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The NEAR-Fest Digital Networks Enhancement Project


Ever since the beginning in 2007 NEAR-Fest has been a not-for-profit entity.   We were recently accorded 501(c)(3) status.   It has always been our intention to use any funds left over after our expenses to give back in some small way to the hobby that we have enjoyed so much for many many years.  There are so many aspects to amateur radio and finding the "perfect project" that will serve our entire service area and constituency is very challenging although we have managed to find a few that we felt were very appropriate.  Our first such project was KA1SKY at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.  That station is still being operated several times a week by volunteers from the Contoocook Valley Radio Club and serves as a wonderful live demonstration of amateur radio to hundreds of Discovery Center visitors every month, many of them students visiting the Discovery Center as part of a school activity.

The Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) community here in New England is extremely fortunate to have a wonderful resource person like Bill Barber, NE1B, who I consider the "Benevolent Dictator" of DMR in the Northeast.  Bill has the vision and leadership along with the knowledge and the time to devote to building this network for us.  NEAR-Fest considers it an honor to work with him and the best way we can do this is to help fund this ongoing project with some of the proceeds of our Hamfest.   The New England Digital Emergency Communications Network (NEDECN) that Bill founded is similar to NEAR-Fest in the sense that we are all working together for the same goal and no one cares who gets the credit.  Unlike NEAR-Fest it is much longer-lasting and durable as well as having significant value in the event of a major disaster or emergency.  NEAR-Fest is over in two short days.

Some information and statistics on Motorola MOTOTRBO DMR:

The Board of Directors of NEAR-Fest has decided to allocate funds on an ongoing basis for the purpose of "expanding and enhancing the digital amateur radio networks" in our service area and constituency which is defined as the New England states as well as Eastern Ontario, Southern Quebec and parts of Atlantic Canada.

Our pilot project in December 2014 was a $500.00 grant to the NEDECN for the specific purpose of building a c-Bridge network hub here in the Boston area that will give the NEDECN network more versatility, flexibility and independence than it formerly had by using the c-Bridge located in the Midwest shared with the rest of the country.  The amount of this grant was based on a dollar-for-dollar match based on funds collected by NEDECN in December 2014.  The basic match amount was collected in 24 hours.  A check in the amount of $500.00 was presented to Bill, NE1B, on Saturday December 27th, 2014 by Mike, K1TWF, Larry, N1PHV and Mister Mike, W1RC at the NEDECN weekly breakfast held at Londonderry NH.  The Boston C-Bridge went live within a few weeks.

In 2015 NEAR-Fest conducted a similar $500 funds matching challenge to raise money to help the Boston Amateur Radio Club purchase and install a UHF DMR repeater on top of the Federal Reserve Bank building in downtown Boston which is now fully operational.  We assisted the NEDECN with a similar funds matching challenge for their Mount Uncanoonuk Radio Project (M.U.R.P.) which is building an amateur-owned repeater site on that mountaintop in Goffstown, NH.  In addition, NEAR-Fest contributed $500 each to two DMR repeaters in the State of Maine.  Finally, we awarded four $250.00 subsidies to the Cape Ann Amateur Radio Associaltion and the Whitman Amateur Radio Club in MA and the Merrymeeting Amateur Radio Club in ME towards the purchase of Yaesu Fusion Repeaters.

We like this kind of project because It will eventually serve our entire constituency and any licensed amateur can join the fun by buying a Hytera MD-380 portable radio for around $120.00 so the argument that I have heard that "you have to buy an expensive radio" is nonsense.  Plus it is a lot easier to create and modify a code plug and has superior audio to other formats.

Additionally, these networks we are building together will serve as our legacy to the coming generations of radio amateurs in New England.  Finally it is a unique marriage of radio communications and computer networking which is going to attract some young people to our hobby.  If it doesn't I don't think anything will I regret to say.

