Open Letter To The ARRL DX Awards Committee

What follows is an email I sent to the DX Awards Committee representative for the Northwest. This is largely in response to the July DXAC committee report.

First, thank you so much for your service to this region. I also really appreciate the ARRL and all it does for all aspects of he hobby of amateur radio.

In short, I am largely in support of the spirit of the DXAC’s recommendations (section 1.9 in the July committee report). I believe additional clarifications are needed, in order to make this understood by the amateur radio community.

My two concerns are: 1) I want to ensure this does not impede my remote use of my personal station for DXCC credit. 2) I want to ensure that this does not unintentionally impede my ability to work qualify for DXCC credit while portable, distant from my home station. I urge the DXAC to seek input on other use cases outside the two types of remote stations outlined in the recommendation.

I feel that the commercial operations really do have the ability to change the relative difficulty of obtaining the DXCC awards and I’m strongly in support of finding ways to add some limitation to the use of remote stations.

What follows is my best attempt at describing why this concerns me.

By way of introduction, I’m a new ham, licensed as a Technician in Everett in January of 2013 and upgraded to General in July. I work at a large local software company and have always been a bit of a hacker and tinkerer. Amateur radio was a hobby that “felt like home” when I started reading. It’s a vast and varied hobby, with huge amounts of technical depth that I’ve enjoyed immensely. The crossover between technology, atmospheric conditions, and basic RF theory has been amazing. I’ve connected with local hams and am peripherally involved in our EmComm efforts, I’ve built an HF station I’m proud of (and learned a ton in the process), and I’ve become a dedicated DXer and even dabbled in contesting a bit.

Something I tried very early on (as a technician) was remotely monitoring and operating my home station. I cobbled together a set of CAT controls, mechanisms to remote my desktop, and back-haul my audio. One week, I checked into my club’s Thursday night net by remotely operating my VHF rig from Hyderabad India. I was thrilled with the possibilities.

Over the course of the past year, I’ve worked to improve the reliability and function of my station both while “at the rig” and while remote. In May, I was awarded a Mixed Band/Mode DXCC, followed quickly a Mixed Band Phone DXCC and I’m prepping an application for a handful of others. Having a milestone to work toward has been fun and has become part of my involvement in the hobby.

I’m an avid digital user and the ease of working PSK, JT65, or RTTY from literally anywhere with internet access has shortened many an airport layover. I have an HF phone setup that is reliable enough to ragchew with my (/7 local) friends on 40m, while I’m in a hotel room in Beijing China. While I don’t usually try to break through a pileup while remote, I certainly have confirmed contacts from DXCC entities. Some of these were obtained while I wasn’t even in the US. None of these were new confirmations for me, I’d have been disappointed to have a new one disqualified from my DXCC standings, solely based on how I’m using my station.

I’m also a fairly active portable operator, largely QRP and battery-powered. I take a small station with me when I travel to the east coast and operate from parks. Similar to my remote usage, I don’t have any unique DXCC confirmations from my portable operations, but I don’t feel if I did, they should be credited, as they were within the US.

The DXAC’s recommendation, as I understand it, hinges on the definition of “home station.”

  • If interpreted to mean “the operator can only be <n miles from the station” it limits the use of my station in confirming DXCC entities while I travel.
  • If interpreted as “all qualifying contacts must be made from within n miles from a single home station” this has the potential to impede my portable operations.

I urge you to seek additional feedback and clarify the definition of “home station” before the ARRL codifies the recommendations into formal rules.

Again, I really appreciate all you do for the ARRL and for the hobby!

73, K7ADD