It's Time To Change The HF Contest Rules!
Background The Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) operates on 14300.0 KHz, 365 days a year, from 12 noon until 10 PM Eastern time. The MMSN strongly supports all forms of amateur radio operations, including contesting. We feel that every amateur radio operator should be permitted to participate in whatever aspect of the hobby they choose. But, we feel that the way that the HF SSB contests are currently being conducted is inadequate and improvements in the structure are desperately required. During an HF SSB contest, one major problem is the incredible amount of interference caused by contest stations operating close to or on the net frequency. This seriously impairs the nets ability to hear stations calling the net to such a degree that, should a ship encounter trouble at sea and require assistance, it may not be heard due to the interference. This is life-threatening and unacceptable! Another problem that the net faces is caused by contest stations operating from outside North America and not understanding that the net is in progress. They call "CQ Contest" on or very close to the net frequency, thereby drawing-in stations close to the net to answer them. Some do not speak English well enough to understand that a net is in progress so the net is ignored. Unlike an HF SSB contest, a disaster at sea, a medical emergency, an act of piracy or a natural disaster is not a scheduled event. As of October 2009, all three regions of the IARU have established 14.300 MHz, as well as other frequencies on other bands, as the Global Center of Activity (GCOA) frequency in the SSB portion of the 20 meter amateur band. In the event of an emergency situation, these frequencies are used for initial contact. The MMSN guards 14.300 MHz in the event that a station needs assistance. For the past five years, the MMSN has attempted to encourage the major HF SSB contest organizers to modify their contest structure in a way that would better serve the interests of all of the amateur community. We proposed that they establish a range of frequencies in which their SSB contest would operate. For example, the rules for a SSB contest could say that "...on 20 meters, the contest will operate between 14.150 MHz and 14.250 MHz." This would leave the top and bottom portions of the of the 20 meter SSB band usable for the rest of the amateur community. Why do SSB contests require the entire phone band, to the exclusion of all else An alternate but less practical proposal that we made to the HF SSB contest organizers was to establish a "protected window" around all of the GCOA frequencies that could be subject to contest interference. After the 2007 Global Amateur Radio Emergency Communication (GAREC) meeting, the ARRL published an article summarizing the meeting on their website saying, in part,"....GAREC also asked Amateur Radio contest organizers to include a provision in their rules that contest participants avoid frequencies in the immediate vicinity of the Center of Activity frequencies (as proposed at GAREC-05); these frequencies are 14.300, 18.160 and 21.360 MHz. According to Allen Pitts, ARRL PR Manager, "This would minimize interference to weak or distant stations which may be passing emergency traffic, but not heard in the contest din." This was the wish of all nearly 100 amateurs attending the GAREC meeting. The ARRL web site also says "Public service communication has been a traditional responsibility of the Amateur Radio Service since 1913. In today's Amateur Radio, disaster work is a highly organized and worthwhile part of day-to-day operation, implemented principally through the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and the National Traffic System (NTS), both sponsored by ARRL." Conclusion It is our assertion that CQ Magazine, the ARRL and all the other HF SSB contest sponsors have created an intolerable and potentially life threatening situation. They must now temper their contests and allow other activities to continue. We say that the rules and structure currently governing the HF SSB contests are out of date, ill-conceived and contradict the spirit of Amateur Radio by inhibiting other stations that are not participating in the contest from the use and enjoyment of their equipment. THEREFORE, we the undersigned, petition The American Radio Relay League, CQ Communications Inc., The International Amateur Radio Union, Radio Amateurs Of Canada and all other HF SSB contest sponsors to implement changes to the rules and structure of their respective SSB contests, in order to: 1) Protect The Global Center of Activity Frequencies on all amateur radio bands from contest interference and, 2) Respect the priviledges of non-contest stations in the operation of their equipment by narrowing the portion of the HF SSB band in which the contest operates. If you agree, please sign the below petition which will be forwarded to the contest organizers. Thank-you for your time and support. The Maritime Mobile Service Network Management Rene K4EDX - Net Manager Tom VE3II - Assistant Net Manager