• Effective immediately we will be deleting, without notice, any negative threads or posts that deal with the use of encryption and streaming of scanner audio.

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Internet over radio / Emergency Communications

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sgarcata

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#1
I'm interested in finding out more about how to use HAM to connect to the internet for Emergency Communications during a mass casualty event whereby the local internet connectivity is knocked out. Is there a forum here that deals with this? (I looked and didn't see such).
 
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#2
If the internet is down, connecting a ham radio to it is rather pointless. Setting up a radio link to bridge a downed landline is something that needs to be done by your ISP, not the user.
 
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#3
Point to point data connections are fairly easy to do, but you'd need to connect to a location that had an active internet connection.

In reality, doing this on amateur radio may not be your best choice. While there certainly are frequencies you can do this on within the amateur radio allocations, there are some drawbacks:
1. You can't use amateur radio for business use. Using it for public internet connections would/could be an issue.
2. There are hundreds of non-amateur radio point to point and point to multipoint radio solutions out there. They are commercial off-the-shelf solutions that work very well and some are quite inexpensive. By not using amateur radio frequencies, the non-business use stuff is resolved.

Check out Ubiquity radios. They are cheap, reliable and can be set up to run pretty long links. We used to use some at work that were around $99 each.

Now if you want mobile internet access, that's going to limit you. Icom used to sell a 1.2GHz radio that would do data, but it was at ISDN speed (128K).

If internet access in a true disaster/emergency is a requirement, then look into Inmarsat BGAN terminals. Expensive, but they'll work nearly anywhere.
 

jwt873

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#4
Your question is a little vague... You want to use ham radio to connect to the internet when there is no internet?? There's no way to do that.

If you need long haul ham radio communications in an emergency, the best bet would be to look at HF (high frequency) equipment. Under normal conditions, using HF, you can talk from California to New York or North Dakota to Texas. Under good conditions, you can reach anywhere in the world.
 

sgarcata

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#5
Thank you... I'll look into what you are referring to.
The situation in this region is:
1. Northern Coastal California: we've got both the top end of the San Andreas fault and the lower end of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. We have frequent earthquakes and occasional tsunamis. This county and the one just to the north of us are sparsely populated with challenging geographic obstacles... lots of hills, lots of rivers cutting across roads; lots of land slides and other reasons whereby the roads "in" are blocked or otherwise impassible. Just last week we had a 7.0 earthquake just off shore and the 3 main roads were compromised (for other reasons). The one going East to Redding was completely closed with no ETA for reopening. The 2 fiber cables into this region are cut or otherwise damaged once or twice a year.
2. While voice comm is "nice", it isn't very efficient in a widespread emergency wherein there would be a lot of traffic; a need to transmit messages efficiently and correctly; and a need to triage for attention by emergency responders.
3. Until the ARC (Red Cross) techs can get in to set up their satellite internet equipment, we would like a way to communicate to the "outside" world. Even after they have set up their satellites, there is frequent fog and overcast which could interfere. In addition there are 4 or 5 bridges between the EOC and where the ARC satellites would be.

I've seen videos of set ups whereby computer is connected to a radio which is connected to a router (or maybe the other way around) giving access via TCP/IP to another radio connected to a router connected to a computer; the idea is to hop along using radios as "nodes" / repeaters until there is connection with someone who has regular internet access.

Our local HAM club EmComm group is considering setting this up. I'm new to HAM so on a steep learning curve (although I have a tech background). So I was inquiring here to see if there were others who have done this or are considering doing this.
 

jwt873

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#6
OK, as mmckenna points out there is a method of connecting routers in the 2.4 and 5 Ghz range and setting up a network similar to the ones wireless internet providers use. It's known as Broadband Hamnet or HSMM (High speed multimedia).

Depending on the area you want to cover, the infrastructure can be quite costly and complicated to set up. The big challenge is finding sites to install nodes. Plus, you need a bridge to the internet somewhere in the network. If that internet bridge goes down, then you have no access.

We have a network where I live in Manitoba Canada. I access it using a Ubiquity Bullet router connected to a grid dish. But even with the network, there has to be a connection to the ineternet.. Ours is on a 300 foot apartment building.

Here's a YouTube video on ham radio HSMM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUeW2ju-RZk
 
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#9
The latest iteration is AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network, link --> Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network). Regardless of what specific technology you use over ham radio, there are a few things to remember, although some may change as the technology progresses and the FCC rules change.

First off, there is no encryption allowed. Although most routers have the feature built in and folks generally expect the connection to be encrypted, this is not allowed under current FCC rules. A few years ago there was a request to allow encryption over ham radio and many hams voiced their opinions on the topic. HIPAA was a common point as was the use of encryption for router based data links (such as Broadband Hamnet) not only to secure them for HIPAA related traffic, but to keep non-hams from attaching to them and violating the licensing rule. Both points were given serious consideration but the request was denied at the time. Perhaps it will be reconsidered in the future.

