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There are a number of repeaters in my area, each belonging to a particular amateur radio club. These guys are all friendly and willing to chat but I was wondering if it was bad form to make use of a repeater belonging to a club you aren't part of without first getting permission?


The repeaters in my area are all listed on the websites for each club but no operating conditions are mentioned. I'll ask but was thinking there might be a general rule.

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Do you have to get permission? No. Few have issues with guests on a repeater (think of travelers passing through, for instance). In the U.S. they can legally prevent someone from using their repeater (see ECFR Title 47, §97.205(e)), but this is not the case in many other countries (repeaters are generally open for all to use).

Should I frequently use a repeater that I don't financially support? This is an ethical question, so subjectivity abounds. However, it should be kept in mind that repeaters aren't free nor cheap to set up and maintain. Consider paying membership dues or making a donation to the club(s) that maintain a repeater that you use frequently. This will help offset the operating costs and you'll gain some new friends.

What operating conditions should I follow? There is of course general repeater etiquette (listen first, wait for the courtesy tone, don't kerchunk, use plain language, don't call CQ, etc.), but some clubs may have specific etiquette or pet peeves that you will only find out about in their newsletter (or by attending their meetings). It is generally a good idea to remain somewhat connected to the club that is the control operator of the repeater if you use it frequently. You may also be able to help the other repeater users by learning about a local jammer or other problem as well.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your comment that repeater operators cannot prevent particular individuals from using a repeater is incorrect. At least in the USA, FCC rules specifically allow repeater operators to restrict use to authorized users. See Part 97.205(e). For instance, you can see on the FCC's list of recent enforcement actions on June 24, 2013, FCC sent two warning letters threatening fines of up to $10,000 to hams for using a repeater after being asked not to by the repeater operator. $\endgroup$ – James NF8I Oct 30 '13 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ @JamesNF8I I didn't know that - I will update my response. $\endgroup$ – Dan Oct 30 '13 at 15:24
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    $\begingroup$ The first part of the answer is now very USA-centric, and even cites US regulations, while the question does not specify any country. I don't think closed amateur repeaters are legal in Finland or many other European countries. Also, the question is not about legality, but about "good/bad form". $\endgroup$ – oh7lzb Oct 30 '13 at 15:52
  • $\begingroup$ @oh7lzb I updated the response (again). $\endgroup$ – Dan Oct 30 '13 at 18:37
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The practices vary greatly between areas and countries. In many countries "closed repeaters" don't exist, or are forbidden. In some countries private repeater systems are common, but public ones still exist. Those private repeaters are still likely to happily accept visitors (travellers, for example).

It's probably best to ask the guys on the repeater - they should be happy to tell you what's the local practice. Many repeaters have web sites too, which provide usage instructions and other policies. If it's not described as a closed or private repeater, it's safe to assume that it is open and free for all. If you become a regular visitor on the repeater, it's a good idea to join the club to share the operating costs.

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In my experience since 1992 with some traveling in MD, VA, PA, DE, WVA, NC, FL, CA, & OK I have yet to find a repeater group that has not been friendly to a newbie or visitor. I do usually have the ARRL repeater book with me and am careful to stay off of the few closed repeaters listed.

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The vast majority of repeaters you are likely to encounter are open repeaters that allow anyone to use them. Some of the features may be restricted, such as autopatch (connections to a telephone line), but chatting on the repeater is usually open. If you use a particular repeater frequently, you may want to consider joining an associated club, but you shouldn't see it as an obligation. In many areas, the repeater operator will be happy just to have the repeater used!

There are closed repeaters that are restricted to those authorized by the control operator. Operation of a closed repeater is perfectly legal in the USA according to 47 CFR §97.205(e), which states "Limiting the use of a repeater to only certain user stations is permissible." (IMO, this is contrary to the spirit of Amateur Radio, but it is specifically authorized by FCC.)

Usually, closed repeaters are noted as such in the various online and printed repeater directories. Most likely, you will not be able to use a closed repeater accidentally because they tend to use CTCSS or other access tones that are only given to authorized users. If you do find yourself accidentally using a closed repeater, you will likely be told as much in fairly short order.

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