The QRZ.com thread resulting from the news about the French petition to have D-Star made legal has not degenerated into the usual flame war. This afternoon it produced this interesting post by Gavin, G0LGB whe makes some observations that are quite jaw-dropping.
Gavin claims that “Repeater groups are being persuaded by financial incentives, free or drastically reduced equipment, fast-track applications via RSGB/Ofcom, to convert their under used repeaters to D-Star.” The logic of how converting an under used repeater to use a little-used digital mode will increase traffic escapes me. More likely it has to do with starting to establish a network by the back door in the hope of encouraging more users, after which the busy repeaters will come under pressure to change too. We are having D-Star forced upon us whether we want it or not!
The other worrying claim Gavin makes is that the repeater keeper has the ability to ban users, not just from the repeater but from the D-Star network as a whole. This would be fine if it was simply used to ban miscreants – though why someone would pay £500 for a radio just to swear or play music is also a mystery – but apparently people have been banned just for voicing opinions unpopular with the repeater owners (somewhat reminiscent of my own experience with the ROS digital mode!) This is possible because the system is digital – all packets of audio or data originating from you are stamped with your call so the network knows who you are and where you are (or at least which repeater you are in range of.)
I think that, regardless of the merits or otherwise of using digital voice on the VHF bands, D-Star is not the way to go. It vests too much power in the hands of one manufacturer, Icom, and in individual repeater owners. It’s just unacceptable to have a situation that could result in you being barred from your hobby just because a repeater owner disagrees with your views. I suspect that the people who find APRS too much like Big Brother won’t like this either.