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Frequently Asked Questions about the HSMM HInternet[edit]

Q: Why?

A: Because could be used by the amateur service as a truly independent amateur-only network. Because the United States may implement an Internet kill switch. Because equipment is cheap and spectrum has been granted to the amateur service for it and there is no technical reason not to.

Q: What's this about an Internet kill switch?

A: Since before World War II, the President of the United States has had powers granted to him or her by the Telecommunications Act which allow for emergency control of communications equipment in a time of war, threat of war, or national emergency. The United States has continuously been in such a state of national emergency since 1995, and this was recently reaffirmed for another year on September 10th, 2010.

Recent proposed legislation (the PCNAA) will limit those powers, but create a new DHS entity named the NCCC. The NCCC would require operators of "critical infrastructure" to make provisions for operating inside the DHS command and control hierarchy in case of emergency. This would provide the NCCC with a mechanism to coordinate response efforts in the case of a cyberspace emergency.

Although having a national response effort to coordinate e.g. packet filters for disrupting a hostile overlay network sounds perfectly reasonable, it greatly amplifies the consequences of any mistakes made by the NCCC compared to the existing mechanisms such as CERT and the ad-hoc web of trust already in place between large network operators. If the amateur service had an independent network that was outside the jurisdiction of the NCCC's authority over civil telecommunications networks, it could be very useful for handling high bandwidth EMCOMM if the NCCC required American Internet exchanges to "throw the switch."

Q: Why HSMM and not traditional packet?

A: Although technical reasons like spectral efficiency do factor into the plan, the bottom line is that HSMM gear is an order of magnitude less expensive than traditional packet setups. For the same price, many more nodes can be deployed, even considering that VHF doesn't always require line of sight.

Q: Why use bands near the part 15 frequencies? Why not use 2.3 GHz or similar frequencies?

A: Cost. Cards for 2.3 GHz and similar frequencies cost much more than entire nodes for 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies.

Q: What about existing mesh networks?

A: They're welcome to link into the backbone as long as they implement filters to comply with part 97 rules on the gateway.

Q: Why 802.11s?

A: Because it's a standard that runs on many platforms, including the firmware of certain wireless chips. Other mesh routing protocols may have technical advantages over 802.11s, but they do not have firmware-only implementations which would reduce the cost of implementation.

Q: Why not D-Star?

A: D-Star is a great platform for digital operation, and this project doesn't directly complete with it. The combination of a D-Star network and a HSMM network at a given location will provide more options for operators compared to only one or the other. A healthy ham club will eventually have enough resources over time to install both options if their members think it's necessary.

Q: Why Part 97-only frequencies and not Part 15 frequencies?

A: Part 15 frequencies could be used, but network performance will probably lead most backbone operators to use Part 97-only frequencies instead. In some specific cases (rural installations, for example), Part 15 frequencies might be used under Part 97 operation and nothing about this project is incompatible with that.

Q: Why commercial hardware instead of an amateur-specific device?

A: If an amateur creates their own HSMM node, great! The links in the network are created by individual hams, and if two of them decide to use homebrew hardware then that's between them as long as the rest of the network isn't affected.

This project doesn't have amateur-specific gear now though, and commercial equipment is available immediately. Designing a product to amateur reliability requirements will be a significant undertaking and no volunteers to do it have stepped forward.