B101 Blanketing 88.1 in Downtown Providence

Dec 16, 2014

(Update 12/31/15 1:15pm) Please be advised that in late November 2015, WWBB installed a new antenna.  This antenna actually should help REDUCE blanketing interference in the downtown area, but nevertheless it's a change and that resets the one-year clock described below.

(Update 02/03/15 5:00pm) B101 has officially moved to One Financial Plaza (aka Hospital Trust tower) in downtown Providence as their new permanent home.  A "license to cover" has been granted by the FCC

What does this mean for your listening to 88.1FM?

Map of the 115dBu "Blanketing" Contour for WWBB 101.5FM Click the map to view full size.
Credit Aaron Read RIPR

If you live within approx. 1.5km of One Financial Plaza (see map at right) and you are experiencing blanketing interference to RIPR, then the FCC rules (47 CFR § 73.318(b)) mandate that WWBB must "satisfy all complaints of blanketing interference which are received  by the station during a one year period."   That period began 1/27/2015 and ends 1/27/2016 but please don't delay! (EDIT: after changing antennas in November 2015, the clock resets to end in November 2016)

You can contact Troy Langham at (918) 664-4581 or FCCcontact@iheartmedia.com to log a blanketing interference complaint and request assistance from their engineers.  Make sure to mention it's under "FCC rule section seventy-three dot three-one-eight".   Give your name, physical address, and a way to contact you (email or phone).

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(Update 12/17/14 10:19am) B101 is back on OFP, and it's blanketing 88.1 again.  IHM engineers say they're testing a configuration and may be doing this for a half hour or so.

(Update 12/16/14 10:55am) Been in touch with IHM engineers; testing is done for the day and things are back to normal.  I'll be talking more with them in a little bit.

(Original Post 12/16/2014 10:40am) On Tuesday morning (Dec.16), if you were listening to the radio in and around downtown Providence, you may have noticed B101's audio showing up across a lot of the dial, including 88.1FM.

This seems to be connected to B101's move to One Financial Center (aka the "Hospital Trust Skyscraper")

For the past few months, iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) has been executing a complicated series of modifications to three of their stations: WBWL 101.7FM in Boston, WCIB 101.9 in Falmouth, and WWBB (aka "B101") 101.5 in Providence.    Specifically, WCIB and WWBB are reducing their signals' reach to expand WBWL.

That seems counterintuitive, but it actually makes a fair amount of sense; it aligns each station's signal with its respective market much, much better.   And as part of all this, WWBB/B101 is being moved to the rooftop of 1 Financial Plaza (aka "Hospital Trust Tower"), the second tallest building in Providence and right in downtown.  

This morning at 8:30am, they fired up the new transmitter, and suddenly B101 wasn't just on 101.5 if you were listening in downtown.

Exactly what the problem is, I am not sure.  Fortunately, I was able to contact iHeartMedia's engineers pretty quickly and they were very responsive.  Around 10:10am the problem disappeared and I suspect they had shut off the new 1FP transmitter and gone back to the old transmitter, located in Rehoboth, while conducting diagnostics.

I suspect, and this is largely educated guesswork, that we're seeing the effects of blanketing interference.  This is when a receiver is so physically close to a powerful transmitter that it overwhelms the ability of the receiver to discriminate between signals.   The effect can be mitigated by better quality receivers/antennas, and by distance from the transmitting antenna.   So if you had a cheap clock radio, this might've impacted you as far away as College Hill...but drivers listening on good car radios might not have noticed anything even zipping through Kennedy Plaza.