The NTS is Dying Ė Should We Save It?

By Jim Cluett

The National Traffic System was once the jewel in the crown of ham radio and New Hampshire nets formed a strategic part of the system. Today its glitter has faded. Two out of three of the pivotal nets in New Hampshire are dead, and the traffic is all but gone. Thereís still time to revive the systemÖ if clubs like ours think itís worthwhile.

How many of our club members have ever checked into an NTS net? How many even know what the NTS is, or how it works? Is there any reason to provide an alternate national communications system? The world is using email and cell phones. Is there any value in technology and skills from the last century? Before the NTS disappears altogether we should discuss its past and its future as a club. And clubs across the state should do the same thing. Weíre about to loose something remarkable, and no oneís paying much attention.

For years New Hampshire boasted three strong NTS nets. They routed ham radio messages across the state, the region and the country. And they did a fantastic job. The operators are some of the most skilled anywhere. Sending a piece of traffic to the west coast is an overnight affair. Today the Granite State Phone Net on 80 meters is gone. Barely a few years ago the Granite State FM net on 2 meters had 20 check-ins nightly. Now they have only a couple of check-ins, and they donít handle any traffic. Only the 80 meter CW net is left. Itís maintained by a few stalwarts. The NTS is dying for one reason: apathy.

Our club could help revive the NTS:

  1. We could educate our members about the National Traffic System. For one of our monthly meetings, we should discuss the NTS. Invite some of the key people: The Section Traffic Manager, the Net Manager for the FM net, the former net manager of the Granite State Phone Net. Make sure CNHARC members know what the NTS is. Ask the NTS people if the system is worth saving, and what we, as a club, could do to help. Maybe its time has passed, but itís worth talking about.
  2. If each one of our 150 members checked into an NTS net only once a month and sent a single message to a friend somewhere, the traffic in the state would triple. A birthday messageÖ thanks for a QSOÖ a note about an upcoming event, a message between Boy Scout troops across the country.

Iíve been checking into the VT-NH CW net on and off for a couple of years. I started because I wanted to know about the system, and I wanted to learn about net procedures. Itís been a great opportunity. Even as a rookie, I was welcomed and encouraged to participate. My friend Carter N3AO in Pennsylvania and I often send overnight messages back and forth. I think the NTS is a valuable resource.

If any one wants to send a piece of traffic, you can check into the Granite State FM Net. It meets nightly at 8:30 on 146.94 in Concord. CW operators can check into the VT-NH CW net on 3539 at 7:00 pm local time. Donít worry about your code speed. The net will slow down for you. Or, you can send a message to me at my packet mailbox: w1pid-1 on the BELNAP node. Iíll put your traffic into the NTS for you. Cliff N1RCQ and Ed WB1FYE also have packet and are traffic handlers with the Granite State FM net.

For those whoíd like to learn about the NTS, check the following URL on the web. There are several chapters explaining how the National Traffic System works:

http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/pscm/sec2-ch1.html

The NTS is definitely one of those "use it or lose it" resources. Without our support, it wonít be around in a few more years.

Jim W1PID