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BBS Special Interest Group

As the sysop of a packet BBS, you have taken on quite a responsibility. If you've been a sysop for some length of time, you've discovered that operating a BBS is more than just loading software and hooking up radios to TNCs. It's an on-going process and often an expensive one.

Wouldn't it be great if you could be 'connected' to a group of other sysops so that you could share tips on running your systems!? Wouldn't it be great if there were an organization promoting good operating practices!? Wouldn't it be great if there were a group that could inform you of important regulatory matters!? Wouldn't it be great if there were a group that worked on technical developments so that packet radio could continue to be fun!?

There is! The TAPR BBSSIG. The SIG is to make store-and-forward operation more efficient, and give you a 'voice' in policy, regulatory, organizational and software issues which affect BBS and packet activities.


Join the BBSSIG

View BBSSIG Archives

View BBS Hierarchical Addressing Protocol

View Position Paper on Packet Bulletins


BBS Hierarchical Addressing Protocol

Authors:

    Barry Buelow, WA0RJT
    Dave Wolf, WO5H
    Roy Engehausen, AA4RE
    Hank Oredson, W0RLI
    Greg Jones, WD5IVD

Date: August 30th, 1994

Accepted by TAPR Board January 31st, 1995:

Introduction
The TAPR BBS Special Interest Group recommends the adoption of the x.3.4 hierarchical address protocol.

After discussion of previous articles on hierarchical addressing standards (1,2) and taking into account international issues of regional/state name sizes, the TAPR BBS Special Interest Group recommends the adoption of the x.3.4 standard on an international basis. x is defined as 2, 3, or 4 letter region names as defined by the country.

Examples of x.3.4:

  • @WA6GVD.CA.USA.NOAM
  • @EA2CMO.EAZ.ESP.EURO
  • @F5JGK.FAQI.FRA.EURO

    Regional identifiers may be duplicated in different countries (i.e. AK, Alaska, USA, could be used in another country as a regional identifier); however, Country and Continental identifiers SHOULD NOT be used as regional names.

    It is important to note that there is a distinct and significant difference between HIERARCHICAL ADDRESSES and FLOOD DESIGNATORS. Hierarchical address elements are common to all messages (bulletins, P and T types) and are the foundation of the digital forwarding system. Flood designators are used for routing and filtering bulletins. Geographical flood designators are likely based upon hierarchical address elements. It is therefore important that any attempt to establish standards concentrate first on hierarchical address elements. Standards for flood designators can follow.

    It is the purpose of this document to generate a changing recommendation that reflects current hierarchical routing. Reference Tables at the end will be changed as necessary to reflect current configurations within the international BBS network. These tables will need to be changed and updated in order to meet future needs of user and sysops.

    Hierarchical Routing Syntax Summary
    This summary uses a modified Backus-Naur form to summarize the syntax for hierarchical addressing.
    [ ] = optional

    @hierarchial_address
    	bbs.[#octothorpe.][region.]country.continent
    
    bbs
    	valid callsign as defined by local communications authority
    
    #octothorpe.
    	#area.[#octothorpe.]
    
    	#area
    		area as defined by the local region
    		See Table 4 for list of current area identifiers
    
    region
    	2,3, or 4 character region identifier as defined by the country.
    	See Table 3 for list of region identifiers
    
    country
    	3 character country identifier as defined by ANSI X.12 and EDIFACT.
    	Published in ISO 3166-1981(E/F).
    	See Table 2 for country identifiers
    
    continent
    	4 character continental identifier.
    	See Table 1 for continental identifiers.
    	
    

    Examples:

  • F6CNB.#SETX.TX.USA.NOAM
  • KB7WE.#WWA.WA.USA.NOAM
  • OH6RBV.#VAA.FIN.EURO
  • SK2AT.AC.SWE.EURO
  • OH6RBG.FIN.EURO
  • KE7KD.#NONEV.NV.USA.NOAM
  • WX3K.#NOCAL.CA.USA.NOAM


    References:

    1. Jenkins, Lew (N6VV), Dave Toth (VE3GYQ), and Hank Oredson (W0RLI). 'International Routing Designators.' Proceedings of the ARRL 7th Computer Networking Conference. Columbia Maryland. October 1, 1988. pp. 91-93. (ird.1988.pdf 680K).

    2. Clark, Tom (W3IWI). Some comments on the 'Hierarchical Continent Address Designator.' Proceedings of the ARRL 9th Computer Networking Conference. London, Ontario Canada. September 22, 1990. pp. 278-279. (hcad.1990.pdf 347K).


