ARRL’s Logbook of the World (LoTW) provides a secure, authenticated means to electronically QSL. Confirmations are good for DXCC, WAS, VUCC and CQ WPX awards. There is no cost to sign up and ARRL membership is not required. There is a fee associated with requesting awards with LoTW credit, but it’s pretty modest, particularly when compared to postage for mailing paper cards or the inconvenience of getting cards checked by an official (or not, as required) human checker.
It’s extremely easy to get authenticated for LoTW if you’re in the US and a little more complicated if you’re outside the US (it involves mailing copies of a few documents to the ARRL).
Many logging programs allow you to integrate LoTW upload and downloads into your workflow.
So why is my confirmation rate only 50%?
I can understand that some small number of hams don’t use computer logs or don’t have internet availability. The numbers would be even smaller for those in contests – logging hundreds of QSOs by hand would be awful, and most contests greatly prefer electronic submission of logs. Still, the response rate is much lower than I would think.
Particularly odd are QSLs I get through eQSL.cc that are “Authenticity Guaranteed” without a corresponding LoTW entry. These stations went through a similar authenticity process to that required by LoTW and are submitting the information electronically. But not also to LoTW.
The ARRL can help its own program by requiring LoTW entries for logs submitted for ARRL contests. Most contest participants are not thinking they are going to win any particular honors. Some are in it for the fun of beating their last score or multiplier counts. Some are in it to get QSLs for other operating awards, though, particularly ARRL’s own WAS and DXCC.
Some changes to the TQSL program could make it more convenient to send both Cabrillo and signed ADIF files for contest entries. Perhaps in the future, TQSL could sign Cabrillo files, generate one from the other, or Cabrillo files could be replaced by ADIF files with additional tags. Some careful software and process design could optimize the experience. Then it would be, as we coders sometimes say, a “simple matter of programming” (SMOP).
I think this would be win-win for the ARRL. It would encourage more participation in their contests by e-paper-chasers and increase participation in LoTW by contesters. And yes, I have sent this suggestion to the ARRL via a member of the Contest Advisory Committee.