Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Can They DO That? (Well, not legally…)

From the "hey, wait a minute" department comes this report from CoinDesk, an online media outlet covering the virtual currency industry. According to the March 4 report, two bitcoin developers who also hold ham licenses successfully transmitted a bitcoin lightning payment via amateur radio. The payment was sent to developer and Bloomberg columnist Elaine Ou, KM6NCF, in California by Rodolfo Novak, VE3NAK, co-founder of CoinKite, a bitcoin hardware startup, in Ontario. After successfully receiving the payment, Ou reportedly tweeted that "Bitcoin is making ham radio cool again!"
The idea is to have an RF backup in the event of cyberattacks on bitcoin transactions over the internet. There's just one problem: in the US (and most likely in Canada as well), using ham radio to complete financial transactions is blatantly illegal. FCC rules define amateur radio as a "noncommercial radio service" used by "duly authorized persons … solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest," and section 97.113 of the rules specifically prohibit "(c)ommunications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest…"