Remote Control DXing and DXCC

One of the issues currently under consideration by the DXAC is that of remote control of a DXer’s station. It is important to recalibrate our existing programs with respect to current and future remote control techniques because it is here, and it is being used extensively. Remote control is virtually impossible to control under any sort of rules. With the remote equipment available now, such operation is virtually impossible to detect. Failure now to fully address remote control rules and restrictions will subject our most beloved programs to ridicule. There are several remote control configurations, which must be considered independently. One such configuration is operating a station or stations in various locations within one’s own DXCC entity.

One of the concerns highlighted in a 2008 DXAC report on remote control was the idea of “propagational advantage.” The idea that the ability to remotely control a station located anywhere within a DXers own country provides a DXing advantage seems to be a hang-up for many DXers. Why is this so?

(Before discussing remote control, we must stipulate that when controlling an amateur radio station remotely, it is the location of the transmitter, receiver and antennas, that is definitive. According to current DXCC rules, a station — the transmitter, receiver and antennas – must be located within one’s own DXCC entity. The control point must also be located in the same DXCC entity. It is also necessary to understand that the laws of amateur radio operation at the station location must be followed.)

According to the original DXCC rules (1937), a DXer could make contacts from any location within his own DXCC country. This was a simple rule that made lots of sense in 1937. Shortly thereafter, however, the “rule” was changed such that QSOs had to be made from within the same call area where call areas existed, or in the absence of call areas, from locations within 150 miles of the “original” location. The 150 mile rule was in place until late 1977 and early 1978 when it was phased-in in favor of the original rule. The reasons for the 1977 change to Rule 9 was different – a much more mobile population – but the result was the same. This article is not a discussion about DXCC Rule 9.

It seems that almost from the very beginning there has been a sense that the resulting “propagational advantage” is somehow unfair. Just exactly whom is this advantage over, and how is it unfair?

The concept of a propagational advantage only makes sense in the context of competition. Somehow DXers – perhaps from the very beginning – assumed that chasing DX within the DXCC program was competitive – some form of competition. Maybe it was natural for DXers to be competitive. Perhaps it was natural for DXers living in a small area to be competitive, but as far as I know, no such competition has ever been set forth in the DXCC rules. If DXers wish to compete in some manner, they can create their own set of rules and in fact they often do just that.

A New England DXer might be viewed as having a large propagational advantage over a “Suffering Six” in California as there is such a large number of easy-to-work entities just across the Atlantic. Of course, this advantage is inherent. It has nothing to do with remote control. In a way, it might seem that by supporting restrictive rules, east coast DXers are trying to keep the poor Westerners “in their place.” Or, perhaps by promoting limits on remote control, some west coast DXers with big stations might be trying to maintain their own advantages over local DXers with small stations.

Really, there should be no such concept as propagational advantage in DXing because there should be no official competition. If DXCC were a competitive endeavor, it would be unfair on its face – by definition. DXing is inherently unfair. Propagation differences between widely separated areas make competition meaningless. Some DXers will have bigger antennas and more power — some even more yet!

Instead, DXCC is — and should be — an award recognizing personal achievement. How could it be otherwise? If you want to compete, you can participate in a contest. In contests, there are usually categories of recognition for competitors in different areas or regions. There is no such categorization for DXers. DXCC is not competitive, and the rules should not suggest that it is.

Unfortunately, despite the personal achievement aspect of DXCC, certain basic elements of the DXCC program seem to support competition. Consider the periodic listings of individual DXCC standings calculated to a single point. Consider as well the Honor Roll listings. Finally, consider the Top of the Honor Roll. These all tend to suggest competition. “I got to the Top of the Honor Roll in 12 years!”

After dismissing competition, we are left with one’s own personal values. If a DXer utilizes large, remotely operated stations in various parts of a large country to accumulate his totals, that DXer is establishing his values. There’s nothing wrong with that. He has simply defined the terms of his accomplishments. If another DXer fastidiously makes all of his Topband QSOs from a single location, he is speaking of his values. Many people say that those who cheat at DXing are only cheating themselves. This is true when thinking in terms of personal values. When DXers cheat, they are defining a certain set of values. (Most people know who these people are, and it doesn’t matter much.)

To maintain the integrity of its DX programs, the ARRL must deal with the remote control issue with rules that are consistent with current technological trends and usage and its ability to enforce them. The rules must lead the way in a rational manner. Failure to do so – and perhaps even returning long obsolete rules – will harm the program and lead to increasing controversy.

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