    TABLE 1: Continent Identifiers

    EURO - Europe NOAM - North America (Can, USA, Mex)
    MEDR - MediterraneanCEAM - Central America
    INDI -Indian OceanCARB - Caribbean
    MDLE - Middle EastSOAM - South America
    SEAS - South-East Asia
    ASIA - The Orient

    AUNZ - Australia/New ZealandNAFR - Northern Africa
    EPAC - Eastern PacificCAFR - Central Africa
    NPAC - Northern PacificSAFR - Southern Africa
    SPAC - Southern Pacific
    WPAC - Western PacificANTR - Antarctica

    View entire BBS Hierarchical Addressing Protocol


    Position Paper on Packet Bulletins

    In the fall of 1994, the question of packet BBS bulletins and what they are came into question. The following details the debate and outlines what TAPR's response to the issue was.


    Message to BBS SIG on October 22, 1994

    I will be working with Dave Wolf, WO5H, and the TAPR BBS SIG to generate a TAPR response to the message that Fred Sober posted. It seems that many of the comments that he made in his bulletin regarding the origination of packet messages routed using flood distribution (bulletins) were out of context with the letters shown below, unless it was intended for amateurs sending messages intended from non-amateur reading. We will detail these thoughts in an upcoming message.

    Both of the following letters were received today (Saturday, October 22, 1994) from Norman Bliss, WA1CCQ, Regulatory Information Supervisor at the ARRL. Thanks to Norman for faxing these so promptly. These are the letters, sent between John Johnson of the FCC and Fred Sober as of the dates listed. Please note that the letters are over a year old. I have not received copies of the letters that Fred Sober had sent to the FCC which these are the responses. These have been scanned in and checked by hand, so there might be mistakes that are not intentional on my part. The last part is a copy of the packet bulletin sent by AB6GQ@KM6PX.#NOCAL.CA.USA.NOAM concerning his views on the issue.

    The important points in the letters below indicate that messages (private or bulletin) are considered to be within the rules since they are intended to be sent to other amateurs. A one-way transmission would result on packet radio, like any other amateur mode, when a message (private or bulletin) was originated 'intentionally' to be read by non-hams.

    I would like to state that John Johnson's response to the letters of question are well phrased and explained regarding the issue.

    Cheers - Greg Jones, WD5IVD President, TAPR

    Page Contents:

    Position Paper on Packet Bulletins
    Tucson Amateur Packet Radio
    approved and released by the Board of Directors, October 28, 1994

    There has been a recent flurry of activity on the packet networks as documented here on BBS SIG over some packet bulletins issued by Frederick Sober, AB6GQ, an Official Observer Coordinator in the Sacramento Valley section of the ARRL. The concern expressed by AB6GQ is that packet bulletins whose contents do not relate to amateur radio are in violation of Part 97. I have reviewed AB6GQ's bulletin, two letters from (FCC Personal Radio Branch Chief) Johnny Johnston, and discussed the matter personally with AB6GQ by phone on Sunday, October 23rd.

    Here is a brief history of events, primarily reported by Frederick: in 1993 as an OO, AB6GQ was contacted by several local packet BBS sysops who were concerned over the content of bulletins addressed, for example, to ALL @ ALLUS, ALL @ WW, and so forth. The content of many of these bulletins did not include ham radio-related subject material, and they wondered if this was a violation of Part 97. According to Frederick, he contacted his section manager, who advised for him to get in touch with League headquarters. He was advised by a League Regulatory Information staffer to contact the FCC directly. Someone at the Hayward field office referred him to Washington. An exchange of correspondence with Johnny Johnston ensued (texts of Mr. Johnston's letters have been transcribed to the SIG from copies obtained by Greg Jones). AB6GQ has been advised that the League is going to 'undertake an educational effort' about which something will appear in QST after the first of the year. Frederick advises he is going to wait for further word through the League chain of command for his next, if any, action regarding packet bulletins.

    Because the spark which created this particular packet 'crisis of the day' was a statement to other amateurs from an Official Observer Coordinator, and because there was a reported exchange of correspondence with an FCC branch chief, Greg Jones, President of TAPR, received numerous phone calls asking for TAPR's position on this matter. Greg discussed this situation with several League officials and other respected advisers prior to discussing it with the TAPR BoD. Subsequently, Greg requested that I draft this position statement for TAPR.

    To be succinct, most of the flame wars and great debates over permissible communications exhibit a problem with semantics, not a lack of specificity in the rules. Packet* is not some mutant communications form that is not definable by the rules. Packet is no more or less privileged than any other form of amateur communications. (*packet is used here, but this argument extends to all legal forms of amateur digital communications which are used for the forwarding of bulletins)

    Did you know that Part 97 comes complete with its own dictionary? 97.3 includes a list of definitions for the terms used in the document. Two definitions that are either overlooked or misinterpreted by many are 'broadcasting' and 'informational bulletin.' 'Broadcasting' specifically means transmissions intended for reception by the general public (see 97.3 (10)). The term 'informational bulletin,' defined by Part 97.3 (23) has no relation to what we refer to as a packet 'bulletin.' Part 97 defines an 'informational bulletin' as a one-way transmission to hams of a message of subject matter composed solely of interest to the amateur service. A good example of an informational bulletin is a transmission of ARRL bulletins from W1AW. To conclude that all of this means that a packet bulletin must be confined to amateur-only subject material is using terribly convoluted logic. Except for unproto, their is no one-way packet mode. It takes two to tango. A packet bulletin is entered on a BBS from the originating station in a two-way communication. From then on out, that packet bulletin is a third-party message. If it gets forwarded from one BBS to another, it is a third-party message being forwarded during a two-way communication.

