The Source
Issue Date • September 2013
Mount Rainier
Voices on the Mountain
Mount Rainier, First National Park to Add Networked Information Radio Stations
ASHFORD, WA: It’s not news when a National Park boasts multiple Information Radio Stations (TIS) that deliver special messages to visitors in multiple locations. It is news, however, when the broadcast messages on the radio stations are seamlessly managed across a network.

Mount Rainer National Park, located in western Washington State, is in the process of installing such a system, intended to inform and advise visitors at five locations – including the Park’s three main entrances.

The system will leverage the network backbone already in place among various Park facilities. NPS will utilize “Uploader” software just released by Information Station Specialists to manage audio-file distribution from a library at Park Headquarters to the radio stations. "Uploader" allows a program-loop of multiple files to be sent to each of the five stations in one action, saving staff considerable time.

Costs are lower, and audio quality is increased due to the elimination of telephone lines used to manage existing Park radio stations.
Mount Rainier Entrance
One of the Park's Main Entrances
Three of the five networked locations (Ashford, Nisqually and Paradise) currently have Information Radio Stations. Two new networked stations will be brought online at Ohanapecosh and White River.

Mount Rainier National Park was an early adopter of Information Station technology in the 1980s.

Related Link:

National Parks that have used Information Radio Station technology and for what purposes.
Low-Interest FM
Why Most Public Safety Agencies Are Wary of Low Power FM
ZEELAND, MI: With the filing window approaching for Low Power FM Radio Stations (LPFM), The Source often fields questions regarding the service. FM is a better band to be on than AM, right? Below is a quick-list of points that illustrate why most public safety agencies don’t agree.
LPFM Antenna
LPFM Antenna Photo by Tom Bosscher
1 Frequency Availability
In almost all areas of the USA, multiple AM Information Radio Station frequencies are available for public safety agencies. This is not the case for Low Power FM, especially in more densely populated areas where FCC separation rules make application for FM frequencies impossible.

2 Frequency Competition
Governmental entities apply for AM Information Radio Stations on a first-come-first-served basis and can be almost certain of receiving the 10 year licenses. But getting a grant for a Low Power FM station is a different matter. Why? Because virtually any nonprofit educational institution may also apply for a LPFM license. Consequently, it’s likely there will be a much larger pool of applicants in a given area; i.e., almost every nonprofit group and church in the area could be a potential applicant. This means there could be multiple applicants for each open frequency. A FCC-mandated point system will determine which applicants are most qualified. At this link see basic information published by the FCC about Low Power FM radio stations and related application processes.

3 Shared Operation
Because the FCC’s qualifications are so low, most LPFM applicants will be at the highest level of qualification, therefore, there are likely to be multiple grantees. In those situations, the FCC will require all equally qualified applicants to share the operation of the frequency. This means each LPFM licensee would only have use of the frequency for a few hours per day. To make matters worse, in highly populated areas, such licensees might only be able to broadcast on certain years of the 8-year license term. This is not the right picture for a public safety agency that might need to speak to the public at any time of day or night.

4 Legal Representation
The FCC recommends that broadcast engineering and broadcast law firms be employed by the public safety agency as it navigates the application process and the subsequent construction and operation of the LPFM station. Especially if there are multiple applicants for the frequency, the process could stretch the timeline and the budget for the station. The result is that the real costs associated with a LPFM station are unknown until the station is built and on the air. None of this is applicable to AM Information Radio Stations, whose costs and timelines are predictable at the outset.

There are other significant differences between the AM and FM services as well, including required equipment and service expectations; but the four points presented here illustrate why most public safety agencies look askance at the Low Power FM service – despite its more attractive address on the FM band.
TIS Filter Icon 
Do TIS Filters Protect Broadcasters?
SBE Opposes Bigger Bandwidth for TIS
WASHINGTON, DC: In comments filed with the FCC, the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) has announced it is squarely at odds with the Commission’s current rulemaking effort that would result in elimination of audio filters on TIS transmitters. Removal, says the SBE, would “contribute to the inability of AM broadcasters to compete in the radio marketplace.” 3-kHz filters were built into the design of the transmitters in the 1970s, when it was believed that the 10-watt stations could interfere with local broadcasters if their bandwidth was not limited.

The suggestion to do away with the filters was originally put forth by AAIRO – a national association of Information Radio (TIS) operators – because of the enhancement in intelligibility that would result. With the Travelers Information Service increasingly being used for emergency applications, the understandability of such broadcasts directly affects their ability to protect life and property in emergencies.

The SBE comments, contained in FCC docket 09-19, state that elimination of the filters “would subject AM broadcast listeners to increased interference, at least while mobile, and those listeners will not report the interference to the Commission …[but]…will instead continue to migrate to the FM broadcast band or to other media and leave AM broadcast stations to fail.”

AAIRO’s comments take the position that since FCC rules already restrict TIS station programming to human voice (about 6 kHz) and because the maximum bandwidth of a standard broadcast station is about 7 kHz, an unfiltered TIS station presents no more interference potential than a conventional AM radio station.