When All Else Fails!

The Jim Fisher Memorial Digital Network Association (JFMDNA) is an unincorporated nonprofit association formed with the mission of broadening and expanding the community of amateur radio operators (aka Hams) through engaging “digital natives” in ham radio in the further development and expansion of high-speed digital mesh networks.

Our initial project focus is the expansion of the extant digital mesh network concentrated in Montgomery County. The resultant digital mesh network will be capable of serving as a backup to commercial communication services thus enhancing our disaster response capabilities in the event of local, county-wide and regional emergencies. The network will offer services that parallel those offered by commercial services and that are useful in disasters including email, chat, video, private voice telephony and other such services.

The buildout of digital mesh networks is based upon the Amateur Radio Emergency Digital Network (AREDN) software and compatible hardware. AREDN mesh-based networks enable the use of amateur radio microwave frequencies authorized by the Federal Communication Commission.

Our expansion project will establish new amateur radio frequency RF links through the interposition of RF relay points replacing, when possible, internet “tunnels” of wired connections between nodes. The intention is to that this mesh network with eventually support the entire Philadelphia five county region.

Key to fulfilling this mission is the establishment of a framework that ensures our ability to maintain the reliability and availability of the mesh network. Critical to this framework is:

  • ¬†Maintain operational readiness by the engagement of amateur operators, particularly digital native hams, across the region in regular use of this network and the services offered. Usable and useful applications will help facilitate both interest and continuing engagement with the networks.
  • Implementation and maintenance of physical and software assets critical to the operation of the mesh network.
  • ¬†Assuring operations to specifications and consistent with agreed service level commitment.

Members of the association are also members of several of the relevant county ARES/RACES organizations and would deploy to most, if not all, relevant sites in case of an emergency. And we envision deploying on permanent loan at least one mobile/portable self-contained, battery-solar powered package to each ARES/RACES organization. This will include training and practice deployments in association with ARRL Field Day and the ARRL Simulated Emergency Test or other regularly recurring amateur events.
Our project hopes to recruit both existing  hams and  new ham  by engaging the regional network of ham clubs through demonstrations and training in digital network communications and through communication to and engagement with the robust community college network in each county in the region we will bring the news that amateur radio offers both foundational and advanced opportunities for developing a career in the “spectrum workforce” as articulated in Pillar Four of the National Spectrum Strategy. Our association hopes to demonstrate that not only is amateur radio a valuable asset during times of disaster but is also still a relevant gateway for student and others seeking a career in STEM related fields.