The people power demonstrations in Egypt over the last week were probably fueled just that bit more by the government’s decision on 27 January to cut mobile phones and the internet. The deteriorating situation in Egypt is currently sharing top news position here in Australia with the monstrous tropical cyclone Yasi due to hit major population centres of far north Queensland in hours!
There have been reports of how protesters have turned to ‘old technology’ – fax machines, dial-up modems and even ham radio(!) – to restore communications with each other and the outside world. The BBC report Old technology finds role in Egyptian protests describes how dial-up modems have been used to contact international ISPs.
IDG News journalist Nancy Gohring wrote a piece in PC World explaining how Ham Radio is Not a Viable Option for Egypt. She quotes ARRL’s Allen Pitts stating there are no confirmed transmissions from Egypt yet.
The WeRebuild wiki details frequency bands on 40m and 20m being monitored including 7080.8kHz for CW signals. The wiki page does include transcripts of some messages received – but none since 29 Jan. And it would be a challenge to verify their authenticity.
WeRebuild have even set up an IRC channel for ham operators monitoring these frequencies. The Huffington Post quotes some of the messages.
As I write this there are 91 posts in a discussion thread on QRZ.com debating the use of ham radio by the protesters and overseas operators. Amongst the majority counselling caution and “Keep Ham Radio out of politics – if you don’t, Politics will shut Ham Radio down (in Egypt and in other places, too)”, a minority of posts take an alternate view such as this contributor:
“Freedom is not free. To advocate “staying out of it” on the grounds of damaging ham radio is the same as our founding fathers telling the militiamen on the green at Lexington to stay home, lest the British come take their guns too. The only legitimate reason for staying out of it is the decision of which side you are on — and yes, when it comes to liberty we all have an obligation to investigate the issues and take sides.”
This is a passionate and interesting discussion of what constitutes emergency communication and how hams should respond to calls for assistance such as “health and welfare traffic” etc.
Meanwhile closer to home (and across the US as well) people brace themselves for some of the most extreme and destructive weather which is sure to cut power and communications for extended periods. And hams will be there to help.
Cyclone Yasi Update: VK amateurs are maintaining a listening watch on the WICEN frequency 7075kHz. Full details of relevant HF nets and local north Queensland repeaters have been published by the WIA. Tomorrow morning’s 6am Gnarly Net should make for interesting listening on 3600kHz.
The national broadcaster, the ABC is heavily promoting two shortwave frequencies on its 24 hours TV news channel, in anticipation of its local AM and FM towers being damaged by the cyclone. The special rolling coverage of the cyclone can be heard online and on 9710kHz by day and 6080kHz by night.