I'm no longer on the ARRL Contest Advisory Committee, and certainly don't
speak for ARRL, but since I led the CAC's deliberations on Remote Operating
and CW Skimmer, maybe I can shed some light on the questions asked by Pete
and Igor. The ARRL rules are fairly clear on the practices Pete and Igor
describe, but it's a little more complicated than you might think and there
are some issues with the wording of the rules.
By rule 3.7, use of a remote receiver to check for a clear frequency, as
described by Pete, is not allowed in the Single-Operator category under any
circumstances. For Single-Op Unlimited and Multi-Operator, the "spotting
network" exception in rule 22.214.171.124 applies. You could setup a remote
receiver and have it send Skimmer spots to the RBN. Since those spots are
available to everyone, this would be legal. But by rule 2.2.1, you could not
send audio or spots from the remote receiver over a Private internet
connection or phone link.
Filtering RBN spots of your own call to evaluate propagation, as described
by Igor, is not allowed in the Single Operator category because by rule
2.1.1 the use of "spotting assistance and nets" is prohibited. There's
actually a significant issue with the wording of this rule, which I'll
address below, but going strictly by what's published, Single-Ops can't do
it. For the Single-Operator Unlimited and Multi-Operator categories, the
exception in rule 126.96.36.199 would apply, and the practice would be legal as
long as you get the information via a publicly available spotting network.
However, you can't do it with a remote receiver that you install and/or
control. That would be self-spotting, which is prohibited by rule 3.14.
Going back to Pete's question, remote receivers must filter out your call to
avoid running afoul of the rule against self-spotting.
[Hmmm... are stations with dedicated *local* Skimmer radios that send spots
to the RBN filtering out their own calls?]
Now for the problem with the wording of the ARRL rules:
In 2009, the CAC studied CW Skimmer and developed clearly-worded changes to
the rules to address the technology. Those recommendations were accepted, in
their entirety, by the ARRL Programs and Services Committee, a sub-committee
of the ARRL Board of Directors. However, the wording that subsequently
appeared in the official rules does not match the CAC's recommendations. I
didn't discover that until fairly recently, and I don't know why the
PSC-approved recommendations weren't used when the rules were revised.
Unfortunately, the official wording is unclear and does not correctly
express the intent of the recommendations the CAC labored over for many
months. Perhaps someone at ARRL can explain how and why this happened.
The problem is that the official rules do not define the terms "spotting
assistance" and "spotting nets". In contrast, the CAC report uses the term
"spotting information", defined as follows:
"Spotting Information: Information specifying the transmit or receive
frequency and any portion of the call sign, identity, exchange information,
or location of another station with which a contest QSO could be made."
In Igor's scenario, when you receive a spot of your own call, you are not
getting information about "another station with which a contest QSO could be
made." Therefore, it's not spotting information. If the CAC's wording for
the rules had been used, the practice would definitely be legal for all
This is exactly what the CAC intended. Unlike many of the arguments about CW
Skimmer that were taking place on the cq-contest reflector at the time, and
that have been resurrected for the current debate, the CAC avoided
interpretation or definition of the word "assistance". As the public debate
demonstrated so well, that's a very slippery slope, especially when you have
to evaluate whether a particular technology is assistance or not. Instead,
we thought it was better to look at the issue from the point of view of what
information is being received and what impact that information has on
operating requirements and competitive factors.
The essential point is this: tuning and listening is the heart and soul of
Single-Op. It requires a certain set of skills, strategy and patience. If
you're using information from any source outside the frequency to which your
radio is tuned to find, identify and work stations, then you aren't tuning
and listening. That represents a fundamental difference in the operating
techniques and requirements associated with the Single-Op category,
dramatically changes the time it takes to find and work stations, and thus
changes the competitive landscape. What's more, the result looks exactly
like what a Single-Operator Unassisted does with packet spots. Looks like
packet, smells like packet, should be treated like packet. This approach
makes it very easy to decide whether or not CW Skimmer spots should be
By focusing on the information and the benefit it provides, we avoided
difficult semantic arguments over the meaning of "assistance", whether
there's a difference if the source is man or machine, and whether a
particular technology, now or in the future, might violate the spirit of the
So, if you look at it from that point of view, using RBN spots of your own
call to evaluate propagation doesn't fundamentally alter the key
differentiator of the Single-Op category: the requirement that you tune and
listen to make QSOs. Yes, the technology provides some benefit, but it's
along the same lines as using a band scope to determine if a band is open.
It's helpful, but it doesn't drastically alter the playing field. Yes, the
information comes from outside your station, but so do WWV reports, which
are perfectly legal. Are the scientists involved in those reports providing
assistance? At the end of the day, does it really matter whether they come
from your HF radio or the Internet?
I know the CAC's approach may not be appreciated by those who think the
rules for Single-Op should be based on the simple premise of "A boy and his
radio". But with rapid evolution in technology, station architecture and
operating techniques, it has become increasingly difficult to define exactly
what that term means. Again, it's better to focus on the information
received and its impact on the competition.
For those interested in the CAC's deliberations on Remote Operating and CW
Skimmer, the reports are published on the ARRL web site:
Each of the above documents is a semi-annual report to the Program and
Services Committee on the CAC's activities, but at the end of the main
reports you will find individual reports on the CAC's deliberations and
recommendations on the two topics of interest here.
73, Dick WC1M
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Edward Sawyer [mailto:SawyerEd@earthlink.net]
> Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 5:33 PM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] Aniother rules/remote RX issue
> The rules in CQ WW state as "call sign alerting assistance of any kind"
> and "remote receivers" are not allowed.
> The rules of ARRL DX state as "use of spotting assistance or automated,
> multi-channel decoders" are not allowed.
> Specifically, in CQ WW, I believe you would have to consider the RBN a
> form of a remote receiver and since ANY use of a remote receiver would
> look to be not allowed, I would interpret as not allowed.
> In ARRL DX, I believe the "multi-channel" decoder use (public or
> would be a local skimmer or public RBN. Again, for this reason, I
> say, not allowed.
> More interesting would be the use of looking up spots of yourself,
> especially in Phone contests. No use of remote receiver or decoder and
> no call sign alerting assistance (unless you consider your own call sign
> a call sign alert). That one seems to be squarely in the seams of the
> rules to me.
> The contest organizers should really keep updating the rules to clarify
> such questions as technology is evolving. It would help all of us "play
> and all play off of the same play book.
> Ed N1UR
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