Archive | October, 2005

DJ Johnny Silver Is Back and Online

Got an email today from Nyack NY’s own pirate DJ Johnny Silver. He says Iron Action Radio is back up for nightly broadcasts, beginning tonight both at 102.5 FM in Nyack and on-line at Shoutcast. Johnny says the broadcasts will start along the lines of 7 or 8 PM Eastern time.

I can confirm that the Shoutcast stream is up — I’m listening right now. Johnny’s on mic discussing a weblog that mentioned him, and is exploring the guy’s music and art that he’s posted. Now he’s segued into some classic hair metal: Kix’s “Cold Blood.”

Should be some interesting listening for anyone in Nyack or anyone on-line who wants to hear some actual pirate radio, rather than podcasts or other on-line shows that like to claim the mantle without any of the risk.

It seems like Iron Action Radio has been on and off all year long — understandable, since it takes dedication to run a pirate radio station by yourself every night. We’ll see how long Johnny can keep it up, and away from the FCC.

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How About Low-Power AM Radio?

There has been some grassroots interest and organizing around establishing a low-power AM radio service for a number of years now. The engineering for AM radio is trickier than for FM — the long wavelengths typically mean much bigger antennas and towers. However, some innovative guys like Kyle Drake have come up with some engineering solutions for doing very-low-power 100 milliwatt Part 15 LPAM broadcasting that can be applied to higher-power broadcasts at 100 watts or so.

One of the motivating factors behind the LPAM movement is that some of the original LPFM activists were unhappy that the LPFM service was made exclusively noncommercial. Some parties wanted LPFM to provide an opportunity for new locally owned commercial stations whose existence has been all but stamped out by industry consolidation resulting from the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

John at has the lowdown on the new LPAM petition for rulemaking that was just accepted by the FCC. That acceptance means the FCC will now officially investigate the possibility of such a service, and take public comments on it.

John also thinks some aspects of the proposal may not fly. In particular he notes that the LPAM petition asks that new commercial licenses not be auctioned off as currently required by law, and also would like to see competing applications resolved by the FCC reviewing their proposed broadcast content.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting that the FCC actually decided to formally explore the issue, though it’s tough to know what forces or motivations inside the Commission actually pushed the topic to the fore.

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Another Reason Why US Broadband Sucks

This morning on boingboing I noted that there have been all sorts of outtages at two of the biggest Internet backbones. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since my own access at work and home was working — aside from some sites being slow.

A little later in the morning I was scheduled to do a phone interview with Morgan Jindrich of the Consumers Union, which she decided to do from her home office. I called her and the connection was horrible — like a bad webcast with lots of lost. Through all the digital hash I could just barely understand her telling me that she’s using Vonage VOIP, which appeared to be the source of the problem.

So, I called her back on her cell, which was better (but cells are never ideal for phone interviews — their quality is typically lower than the 100+ year-old land-line technology). She told me that network connectivity, including telephone, has been rotten all week at her office in DC. And, obviously, it was pretty rotten at her house outside the city, today.

This minor episode just sort of highlights for me the problem with having all of our communications pumped through the same pipe. A single-point of failure is never a good thing.

So imagine you get your phone, TV and data over your broadband line-some of you probably already do. What happens when that broadband is down, either locally or with one of the big backbones?

Is our broadband infrastructure ready to become THE communications network that we depend on for everything? Are the companies providing that backbone truly responsible and trustworthy enough?

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Tell the FCC To Hold Public Hearings on Media Ownership Rules

The Consumers Union is running a campaign to get the FCC to hold public hearings before it engages its next attempt to rewrite media ownership rules. As part of the campaign they’re featuring a fun song and music video about media consolidation called “The Tower.” I think they should send CDs of the song to community radio stations around the country, since there’s a good chance that it would get a decent amount of play that way.

This is a critical time for the media ownership battle, since it’s my guess that the issue has fallen off a lot of people’s radars after the Third Circuit sent back the FCC’s attempt to loosen restrictions. But that didn’t signal the end of the battle, just another round, since the FCC still has a mandate to review and rewrite.

The first time around then-Chairman Powell did his best to keep the public out of the process, which backfired famously. My guess is that current Chair Kevin Martin is more savvy than that, but I also think he’d prefer minimize the amount of public input as much as possible.

The CU is running a petition asking the FCC to hold at least 10 public hearings on media ownership as part of its campaign. I’m not certain if it’s a real petition — just a list of signatories — or whether it’s an automated letter to the FCC. I tend to think on-line petitions aren’t worth much. But an automated letter to the FCC is very useful, since a deluge of comments can make a difference on Commission staff, and make it a more dicey proposition for the FCC to ignore the demands of thousands of average folks.

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