Clearly, this has not been a pleasant winter for anyone in New England, and our 102.7FM tower site in Narragansett is no exception. This past Saturday (3/28) we had scheduled time for two different AT&T Wireless tower crews to go up on the Narragansett tower to work on their cellphone antennas.
During such times, we shut down 102.7FM (if possible we'll only reduce power, but in this case it has to be all the way "off") so the tower climbers don't get RF burns from our FM signal.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and it snowed a lot of the day on Saturday. One crew had to bag it entirely, and the other was highly limited in what they could do. It's not just a question of it being safe to climb the tower in the snow; these guys are pretty hardy and can climb in almost anything. The real problem is the equipment itself can't be exposed to too much precipitation or it shorts out. Normally there's rain/snow/ice shields on it all, but they have to open those shields up to work on the antennas.
Accordingly, we're going to have more shutdowns in our future. The next shutdown of 102.7 is scheduled for between 12noon and 3pm on Tuesday March 31st. We're not sure exactly when, but it shouldn't last for more than an hour or so.
Beginning at 10:00am on Saturday March 28th there will be an extended outage of RIPR's 102.7FM signal. It is expected to last several hours at least, possibly until sunset (around 6:30pm).
We may be able to continue operating at reduced power. But it's likely that 102.7 will just be completely off the air. Please note: whenever 102.7 is off, our WCVY 91.5FM signal in Coventry will be off as well. (it gets its content via a radio receiver tuned to 102.7)
Friday night and mid-day Saturday (Nov.14 & 15) ended up being a bit of a saga for what was supposed to be a routine upgrade for our 102.7FM signal in South County. So first off, an apology to our RIPR listeners on 102.7FM, and to MVYradio's listeners to the 96.5FM signal in Newport. There were several dropouts, periods when RIPR was on backup transmitter (and thus 96.5 was off entirely), or when both transmitters were down.
Exactly what happened could be described as an avalanche of minutiae, but I'll lay it out as best I can.
In many ways, this is an even bigger deal; 102.7 had a hefty vent fan system that could move a lot of air. Sure, if the air outside was hot, it means the air inside was hot, too. Usually you can't cool a room using outside air below about +10F degrees above outside air temps. So if it's 90F outside, it's 100 to 105F inside...ugh!
And at 88.1, we didn't really have even that. The transmitter site is an 8x10ft shed with a single 12 inch desk fan blowing air out one of the wall vents, and no insulation whatsoever on the walls or ceiling. Temps routinely broke 120F inside, even when it was only 70 to 80F outside.
UPDATE 01/21: Multiple letters sent with no response, and the pirate's still broadcasting. A letter has been mailed to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. If you are an RIPR listener to 102.7 and you have experienced interference due to this pirate, you can submit your own letter to the FCC as well.
UPDATE 12/19: The pirate has been found! Well, we're pretty sure we have found the pirate. Using a directional antenna and a signal meter, we triangulated the position to a house a few blocks from the Locust Grove Cemetery in South Providence.
A letter of notification of interference to RIPR was mailed to this address several weeks ago, but apparently this pirate doesn't care as there's still an illegal broadcast on 102.9 from this location.
UPDATE 11/5: Thanks to a fellow engineer who informed me there is a pirate broadcasting on 102.9FM and that is likely the source of the interference people have reported (see below). Quite possibly the atmospheric changes made it worse, but the bulk of the problem is likely the pirate.