CB Packet: still useful?

2011-12-22

It seems that with the recent press coverage of the SOPA (Stop On-line Piracy Act) being thrashed out in American congress, that a number of people are already trying to set in motion plans for alternative methods of communication should the Internet come under threat from government censorship and restriction. There is discussion ongoing amongst Internet communities about what to do if the shit hits the fan. One of the discussion forums is located here.

If you are unaware of the situation regarding SOPA and how it can affect the rest of the world - not just Amercia - please watch this video which explains it sufficiently well.

Unfortunately, a subject/proposal that keeps coming up is the use of Amateur Radio (bands and equipment) to set up digital networks. A lot of these discussions fail to recognise the key legislation, rules and behaviour protocol concerning Amateur Radio.

A discussion post explaining in quite some detail why any plan to utilize Amateur Radio as an Internet replacement is (for the general public) impossible is discussed here (if it doesn't work, here is a mirror of the initial post).

Whats the relevance here?

27Mhz CB and PMR free-band may still get caught up on the encryption issue - but it does enable an alternative free flow of plain-text compressed messaging for the general public, and is more or less a free-for-all as long as usage is kept within the legal framework in the country it is operated.

It must be said, 1200 baud HF packet on CB is tediously slow, but it is an option nonetheless. Some of the infrastructure left over from the 90s CB packet boom is actually still operational in places such as Germany, The Netherlands, Finland, Austria and Switzerland. 60 so nodes are still operational across Europe (excluding stand alone RF stations) by using the Internet to interlink RF gateways over greater distance than permitted by radio propagation (citation).

BBS and converse facilities still exist on those nodes, and the AX25 packet routing setup (NETROM) permits semi-automatic mesh-like networking for nodes using radio transmitters for links. Nodes are also the entry points to the network that are used by users (via Internet using telnet or direct AX25 connection). Perhaps the individuals running the nodes will eventually switch their radio ports back on, as many of the radio ports are apparently switched off at the moment.

That said, this isn't really a medium capable of handling thousands of users. It is easily affected by interference and atmospheric conditions the same way amateur radio is. While CB packet would welcome an influx of users to regenerate the retro CB packet medium - in all practical ways it is difficult and time consuming to set up.

Making use of consumer-grade mass-produced freeband items such as a 2.4Ghz/5Ghz wireless communication device is a more likely candidate for any kind of free-for-all mesh network.

Additionally, at time of writing, the legal barriers for CB packet in the USA still exist, so this is likely not an immediate solution for them. Of course, operating packet illegally on CB is at the risk of the user. This is not a call to condone such actions, but it should be mentioned that piracy on CB/free-band has existed for years and will probably continue to do so.

- CBPacket


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LpzNOD:WP1DIG           :Z0PCH0-2