Internet Amateur Radio Linking and the Third Party Traffic Rules

How does Internet Amateur Radio Linking and the Third Party Rules play out?

Third Party Traffic for USA Licensees is prohibited under FCC 97.115 when the contacted country is not party to a Third Party Agreement.

A list of countries who we have Third Party Traffic agreements can be found at:

This list is most important for the countries NOT on it. Germany, France, Russia, Italy, Ireland and many others do not have Third Party agreements with us.

So are we legal is we handle internet traffic originating or terminating in a country without a Third Party Traffic Agreement, unless the traffic is exactly between ourself as the licensed Amateur and a Specific licensed Amateur operating the other end?

Perhaps looking at when the traffic is being transmitted via radio and when it is on the internet could be useful?

Since the message originates as a net message and usually travels at least some distance, if even mere feet, as an internet message at each end, could it be argued it is Internet Traffic that just happens to use an Amateur Radio link as part of its travels?

Seems a reasonable, if incomplete argument.  The glaring question is how do you claim it as Internet Traffic when the addressing structure and network design is known to use a licensed service?  The WinLink or DStar aspect really couldn’t be claimed as incidental when it is by design part of the system.

The push of technology will likely lead to a revisiting of Third Party Traffic rules, though presently one wonders if as a control operator would a person be legally on sounder ground to refuse any questionable traffic from or to countries without a Third Party Traffic Agreement?   



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3 thoughts on “Internet Amateur Radio Linking and the Third Party Traffic Rules

  1. K3NG says:

    Hi Steve,

    I’ve often thought the third party traffic rules were a relic of the 40s or 50s, back when amateur radio traffic networks were a viable/attractive alternative to the long distance public switched telephone network. The Internet has introduced a totally new paradigm in worldwide communications that can’t be encumbered easily by regulations or borders and it’s certainly changed amateur radio.

    I think we need to have rules that allow the passing of encrypted Internet traffic over amateur radio, regardless of origin or destination, for “personal” uses. The definition of “personal” gets a little fuzzy, and you have to craft the rules to allow commercial traffic, but not allow someone to create an ISP or Internet transport company over amateur radio.

    In any case, there’s no easy solution. I hope the ARRL begins to address this or some organization takes a leadership role.


  2. Greg HS0ZHM says:

    I wonder about VOIP in general. Skype is more like a phone call and doesn’t require an amateur license so isn’t covered by Third Party rules. EchoLink uses VOIP similar to Skype, but does require a radio license to use it. But if two Echolink users connect strictly by computer via the internet, and no part of their contact uses RF, then the QSO is like a Skype VOIP exchange. Similarly, integrating EchoLink and Skype, so long as they are connected ONLY over the Internet would seem to fall outside Third Party rules. In either case, most will agree that these are at least gray areas.

    It seems clear to me that anytime the communication hits the air waves (RF transmission), then Third Party rules can apply. The problem for many EchoLink users is this: they may be connecting via the internet and TX from their computer, and its possible, unknown to them, that another EchoLink node connects indirectly to them…for example, the originator (A) could connect via computer to another ham (B) who is on computer. Ham A doesn’t allow conferencing, but Ham B does. Ham C connects to Ham B, and shows up on Ham B’s log display but while Ham A can hear Ham C, Ham C doesn’t show up on Ham A’s log display. Now, Ham C has a Link or Repeater node, so the QSO from A, B, and C goes out RF from Ham C’s node…but Ham A is totally oblivious to this.

    Clarity is needed by updating Third Party rules due to the changes in technology. Until then, Third party traffic via internet can be a mine field. One way around this if for all hams to develop a network of other hams with internet access and know which hams are in places permitting Third party traffic. If RF is possible, Third party rules apply. If Internet is possible, use email to pass traffic to the world or to an RF station which allows Third party traffic. Or, Plan B, make friend with folks who raise homing pigeons!

    • k9zw says:

      Hello Greg HS0ZHM

      Interesting thoughts and perhaps much of the reason that Echolink both requires participants to be licensed and cautions users to make sure they keep legal.

      Echolink does throw the responsibility to the Node Owner in the country with restrictions: “You can also set up a list of any number of “banned” callsigns, which will not be allowed access. In addition, you can block or accept connections according to their international callsign prefix, in order to comply with your country’s rules regarding reciprocal control-operator privileges or third-party traffic restrictions.”

      There are arguments that the Node Owner becomes the reason that there could be third party issues even in a licensed QSO, and there are those who argue the other way. Rather expect it is the Node’s local country rules & interpretations that would apply.

      Interesting topic and one that perhaps there is some research and guide out somewhere.



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