    97.113 lists prohibited communications and their exceptions. There is no specific prohibition against content with potentially controversial or frivolous subject material. This particular 'crisis of the day' arose , as so many others have arisen, because of message content. There is general agreement that many of the bulletins traversing the network aren't worth the electricity used to forward them. Studies in several metropolitan areas show that over 70% of the bulletins NEVER get read. They just get listed. This means users are being very selective about what they read. They DO have a choice. So do sysops. The process of reducing the amount of what many of us consider to be 'noise' on our boards begins with each of us exercising leadership at home. If someone posts a SALE @ ALLUS bulletin on your board trying to unload a camping tent, tell them nicely that this isn't appropriate. If you have a religious fanatic or political alarmist climbing on the electronic soapbox (and that soapbox has your callsign stenciled on the side), it's time for a heart-to-heart. Easy? Not always. Whoever said that running a BBS was gonna be easy? What are you doing to get the word out that packet radio, while sometimes loose, is not a free-for-all. Ham radio, ALL facets of ham radio, because of the wide constituency we have, is a place where people have to be responsible. It's much harder to educate than legislate, but which do you think has the more effective results?

    The lessons learned: If you've got a question about the rules, use the resources available to you WITHIN the amateur community INSTEAD of making an end run straight to the Commission. Document who you speak with and what was said. Get whatever you can in writing. Think of the potential impact on ALL of amateur radio when a small chunk of the overall activity (such as packet in relation to everything else) is the focus of possible new regulation or enforcement. This is not to suggest that the rules be violated or that anyone stick their head in the sand about abuses that may exist. It is better to try to take care of business ourselves, as we are encouraged to do in the rules, than to invite possible over-regulation by the FCC. This issue may be put to rest forever preferably by the League setting the record straight that packet bulletins are not one-way transmissions or broadcasting, and that 97.113 is explicit about permissible content of amateur communications.

    Incidentally, I found AB6GQ to be very open about this incident and very surprised to find himself at the eye of a hurricane. He admits to a degree of initial naiveti in his effort to be a responsible OO (and now an OOC). Frederick wants everyone to know that he and his team of OO's don't have a hidden agenda and most importantly, they aren't vigilantes. They wanted some answers to questions about packet bulletins. Some missteps and miscommunications (by numerous people) led to something being given far more relevance than it deserved.

    submitted October 24, 1994 Dave Wolf WO5H TAPR BBS SIG Chair


    Letter from John Johnson, 08 JUN 1993

    FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
    WASHINGTON, D.C. 20554
    08 JUN 1993

    IN REPLY REFER TO:
    7230-D/1700C

    Mr. Frederick A. Sober
    506 Oakland Avenue
    Roseville, California 95678

    Dear Mr. Sober:

    This is in reply to your letter of May 11, 1993, requesting clarification of information bulletins on amateur service packet networks. Specifically, you ask about the status of bulletins that are not addressed to a particular amateur station and the type of communications that are permissible in information bulletins.

    There are no specific rules for packet network operations. Section 97.111(b)(7) of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. / 97.111(b)(7), authorizes one-way transmissions that are necessary to disseminate information bulletins. Further, Section 97.3(a)(23) of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. / 97.3(a)(23), defines an information bulletin as a message directed to amateur operators that consists solely of matters that are of direct interest to the amateur service. Information bulletins addressed to "ALL" or "ALLUS" are permissible, if that means they are for all amateurs stations or all amateur stations in the United States. If such information bulletins, however, are intended for all persons or all persons in the United States, they are not permissible because that would constitute broadcasting. Broadcasting is defined in Section 97.3(a)(10) of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. / 93.3(a)(10), as transmissions intended for reception by the general public and broadcasting is prohibited by Section 97.113(c) of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. / 97.113(c).

    Because of the diversity of interests shared by amateur operators, it is not possible to make a list of permissible topics. All amateurs operators, however, are required to comply with the Commission's Rules. In particular, your attention is invited to Section 97.113 of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. / 97.113, which specifies the types of communications that are prohibited.

    I trust this reply is responsive to your inquiry.

