An update for everyone wondering what’s going on with several of the repeaters being locked down, the suspension of the access request system, and limited access to the programming page:
Over the past few months, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in intentional interference, abuse, and harassment of fellow users and functions on the system that we trust people to use appropriately. Some of this is to be expected, as we’re a wide coverage repeater system covering a population area of over 8 million people, however we’ve also come to realize that some is originating from users already on the access list due to the detailed knowledge of the system involved with certain actions. We can also confirm that a handful approved users have felt that it is acceptable to give out the programming information and/or access codes freely to unlicensed or non-approved licensees in bulk rather than sending people to the request page, further exacerbating these issues.
We can turn a blind eye to the roger beeps, the kerchunk or two (or three), and excess radio checks: Yes, these can be annoying and against our own rules, but these aren’t the fundamental issue. We fully understand that GMRS has a relatively low barrier to entry and not everyone is going to be an “expert” on how to use, program a radio, or even conduct a conversation over the air right off the starting line. We’re completely fine with this so long as people try to conduct themselves in a generally respectful manner.
However, when abuse and harassment become a prevalent issue on multiple repeaters simultaneously (notably in our more populated urban areas), we unfortunately must draw a line and take a hard look at how open of a system we maintain and how easy we make it to get into. Putting up and keeping these machines on the air does little good if it can’t be appropriately monitored by its users and fulfill its application as a functional tool. We have thousands of people registered on our system, and while the active troublemakers represent but a fraction of a percent, it nonetheless constitutes a consequential number of people.
So, what are we doing moving forward? We of course wish we could keep things as open as we have, but we also recognize that we need a substantiative vetting process for prospective users, one that goes beyond giving a callsign and a promise to try and abide by the rules to get on the system as we have it now. So, a couple changes are coming:
- We’re switching to a managed user system, based on a as-invited model. Prospective users will be invited through sponsorship by an established users.
- We will be making programming and access control changes on the more populous repeaters. These programming changes will be disseminated through a user management portal based on the new user management system.
On the change to the access model, the intent is that a sponsoring user helps take responsibility for ensuring a prospective user knows the rules (at least the important ones), understands the “vibe” of the system, and can help with the basics including radio programming when necessary. We don’t have this system in place yet, but it’s being developed, and will be in place soon enough. It will also include a way for those with interest to find a sponsor if they don’t know anyone. Note that while we’re adopting an active user model, we remain committed to not having dues or fees, and will remain a purely donation supported operation.
So, be on the lookout for some traffic in your inbox in the coming weeks; we’re combing through the user list and are trying to figure out who we recognize and can vouch for to add in directly, and hope that those users in turn will help us invite more users that we will undoubtedly miss and need to use the system. While this means our user list will shrink a lot, at least initially, we’re also hopeful that in time those who have been invited as users will help us re-expand our user base in a more controlled manner. Rest assured that we know many of you.
In the meantime – feel free to keep using the system as you have it programmed in your radio, and we hope to see most of you in the coming months.
The SWCRS Team.