The Merrimack Valley Amateur Radio Association (MVARA) has received a grant award of $46,125 from Amateur Radio Digital Communication, a California-based foundation, to expand its current 7-node microwave network in southern New Hampshire. The project includes extending the New Hampshire network into northeastern Massachusetts and southwestern Maine as a bridge between states towards to the larger goal of a New England-wide network.

The grant proposal was co-authored by Jay Taft K1EHZ, Bill Barber NE1B and Jennifer Herting KD2BEC. The microwave network is IP-based, so amateur radio operators can use applications that normally run on the internet such as email, file transfer, weather station data, voice over IP telephone, and video streaming.

The project is a collaboration with the New England Digital Emergency Communications Network to provide microwave radio backup to Digital Mobile Radio (DMR ) repeaters in New Hampshire that rely on the internet for primary connectivity between sites. Collaborating on DMR sites increases MVARA’s capability to support local emergency management organizations with amateur radio operators and equipment.

Recently, two towns have expressed interest in having amateur radio microwave capability installed on municipal towers so amateur radio operators can backup town communications that normally run over the internet.

The project benefits DMR communications such as SkyWarn nets when the internet is disrupted.  Skywarn is a program of the National Weather Service that utilizes volunteers to report weather conditions and provide ground truth observations to the Weather Service.  Amateur radio operators are able to report conditions and observations to the Weather Service by radio using the DMR network.  The upgrade allows siting DMR repeaters where no internet exists such as the current node on Crotched Mountain in Francestown. The project also benefits amateur radio operators backing up communications for various public and private organizations for public service events and emergency or disaster operations.

Amateur radio provides a means of communication during disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, ice storms and wild fires when many times conventional systems such as landline telephone or cellular service are disabled.  The upgrades being made through this grant provides the Merrimack Valley and surrounding areas with a significant increase in routine and emergency backup communication capabilities to enhance public safety with amateur radio.

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