Something unusual occurred on 8. January, 2016. ZL9A, the DXpedition to Antipodes Island, ZL9A announced the following on their Webpage:
“Please note that contacts with remotely controlled stations will NOT be accepted.”
No further comment could be found. There was no indication relating how they would determine that a station is “remotely controlled.” Whether they were referring to any remote operation, or more likely illegal remote operation, such as an operator signing an illegal callsign was unclear. An example Illegal operation would be a European callsign identifying a USA remotely controlled station.
(Note, using a non-USA callsign through a USA remote station is patently illegal, though a representative of the FCC has admitted that enforcement is/would be “difficult” if the apparent control operator is located outside FCC jurisdiction, since at this point, the station owner has no responsibility.)
I assume that the ZL9A group is saying that if they hear a signal with a callsign associated with an area to which there is no possibility of propagation at the time, they will not recognize it; they will not log it. I believe it is appropriate for any DX station to take such a stand. Though we should applaud them for taking this action, due care on their part is still required.
When at H40AA, I remember a QSO with a station signing “W1__” while I was operating on Topband. The West Coast was weak but copyable, but this W1 – well after his sunrise – was sounding very much like a “local” station from the northwest of H40. (I still have a tape of that QSO and the sound of that W1.) It was not from a remote station, but most likely a “friend” make the QSO. It is usually very easy to distinguish between signals coming from the expected area and others coming from somewhere else.
With the proliferation of technology facilitating remote operation via the internet and the resulting liberalization of DXCC rules allowing the remote control operator to be in virtually any location in the Universe, I believe this abuse was and is inevitable.
This is not a bad thing, however. It is not that the cheating is occurring, as cheating has occurred virtually since DXCC’s 1930s beginning. What is significant is that it can now be more easily recognized, perhaps because it is so blatant. What needs to be done now is to “out the perps” and maybe even the station owners; let the world know what is going on. Call out such stations so that they will be recognized “on the air” by their callsigns.
The case for liberalization of the location of control points was and is based on the fact that illegal remote operation of some form or other has been common practice and will continue to be common practice. A head-in-the-sand approach accomplishes nothing. (Legal remote control is another matter, of course.)
If “outing” of these illegal practices occurs and leads to a more common knowledge of who is doing it, the decision to liberalize the DXCC remote control rules will have been worth the risk, and the practice will become self-limiting. To sweep these occurrences “under the rug” serves no purpose, and perpetuates the problem.
As time goes on, DXpeditions in particular will hear more and more of these occurrences. I lobbied for the DXCC rule change, and it is my fondest hope that the change itself will lead to an accelerated “outing” of those operators who insist on breaking the rules.