I was reading about EchoLink and came across this rule under "Access Policies":

2. No "SWL" (listen-only) access is permitted. EchoLink is a two-way system by design, and there is no mechanism to validate listen-only stations.

I'm pretty sure that by "SWL" they mean unlicensed/public access, but I'm not entirely sure, as I've read in several forum threads that it isn't appreciated when you connect to an repeater/node and don't identify or say something. I suppose this is because the EchoLink system announces when a remote user connects through the system, but doesn't necessarily announce the call of the connected station.

So is there any reason why I shouldn't use EchoLink to "just listen"? Or is this just a misconception/misunderstanding on my part?

  • $\begingroup$ I inadvertantly break this rule a lot, by logging onto an interesting repeater/reflector/server and then forgetting about it. Six hours later, I will see that I'm still logged on and many times I'm the only one still there. Oops. W1AMJ $\endgroup$ – Pete Miller Sep 28 at 12:37

The full access policy states (my emphasis):

No "SWL" (listen-only) access is permitted. EchoLink is a two-way system by design, and there is no mechanism to validate listen-only stations.

The last part is key. You can't use the echo link system without being a validated licensed amateur. You logistically can not listen to this system without also being allowed to talk on it. Contrast that with "traditional" short wave listeners. Anyone can buy a radio and listen without being licensed to talk on it and there is no way technologically that you can prevent them from listening.

My interpretation of the policy is

"We don't support a way for a non licensed station to listen only."

I don't think that they mean that you aren't allowed to connect and not talk. I hear stations connect to nodes regularly without saying anything.

Perhaps the policy would be clearer if it were written this way:

No "SWL" (listen-only) capability is supported. EchoLink is a two-way system by design, and there is no mechanism to validate listen-only stations.

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    $\begingroup$ Friend of mine connected and was told "Now that you've connected you need to say something".. So apparently it's an "unofficial" rule in many places. $\endgroup$ – Seth Apr 30 '14 at 18:26

As a repeater owner, people who connect and say nothing are beyond irritating.

When you connect, you are announced. Now you won't talk to us? Why did you bother connecting. And now you're going to drop the connection without saying anything? That also is announced. So all these "listen only" users are constantly connecting and disconnecting, getting announced each time, and not saying a word.

Additionally, many repeaters have a limited number (sometimes only one) of available connection slots. So you are going to now sit there and just listen, taking up a slot that a real live person could have used. And I can't call out while you are connected either, even if there are multiple slots.

Yes, connecting without saying anything is rude. If you are not going to talk on this two way medium, why are you bothering to participate at all? To say the least, if I see you connecting to my repeater and disconnecting and not saying anything when directly spoken to, you're going to end up on my blacklist and not allowed to connect at all.

Having said that, it is good amateur radio practice to listen before speaking. So if you connect, wait a minute or so, and then say something, that's perfect. Just don't sit there for hours, or connect and then disconnect right away, especially if someone tries to talk to you.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've grappled with this as a listener. I'm learning Spanish and I'd love to connect to a repeater in South America and listen in on the conversation, and certainly don't feel confident enough to try and talk with the natives. I'd like to sit and listen, but decided that would be rude. $\endgroup$ – Duston Sep 29 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ As an alternative to connecting to repeaters and listening, find a conference server instead. Conference servers have a very high number of slots, and I think they don't announce when you connect and disconnect, and won't prevent anyone from dialing out. Also, if you want to exercise your language, I can understand not wanting to initiate a conversation, but at least try to respond if someone talks to you. Amateur radio is all about communication, and I'm sure if you try you can find someone who is willing to help you stumble through and improve. $\endgroup$ – user10489 Sep 29 at 22:14

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