Mother Nature, Meet Rainy-Day Fund

For the last few weeks my home community radio station, WEFT, has been hobbling along at reduced power, due to severe weather which fried our 20 year-old, 10,000-watt transmitter. Over the course of this time, the station’s rented a 1,000-watt transmitter, bringing our effective radiated power up to about 1/5th of its licensed capacity.
Buying, shipping, and installing a 10,000-watt transmitter is not cheap (think approximately $60,000). Fortunately, because our old transmitter was insured and verifiably destroyed by an “act of God” (lightning/water damage), we should be receiving something around $27,000 in compensation. In conjunction with that, WEFT had a “rainy-day fund” set up shortly after we paid off the mortgage for our studio building more than 10 years ago. We paid off the mortgage early and saved the remainder. That fund has about $25,000 in it. Continue reading “Mother Nature, Meet Rainy-Day Fund”

Digital Radio Wobbles Around the World

Last month, I attended an exploratory workshop hosted by the European Science Foundation about the prospects of community media in a digitally-convergent communications environment. Not surprisingly, when one thinks “community media,” radio first comes to mind, and we represented in full: most of the 30 invitees to this workshop were either involved in radio activism and/or regulation in their respective home countries.
My personal mission was to warn as many other countries away from casting their fates with iBiquity’s HD Radio platform, as it not only carries a plethora of technical risks, but it may decimate community radio stations as we know them (draft, not for publication). Fortunately, this was an easy job: the Europeans can see through the snake-oil that is HD Radio, and the general consensus of the workshop was that HD should be opposed at every step. Continue reading “Digital Radio Wobbles Around the World”

FCC to Consider Raising FM-HD Power Levels

Documents were filed with the agency late last week by HD Radio’s proprietor, iBiquity Digital Corporation, to allow FM-HD stations to increase the power of their digital sidebands by a factor of 10. The rationale behind this request is increasing field evidence which shows that the digital portion of FM-HD signals fails miserably at matching increasing analog signal coverage, and the existing power level does not allow digital signals to penetrate buildings very well.
This proposal does not come without risk; evidence of HD signals interfering with other stations is already well-known, especially on the AM side, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has completed a study that adds new information to the body of knowledge regarding FM-HD interference. Unfortunately, the results of this study have not yet been made public, though notably National Public Radio itself has not taken a position on whether or not increasing the digital output of FM stations is a good idea. Continue reading “FCC to Consider Raising FM-HD Power Levels”

When Lightning Strikes

On Friday, May 30, my local community radio station, WEFT, suffered a lightning strike to its antenna tower. Although the tower’s lightning protection system protected part of the airchain, it did not save it all: a critical piece of our 10,000-watt transmitter’s innards got fried. Upon inspection, there also appeared to be water damage, with “debris” found inside the transmitter itself. Repairs have been unsuccessful.
Regionally, the Midwest is suffering from a particularly rough patch of severe weather; WEFT is but one of many casualties to Mother Nature this summer. Typically, the weather extremes is one of the things that makes living here fun. Continue reading “When Lightning Strikes”

FCC Enforcement Focus Diversifying?

When it comes to unlicensed broadcasting, I only monitor the FCC’s activity against pirate AM, FM and shortwave stations. And as far as those areas are concerned, the FCC is on relative track to meet its record-breaking enforcement effort of last year.
eadbyactionHowever, the devil is in the details. As you can see from the breakdown of enforcement activity at right, nearly 80% of all FCC enforcement actions fall into the categories of station-visits and warning letters. Continue reading “FCC Enforcement Focus Diversifying?”

Comcastic Adventures: Spiking Your E-Mail

It should come as no surprise that my experience as a Comcast broadband subscriber is matching up with many others: extra-sh*tty. Comcast has been flogged extensively elsewhere about its draconian “bandwidth management” techniques – throttling some traffic, blocking others, and now testing new technologies in preparation for implementing this non-neutral network management practice nationwide. And Comcast is not alone in this trend.
My problem with Comcast, however, has had nothing to do with BitTorrent, Skype, Gnutella, or Lotus Notes. It has everything to do with the most important application for which I use the Internet – e-mail.
The problem began a couple of months ago, when those of us in Champaign-Urbana began to be assimilated into the larger Comcast network-borg. I expected an increase in intermittent service outages, but I did not expect my e-mail to stop coming in. But it did, and after two months of sleuthing with Comcast’s evasive and mostly-impotent technical support, I think I have figured out the problem. Continue reading “Comcastic Adventures: Spiking Your E-Mail”

(Not Quite) Back From the Dead

It’s been a long, difficult academic year, but it was successful: I’m now all-but-dissertation and have given myself two years to complete the research I came here to do. Over the next week I’ll update the legacy projects on this site, and hopefully over the month I’ll get back into the swing of regular analysis.
I have learned some important lessons this year. Continue reading “(Not Quite) Back From the Dead”