We do not intend on limiting ourselves to DMR; all digital format proponents will be welcome to submit an application but will have to demonstrate to us that their project will have the same long-lasting impact on the hobby in New England as it would appear that MotoTRBO DMR is exhibiting.  Clubs and organizations who are interested in upgrading their current repeater system to digital (either D-Star, MotoTRBO DMR, P25, Fusion or experimental) or wishing to set up a new digital repeater system with network access will be able to apply to the NEAR-Fest Board of Directors for a grant to help defray the costs of such an undertaking.   Policies and procedures for applying for a grant as well as conditions and terms of the grants are now in the process of being formulated and the community will be advised as to when and how applications will be accepted.

Each application will be judged on a case-by-case basis and will partially be based on repeater location, availability of other repeaters in the same area, network on which it will be active and the numbers of amateurs that it will serve as well as the credentials of the club/organization and its governing officials.  Any repeaters and their ancillary features receiving a subsidy from NEAR-Fest must be open and available to all licensed amateur radio operators and part of an operational network.  Grants will normally be paid only at such a time when the repeater or system is completed, operational, networked and actively on the air.

An Advisory Board has ben established consisting of knowledgeable members from the VHF/UHF community from throughout the New England area to advise us in their decisions.  Members of this advisory board will also be eligible to apply for grants but will be required to undergo the same screening and interview process as all other applicants.

The last two years were especially great for amateur radio in New England with the WRTC2014 and the ARRL 100th Anniversary National Convention in 2014.  Let's make 2016 the year we make the New England digital networks the best in the world.


MisterMike, W1RC

For more details on our individual projects:

from Bill, NE1B, Saturday February 7th 2015:

Our network changes are complete.  We are operating 100% on our NewEng-TRBO c-Bridge.  It is in a high security, very reliable data center.

Last night we completed the changeover of the World Wide, North America and Northeast Regional talk groups to our bridge.

So with the network reliability improvement in New England, we have better audio quality, and the following capabilities:

WW TG1 (PTT activated)
WW English TG13 (fulltime-inactive during UK busy hours 1800-2200 UTC)
WW German TG10 (limited sites-PTT activated)
WW Spanish TG14 (future limited sites- PTT activated)
NA TG3 (fulltime)
Northeast TG3172 (fulltime)

TAC310 TG310 (ptt-on-demand talk group - North America)
Audio Test TG9999 (one way to Norcal VU meter - )
Parrot TG9998 (ptt echotest, test your audio quality and site coverage)

New England Wide TG3181 (CT-MA-RI-VT-NH-ME and New Brunswick)
SNE  TG3109 (CT)
NH Statewide TG3133
MA Statewide TG3125
LOCAL  TG9 (single site)

Remember, while these changes have taken place and may be tested, there is no critical need to adopt them until April 1.  This will give everyone a chance to catch up with their programming.


Bill, NE1B

Hi Mr Mike,

As I mentioned in the NEDECN June Newsletter, the MURP is essentially a complete success!  We have built the site during the winter months with the NEARFEST Matching Fund and NEDECN donations from the dirt up!  The former Manchester Radio Club transferred ownership of the small mountaintop property to Dave, N1EMC, one of our NEDECN trustees.  The conditions discussed in the transaction, was for continued amateur radio experimentation.  A concrete vault was procured and modified by Bill, KB1SGK.  Bill provided the electrical work and got the electrical inspection from the Town of Goffstown.  He delivered the vault on his flat bed truck and arranged grading and concrete slabs for footing.  A 55' telephone pole was delivered and installed by JCR Utilities in December.  Equipment installations began in April and by May 7 the VHF DMR repeater was on-the-air!  That was followed by the UHF DMR repeater a few days later.  The Ubiquity microwave internet link was activated and locked on within minutes, providing solid internet connections to the repeaters.  Technical assistance was provided by KM3T, W1IMD and K1OX.

Some site security enhancements are underway, along with future amateur experiments.  We are very pleased with the coverage enhancement in Central NH providing expanded amateur digital communications to New England Amateurs!  Thanks go to the following for their hard work and financial support of this project:



Bill, NE1B


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