Second, there can be no business conducted over the ham radio connection. While this does have a gray area (you can announce you have ham related gear for sale for example, but the actual transaction should be done using other methods). It's clear that the typical internet shopping is not allowed (that lack of encryption should make you not want to do that anyway).

Third, you must have other stations in range for you to communicate with or through to reach a working and connected internet connection. Often times, the gateway on ham connected networks have firewall rules to help enforce the FCC rules such as shopping sites are not routed through.

It sounds like you're more interested in a network to link hospitals or governmental agencies to allow them to communicate when all else fails instead of the typical internet tasks of shopping, viewing videos, and the like so many of those restrictions should not be a problem.

That encryption may be though, but technically HIPAA does not require encryption (https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-profe...ion-mandatory-in-the-security-rule/index.html) although most agencies believe it does and often require it for their electronic communications. This can be handled by using specific care in isolating the patient identification information from their medical information.

For example, you might have some transmissions stating patient "John Smith" is in area 4, bed 2, but not providing any information on what's wrong with that patient. Later in seemingly unrelated transmissions, you can request specific treatments or equipment be done in area 4, bed 2. A better option (if possible given the situation) would be to register "John Smith" and assign them an arbitrary identification number during a personal visit (perhaps during the triage process) and their assigned number placed on an armband with all transmissions about that patient only using this assigned number.

Another good resource that may be of value is the Medical Reserve Corps (https://www.ready.gov/medical-reserve-corps). While radio is not the main point of this organization, it is critical for them and they have established tested plans and procedures for how to handle the necessary communications during mass casualty events.
 
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#10
The trouble you'll run into by just connecting a computer to a TNC and to a radio is that the bandwidth is painfully low for anything on the internet.

You can set up a simple packet network and run slow speed stuff. That would be fine for e-mail message type use. You can do that on HF, VHF, UHF, etc.
But really, we are talking about sub-dial up modem speeds. 9.6K.

To do anything useful, you need bandwidth, and lots of it. To get that you need to have several MHz wide channels, and you are not going to get that anywhere other than way up the spectrum. Trouble with that is then the range becomes short and it is 100% line of sight only.

If this is for a hospital, county, city, etc. they already have access to statewide microwave networks for this sort of emergency stuff. They wouldn't necessarily need amateur radio for this. As long as the microwave path is there, they'd be up and running with more bandwidth that amateur radio would be able to reasonably provide. Probably already exists, or they just need to tie into the network.

I'm down in Central California, and I've spent some time up your way. You've got some real challenges if you are trying to get wireless high speed data in/out of there. Anything you'd do is going to require either satellite or microwave shots to the mountain tops and over into another region that hopefully wouldn't be impacted. That's going to be expensive since the mountain top sites are going to need some substantial infrastructure to make them reliable. Battery backup would be necessary, and not just a couple of old car batteries. You'd want routers to do some sort of mesh network, ideally. Weather/fog does get to be an issue, but you overcome that with frequency choice, power and antenna/dish size. I've got a number of microwave links at work and I'm on the ocean, so dealing with rain, fog and weird weather is something we've had to overcome, but most of our shots are a few miles at best.

Having redundant connections using different means would be the way to go. Amateur radio, again, probably isn't going to be your best choice unless you are willing to spend a lot of money.
Alternate fiber paths running north, south and east would be the way to go. I work for a research university, and we've got our own fiber paths running east into silicon valley, south to a connection point about 90 miles away, alternate paths using AT&T fiber, etc. The key is having the unique paths, routers, etc. to make sure you limit the single points of failure.

Something like a DirectTV satellite internet link might be a better choice. Install one at a hardened location, then distribute out from there.
Other choice is the Inmarsat BGAN terminals. Expensive, but will work from just about anywhere. They'll pack away in a case and you just set them up where needed.

Really, this comes down to budget, and unless you have a clearly established list of requirements and a realistic budget, this is just a paper exercise.
 
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#11
Commercial grade equipment will be needed.

Rather than "how can ham radio solve this problem", a betterway of looking at this might be "how can the skills and resources of ham radio enthusiasts be utilized to solve this".
 
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#12
So there is nothing wrong with creating a LAN that can operate independently from the internet (this doesn't mean that it can't be tied into the internet). There are several ways to go about it with 802.11 based devices. Someone suggested Broadband Hamnet…I'd avoid it for the OP's situational purposes. Reason being is it can be done using the same equipment with OEM firmware. I am not a fan of the slowdown factor of mesh networking either. Ubiquiti makes many products that are G2G, so does Mimosa, Cambium, etc.

Many public safety systems rely on similar setups using proper redundant routing and back haul techniques.


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