Due to the chain of linked repeaters, special steps are needed to allow everyone fair access to the Connection. Because the primary purpose of the system is public service, this is a concern for everyone using the Colorado Connection.
The Connection is designed unlike many other linked repeater systems. Our repeaters don’t all connect to one main repeater. Checkout the system map and you’ll see that many of the repeaters are chained together serially. All the linking is done via amateur radio. There are no phone lines, microwave links, or other non-ham links. With this combination of linking radios and remote sites that act as clients to other repeaters, there is a one way signal path across the system. In some cases the repeater’s audio is wired to a link radio and communications with another site is via a simplex link frequency or repeater pair. Duplex links are available between some repeaters, but most of the links are in one direction across the system at any given time.
One of the most significant characteristics of this system is the time it takes for transmitters to unkey across the system and return to an idle state, allowing a response in the opposite direction. Consider a conversation between Jim in Colorado Springs and Steve in Grand Junction. When Jim unkeys it takes a small but measurable time for each transmitter along the path to Grand Junction to unkey, drop its carrier, and allow the next link to follow suit. Only after each transmitter has unkeyed is Steve able to respond. When he begins transmitting, it takes more time for his audio to propagate back through each repeater and link transceiver in the chain back to Colorado Springs. If another user keys up on the eastern slope before Steve’s signal gains control from the other end, his response is lost.
Similarly, if a conversation takes place on a single machine or two machines close together and those talking don’t leave sufficient breaks, users of outlying repeaters may never gain access. For this reason Connection users are asked to leave a pause of 3-4 seconds after hearing the proceed tone (the CW ‘K’) before beginning their transmission. This is especially appropriate when it’s your turn in a roundtable discussion. Failure to follow this procedure will exclude users at the outer reaches of the system. This can cause extreme frustration and occasional harsh feelings.
Many users never consider what the ‘K’ does to the system. What if Steve in Grand Junction is talking to Fred in Salida? All system messages are generated from the Denver repeater. After Steve speaks, all the links drop and the Denver repeater sends the CW ‘K’ back through the system. This requires that all the radios key their transmitters in the opposite direction to send the ‘K’ back to Steve in Grand Junction and Fred in Salida. All the repeaters have to drop once again before Fred can speak. When he does, his signal keys all the transmitters back the other direction. While his signal may not need to go to Denver for Steve to hear him, there is still a very significant time delay because when he unkeys, the ‘K’ is again generated from Denver and has to traverse the entire system in the opposite direction. When users anywhere (but especially in Denver) fail to leave adequate breaks for all the turnaround time taken during linking and unlinking for each direction the spoken audio or repeater generated ‘K’ takes, users on outlying repeaters can’t get a word in edgewise. This is incredibly frustrating to those of us at the far reaches of the system. It’s also very important that Fred and Steve don’t keyup too quickly. If either of them talk as soon as the system drops, they will double with the ‘K’ coming back from Denver. Not only will the first part of their audio not be heard, but others will hear the squeal of two signals.
Because the linking effect moves slower than actual audio, it is common for ½ to ¾ second of audio to be clipped from the beginning of each transmission. To overcome this clipping, we ask that you wait about one to two seconds after keying before beginning to speak. Your pause will ensure the smooth transition.
There are many times when the Colorado Connection serves as an on the air meeting place for large groups. During these times it is important to remember that the system is there for everyone. No one owns the system. Please work to include everyone who has expressed an interest in participating.
With the exception that emergency traffic has absolute priority, there are no hard and fast rules for operating on the Colorado Connection, but some simple guidelines should be considered.
Remember, the Connection is for public service operation. Emergency and public service traffic have priority.
Generally, during a conversation, wait 3-4 seconds before beginning to transmit when the conversation is passed to you.
Wait one second after depressing the PTT switch before speaking.
Balance your input (how long you talk) with how many stations are participating. (Don’t forget the two minute timer.)
Work to remember who’s there and include everyone. Think about to whom you will pass the conversation during a roundtable discussion. Do your part to help keep the rotation going smoothly.
Encourage others to join in any roundtable discussions. Don’t forget to include those on outlying repeaters. The 145.310 MHz Denver repeater is not the only repeater on the Connection.
As others join a conversation, help them continue the rotation by helping them know who’s next in line to pickup the conversation.
It is common to hear multiple breaking stations during a pause between users. When there is a breaker extend the pause slightly to assure everyone a chance to identify.
As user A passes the conversation to user B, it is generally best for user B to acknowledge any breaking stations who identify during the transitional pause.
If user A passes the conversation to user B, but user B does not respond, it is generally best for user A to pickup the conversation, acknowledge any identifying stations, and pass the conversation to another user. This avoids confusion during unusual transitions.
Except in an emergency, it is generally best to listen long enough to get a feel of who is present before joining a conversation.
The Colorado Connection is often the best or only way to make contact with another part of the state. Even if the frequency is in use for an informal round robin, it is not discourteous to answer a call from a distant station and have a short conversation. Don’t make it too long when you interrupt to do this.
If your conversation is just you and another user, feel free to enjoy your conversation. Leave adequate breaks for others to identify. If you’re ragchewing, announce your intent and ask if others need the system. If no one responds, continue your conversation.
Similarly, if you’d like to break into a conversation, do so during a pause. It is considered rude to begin a long conversation if you have interrupted other users.
Following these simple guidelines prevents confusion on this, the most active repeater system in the state. As you become comfortable with these guidelines, they will become good operating habits and you can begin educating newcomers about these procedures while using The Colorado Connection.