ARDC’s Grants — General — Grant Goals

ARDC wants to use the value of our 44net address space to improve the worlds of amateur radio and digital communication. We are a US “501(c)(3)” nonprofit, and our mission includes education and science. From our Bylaws, “the specific purposes for which the corporation is formed are to support, promote, and enhance digital communication and broader communication science and technology, to promote Amateur Radio, scientific research, experimentation, education, development, open access, and innovation in information and communication technology.”

All of our grants will be made to advance these purposes.

ARDC’s roots are in amateur radio and the technology of Internet communication. We remain deeply committed to the further improvement and advancement of both. In addition, these roots have grown from the deeper soils of wireless communication in general, digital communication in general, open access to technical information, and a long practice and tradition of individual technical experimentation that has often led to broad advances for the benefit of the general public.

The requirements of US tax law limit our ability to donate funds to individuals, non-charitable projects, or non-US recipients, until we build up the administrative infrastructure to do the oversight to make sure that our donations are actually spent to advance our charitable purposes rather than for personal benefit. We are actively working to create that infrastructure, but until it is in place, all grant recipients will be US 501(c)(3) public charities, or will have such an organization as a fiscal sponsor. (For software projects, there are several well respected fiscal sponsors such as Software in the Public Interest. For Amateur Radio, particularly for international projects, consider asking if the Yasme Foundation will sponsor your project.)

Areas of Interest

Growth of Amateur Radio. We want proposals to teach amateur radio to new generations, particularly including broadening the excitement and understanding of amateur radio among women, non-white, and young people. The demographics of amateur radio operators have been deeply affected by the commercial communications revolution; young people no longer need a ham license to make mobile audio and video calls with their friends. Send us proposals to show new generations what they CAN do with amateur radio that they CAN’T do with a mobile phone — like talk with an astronaut in space, or pass information despite natural disasters or centrally imposed censorship.

Amateur Radio technology and experimentation. Small numbers of motivated hams have always led the world in exploring and using new frequency bands, new modulation techniques, new circuit and antenna designs, new networking methods, and new achievements in portability and disaster resilience. Find us these innovative hams, and help us remove financial or regulatory or organizational barriers to unleash their ability to keep the field moving forward. Also, identify proprietary technologies where companies have sought to corner the market on ham radio innovations, and help us negotiate with them to release or re-license or reverse-engineer these technologies for use and improvement by all hams and by the general public. Why don’t our pocket phones do video calls, texts and voice over ham frequencies, even when the mobile network and the WiFi are down or censored? Did we forget to invent something? Did we forget to finish its integration, to make it easy for the majority of hams who merely enjoy rag-chewing most of the time?

Internet technologies. When net 44 was allocated to ham radio in the 1980s, the Internet was an experiment. Since then, it escaped the lab, went commercial, and lost many of its innovative roots, yet there’s nothing actually stopping us from continuing to experiment. Bring us proposals to build new protocols, new experiments, new capabilities, that don’t just make another centralized website funded by surveillance, advertising, or user manipulation. Why do most people need Google to serve up their videos and to manage their calendars? Why isn’t there a protocol for transportation rental (ride-sharing, bike and scooter and car rentals) instead of a dedicated app and website for each separate vendor? We crowdsource an amazing encyclopedia (Wikipedia) and a remarkable world map (OpenStreetMap); what other key information should be communally created, owned, and maintained? What kind of hardware, software, network and protocol designs will better prevent middle nodes from blocking broad communication, neither deterred by natural disaster, political interference, military jamming, nor ordinary equipment failure? How can we upgrade or replace WWW with a Distributed Web that scales to world size, avoids failure points, and is simple for publishers and users?

Digital communication. The Internet isn’t the last word in digital communication. What else is the world missing, that companies have not yet invented? The Shuttleworth Foundation sponsored Koruza.net, a cheap, unlicensed gigabit optical link that can replace short line-of-sight radio links at 1, 2.5, or 10 Gbit/sec. Militaries are researching small, cheap, interference resistant ultra-wideband signalling and location. Hams evolve Earth-Moon-Earth and meteor scatter signalling. Satellite data rates and protocols continue to improve. Interplanetary communication is an intriguing challenge. How can moving (possibly self-driving) cars and drones (the Internet of Moving Things) best communicate with each other and with local ground-based nodes, directly, with low enough latency to avoid crashes, without depending on fallible infrastructure? Can a small Bluetooth to amateur radio interface let your cellphone communicate even when commercial infrastructure is missing? Can we use infrared frequencies to communicate with medical devices under our skin, or with biological machines?

Communication science and technology. Modulation and coding theory and practice continue to evolve and deliver substantial SNR improvements. Can we harness David Reed’s speculations about interference not being inherent in the electromagnetic spectrum, but only in transmitter and receiver designs, to handle multiple transmissions per frequency without interference? Nanotechnology and semiconductor fabrication let us build physical structures sized to arbitrary wavelengths, even near visible light; what communication breakthroughs can these capabilities lead us to? How can we get past today’s practical constraints on automated (e.g. mesh) routing to scale it up?

Education. How can we intrigue and inform new generations about how the electromagnetic spectrum ACTUALLY works? Who will invent the breakthrough radio inventions of 2075 when most electronic engineers barely understand analog today? Can we inform politicians and regulators to avoid stupid restrictions on experimentation and personal equipment construction and modification, while avoiding interference with critical spectrum-based services? What will let kids peer behind the “magic” of mobile phones, WiFi, television, and radio-control toys to really know what is involved?

Open access. The Internet succeeded partly because its protocols and some of its implementations were freely and openly published for anyone to read, understand, and use. Science works by open publication, but individual access to those publications is hobbled by the greed of academic publishers. Free and open source software empowers billions of people and millions of servers. When ARDC funds new work in any of the above areas, we will require it to be able to freely spread without limit, to everyone who can benefit and to everyone who can contribute.

Innovation. Technical innovation in the above areas have produced vast social good, from broad access to culture, to “always-on” personal communication, to saving lives with timely medical information and collaboration. Innovation in business models, like crowdfunding of non-rivalrous distribution (Wikipedia) or free software service business models, enable broad access to things that are expensive to produce. What innovations in our community will best serve future generations? How can we preserve the right to innovate, despite oligopolies and corrupt governments that restrict innovation to protect the status quo, feed advantages to their cronies, or keep the current winners in privileged positions? As John Perry Barlow once said, “I’ve had a continuous question and complaint from people… They say, ‘You want me to behave as though I were a social philosopher. And, actually what I do is bus architecture.’ Well, exactly. I don’t think you can expect the social philosophers to understand bus architecture very well for a while, either. So both of those jobs fall to us — the people who understand the basic nature of this very different environment.”