Civilian communications relays
Communications Relay Station keep the galaxy in contact. Amongst some of the most common sights in the galaxy, communications relay stations handle HyperCOMM messages, sending them to the next relay station until they get to their destination.
The relay stations are like a large grid. If, for example, a civilian on Beta Hydrae Prime sends a message to another civilian on Earth, then the communication is routed through the large network along the most expedient course to Earth. The message is broadcast along HyperCOMM (HCOM) to one station, which broadcasts it to the next, and so the chain continues.
The effect of this is that it can take up to one week for messages to cross from one side of a galactic power to the other.
In the event of the destruction of a communications relay, the HyperCOMM message is rerouted to another station, and the destroyed "link in the chain" is bypassed.
Real-time communications in the event of an emergency
The military and the government normally use the civilian relay stations which are maintained by the government. However, there is another network of stations that keep a constant "open channel" between each other, allowing conversations in real time. The government and the military both use this system in times of necessity or emergency.
This relay network is extremely power intensive and because of the "open channel" method by which it works, it would overload the system to allow civilians on to the network for real time conversations.
However, all military ships and installations, as well as select government installations do keep an open channel to the nearest government relay station, thereby allowing for them to be accessed and spoken to in real time from just about anywhere. A ship which is not "linked in" to the network will not be able to experience real time communication across star systems.
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