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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

You Think Bandwidth Is Expensive NOW!?

Get ready to open your wallet.  There’s going to be a huge growth in data traffic and it’s going to force all the ISP’s, networks and data transporters to charge more.  Why?  Because it’s going to take so much bandwidth that Julius Genachowski – yes, I know he’s out but he's the bandwidth-for-everyone champion – will be (as they say in Kentucky) batting his eyes like a bullfrog in a hailstorm. 
And another “why?”  
Because people always find a “way around.”  Another term:  “unintended consequences.”
When met with a challenge, creative folks always find a way around.  This time the challenge is unwanted monitoring of messages and other communication.  And the way around? Well, from what I’m reading, it’s scary.   
Here’s the thinking – and I’m seeing it on blogs and posts all over the place…people encouraging others to send the systems into overload.  They want folks to send so many messages that those seeking to monitor them can’t possibly track them all – even with programs from Algorithm City they’ll be frustratingly unable to look at it all.  But in order to overload the system, it’ll overload the system.  Hello, master of doublespeak.  Do you know what you just wrote?  
Yeah.  That overload will definitely frustrate the lurkers but it’ll also cost all of us.  First off in slowed communication as existing networks bog down and then in higher costs as networks have to add bandwidth to accommodate the additional traffic.  And they’re talkin’ about not 10 times but 10 THOUSAND times – or possibly a hundred thousand or a million or more times.  
Then, add to that the prospect that legitimate emails and attachments will be buried inside longer messages, “Nah, nah-nah-na-na-nah – try to find the real message,” which may increase the size of existing messages by a factor of X, where X=”a lot bigger number than you think.”  For that, how big does the pipe have to be?  
If you think that Netflix® video is slow now, just wait.  
What’s the real fix?  Take away the lurkers.  Let the medium run without the fear that someone’s monitoring it all.  Set rules that are very plain – and enforced – that limit lurking and monitoring.  So, regardless of which side of the lurker ops you stand, security or intrusion, be ready to spend some extra dough until the monitors return to sanity.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Now Ya’ Gotta Build It…Low Power FM (LPFM)

The filing window is closed; the commission has begun its review of Low Power FM (LPFM) applications. In short - or maybe not so short - order, construction permits will be granted. The first ones will probably be the "singletons" as some are referring to them...applications which satisfy all of the separation requirements and have no mutually exclusive applications.
Then comes the fun part: building the station. This is where smart thinking – and planning – can save some real money.  (Yes,  my group does these but regardless of who you work with, we can’t find a single reason for spending more than you have to in order to wind up with a functional studio/transmission system.)
Because of the nature of the LPFM service, cost is a major concern, but so is reliability and durability. After all, it has to stay on the air and many operators may have little or no experience handling radio gear. Here are some points to keep in mind:
When thinking through equipment, first plan your programming! If you're doing 24x7 live talk, you could get away with a couple of mics, a mixer, headphones, processor, transmitter and antenna. You could, but even with such a simple format you'll want to be able to pre-produce program intros and closings, station ID's, PSA's and information about donors and support. That will mean a separate production area with its own inputs like mics, music playback (CD, .mp3 players, a quality computer) and possibly a phone input/system to prerecord calls. And, in any case, you'll need to be EAS compliant. That means at least an EAS/CAP decoder.
About that phone, if you want to take live calls on air, you'll need a telephone interface – probably a hybrid, but not necessarily – for the air studio. Along those lines, you will probably want to protect yourself against fines with a program delay unit that allows you to terminate callers or other persons before their comments reach the transmitter should their words go outside the bounds of acceptability for the time of day.
Of course, it gets more complicated as you add programming types. A local concert will require remote equipment - mics, stands, mixer, headphones and a recorder. Want to do it live? Well, that means a way to get that concert back to the studio. What about live, in-studio music? That's a challenging format since it usually calls for a larger studio, multiple microphones, and a more sophisticated mixing console.
You may choose to automate part of the day. It may be voice-tracking by your own talent or by an outside feed. Programming may come from a digital line or satellite. It will need to be downlinked/downloaded and fed out over the air.
Each format has its own challenges - and costs. And that means working hard and working smart to keep those costs down. It means doing the research to find that a $200 XYZ box will do just as good a job as a $1500 unit. Quality is quality and LPFM shouldn't be shortchanged. But spending more than you need to is a waste.
Then you need to consider the transmission gear. The audio processor (yes, you'll need one to ensure compliance with FCC rules), the transmitter, studio-transmitter link and remote control (if the transmitter is separated from the studio), transmission line, tower and antenna. And don't forget to consider lightning and static discharge protection. Protection doesn't have to be costly and it's hard to dedicate funds to equipment that doesn't affect/improve the sound of your station. Of course, if spending the money on lightning elimination keeps the station on the air undamaged through lightning assaults, it actually does affect the sound.
Finally, add in prevent theft and vandalism and to make sure the airwaves aren't accessed by unauthorized individuals.
Here, in a nutshell is a checklist for getting your station built:
  • Iron out your programming plans
  • Work through the equipment you'll need for each format
  • Do a layout of studio, production room, meeting room, storage (Yes storage. You'll need more than you imagine)
  • Plan your transmitter location and determine how the audio will be transmitted from the studio to the transmitter
  • Summarize all of the equipment needed
  • Seek a reputable service to specify equipment to meet your needs and satisfy your construction permit and provide you the most flexibility possible within your budget
LPFM is providing valuable services across the country. When you receive your CP you'll be on the road to becoming a part of it.