    Sincerely,
    John B. Johnson
    Chief, Personal Radio Branch


    Letter from John Johnson, 27 SEP 1993

    FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
    WASHINGTON, D.C. 20554
    27 SEP 1993

    IN REPLY REFER TO:
    7230-D/1700C1

    Mr. Frederick A. Sober
    506 Oakland Avenue
    Roseville, California 95678

    Dear Mr. Sober:

    This is in reply to your letter of July 16, 1993, requesting additional information concerning information bulletins which are permitted in the amateur service as one-way transmissions. Specifically, you request clarification regarding permissible message content in an information bulletin, and a definition of the word "intended" which was used in our letter to you of June 8, 1993, when discussing recipients of information bulletins.

    Section 97.3(a)(23) of the Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. / 97.3(a)(23), is clear that the information bulletin must be directed only to amateur operators and must consist of subject matter that is of direct interest to the amateur service. In other words, the sender must want the information bulletin to received only by amateur operators. Further, the content of the information bulletin must concern a topic that is in some way related to, or connected with, the amateur service so that it fulfills the requirement of the definition that it be of "direct interest" to the amateur service.

    The word "intended" was not meant to be a word of art in our letter. We were merely paraphrasing the definition of an information bulletin contained in Section 97.3(a)(23).

    I trust this reply is responsive to your inquiry.

    Sincerely,
    John B. Johnson
    Chief, Personal Radio Branch


    Packet Message from AB6GQ Original from AB6GQ to SYSOP@NCPA
    Path: !KC6PJW!WX3K!WB0TAX!KA6EYH!KA6EYH!W6PW!KA6FUB!WA6RDH!KM6PX!

    From: AB6GQ@KM6PX.#NOCAL.CA.USA.NOAM
    To : SYSOP@NCPA

    Hello dedicated SYSOPs. My name is Fred Sober, and I am the Official Observer Coordinator for the Sacramento Valley Section of the ARRL. I am sending this bulletin at the suggestion of some of the local BBS SYSOPs, who thought you should be aware of the following info:

    Approximately one year ago, I initiated a series of correspondance with John B. Johnson, Chief of the Private Radio Bureau of the FCC. Due to the confusion of Amateur Radio Packet BBS users regarding the permissible message content of bulletins, and the growing tendency to abuse the system, we requested FCC clarification regarding the definition of "One-Way Bulletins" and "Bulletin Message Content" as it specifically applied to Amateur Packet Radio. The position of the FCC is as follows:

    1. Any packet message or bulletin sent to ANYTHING other than another specific Amateur Callsign (EXCLUDING the callsign of the BBS) is considered to be a "One-Way Bulletin," and as such must comply with Part 97 in terms of permissible message content for such bulletins. Also stated was the definition of "anything" (above), which is such addressing as to ALL, ALLUS, ALLCA, Food, Drugs, Guns, or anything else, other than another specific amateur callsign.

    2. The information sent MUST NOT BE INTENDED for anyone but other licensed Amateur. "Intent" is determined by "Message Content," not by the mental intent of the message originator.

    3. The Information sent MUST BE RELATED TO, AND OF INTEREST TO AMATEUR RADIO OPERATORS ONLY!

    4. Any Packet Bulletin which contains material which relates to anything not directly related to amateur radio, or of interest to amateur radio operators only, is considered to be "Broadcasting." This includes material on Cars, Guns, Politics, Food, Jokes, Current Events, etc. etc. etc.

    In the above listing the emphasis was supplied by the FCC in the letter I have on file.

    For further clarification you may refer to the "FCC Rule Book" published by the ARRL, (1993 Edition). On Pages 6-6 and 6-7 the topic of information bulletins on packet radio is discussed. The highlighted section in the box is a paraphrase of the letters I have on file from the FCC.

    Upon notifying the ARRL Rules Department of this Clarification, they made the determination that the abuses in this regard were] so widely spread and prevalent, that the League and the Official Observers needed to undertake an educational effort regarding this ruling, prior to beginning a notification effort on the individual offenders. This would prevent an overwhelming overload of the OO Program.

    Some BBS SYSOPS, such as KM6PX, upon learning of this clarification voluntarily and unilaterally decided to set the clarified standards as the operating standard for their BBS's. They began editing and deleting any bulletin traffic which did not comply with the above.

    Technically, with the latest rulings by the FCC, the BBS SYSOP is jointly responsible for violations of Part 97, by operators which originate a bulletin through their BBS into the system.

    Technically, the FCC can at any time begin issuing NAL's to the Operators and SYSOPS for any bulletins in violation of the above.

    Practically, I do not know when the OO Notices and NAL's may start being issued, but it behooves you as a BBS SYSOP to be aware of the current rulings and facts, and hopefully to be in compliance prior to any notification or enforcement actions being taken.

    73, keep up the good work! Fred Sober, AB6GQ

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