minimize long distance traffic, and nobody does that any more.


Low-bandwidth, text based communications? There have been purely text based IRC servers (and XMPP/Jabber) on SIPRnet since 2003 or around then. All IP data and frequently implemented over geostationary satellite. It was interesting seeing what people in FOBs in Kunar province want to talk about. Very much agreed that getting non military people to learn communications discipline would be difficult.


They still use IRC over SIPR.


I started to agree with you but then remember text messages. Older people often complained about younger people sending such cryptic messages with all kinds of short-hand over extremely-limited bandwidth of text. Even had delays in the network they got used to. This repeated with Twitter minus the huge delays.

So, I think they could use it if you gave them a limited interface with a popup like "Warning: This connection is slower than dial-up. Send messages frugally like on text messaging. If images, send tiny and compressed ones with lower, quality settings. Don't even think about video. Delays in responses could occur at any time."

I figure they'd get the idea and adjust.


Sounds like having relatively high bandwidth won't be a problem. Isn't bandwidth available a bit arbitrary any way? Shouldn't my device just be able to communicate anywhere in the spectrum with handlers for all legacy protocols?


The issue is routing. HF Amateur radio as used for emergency purposes routes by manual re-copying of messages between an ad-hoc network of stations. This is basically WWII technology. Works OK, but very limited traffic capacity.

There are VHF repeater chains, AX-25, and other fancier ham infrastructure, but if that's up and running, the cellular network is probably up, too.

The next ARRL Field Day is June 25-26. This is supposed to be practice for emergency communications, but it's really just a DX contest. Everybody just tries to contact other stations at random; there's no attempt to set up a net. You'll see antennas in parking lots. Visit the people there and see what they're up to.


> You'll see the military and federal response

For the whole life of the service the regulations state that one of the many reasons for the service to exist is to help the public during emergencies. And for that entire time, there's been endless philosophical / political arguments over if helping the government equals helping the public or if the government and corporations can take care of themselves or only take care of themselves while hams help the general public. Does the public mean random dude off the street or does it mean licensed ham radio operators or does it only mean the government and corporations or every possible combination of the three? Furthermore there's a dimension of some people see emcomm as a calling for survivalism and societal collapse and post-earthquake exclusively, whereas 99.99% of actual over the air emcomm activity is just another boring day until one guy reports a car accident or medical emergency in a rural area with no cell coverage and it'll never make the news.

I don't want to fight the argument here, but the point I'm making is for decades there's been healthy debate, so if the loudest definition is making cognitive dissonance in your head, that's OK, because a very significant fraction of the ham population sees things like you do. For all values of what you're seeing.

Ham radio is extraordinarily big and one thing many people have in common across the entire hobby is a viewpoint that their small corner of the very large hobby is the only real ham radio and their interpretation of the rules is the only correct interpretation. That is about the only ham radio stereotype that is really true most of the time. If someone claims the only "real ham radio" or "real path to ham radio" is local FM repeaters or 75 meter SSB voice or contesting or not contesting or emcomm or not emcomm or restoring old radios or building new radios or microwave experimentation or pretty much any ham radio activity, the only thing that is certain is they're completely wrong.


That'll all work great for the government workers, but there's always going to be a window between when those comms are available for the government and when cell service is restored to the point you can coordinate with family and friends reliably.




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