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)
We have put a temporary setup in place with a donated 30 watt transmitter on loan (with the antenna array's gain factor of 2.1, it's really more like 63 watts of Effective Radiated Power), and a special radio that's tuned to 102.7FM (there's a high-gain FM antenna on the rooftop tower) and puts out the composite signal directly into the new transmitter. This effectively makes 91.5 into a "repeater" of 102.7FM.
Sharp-eared listeners may have noticed some announcements this morning on RIPR, having to do with our FCC broadcast licenses. In fact, listeners to every radio station in Rhode Island, and all of New England, will be hearing similar announcements today. It’s because every eight years, AM & FM broadcast licenses expire and must be renewed; these announcements are required by the FCC as part of that process.
When you’re a broadcast engineer, you get used to receiving calls at odd hours proclaiming things that tend to fall outside the bounds of “normal.” It’s just the nature of the job. But even your intrepid engineer can be surprised sometimes. Friday morning, August 23rd, was one of those times.
That morning I got a call informing me that WCVY, our 91.5FM signal for much of Kent County, was off the air.