The Source
Issue Date • March 2015
FCC Allows Upgrade to High Quality TIS
Historic Change Allows Licensees to Broadcast Higher Bandwidth Audio − No Need to Recertify
WASHINGTON, DC:  Have you wished your Information Radio Station (TIS) sounded better than it does? The FCC has granted your wish.

The FCC announced on March 26, 2015, in Report & Order 15-37, that it will allow operators of Travelers Information Stations the option to change each transmitter's audio filter out for one with a wider bandwidth to improve the sound of their stations. It’s the first modification of Part 90 TIS technical specifications since the service was established in 1977.
 
The ruling will allow licensees the option to replace each TIS transmitter's existing 3000 Hz low-pass audio filter with a 5000 Hz version, thereby making broadcasts brighter, more natural sounding and more intelligible. The resulting audio pass-band is 66% wider and – in the FCC’s own words – could allow its quality to “match that of AM broadcast stations.”

Information Station Specialists is the only supplier thus far committed to providing the components required to make the field transition of existing stations possible. In addition, new TR6000 transmitters manufactured by the firm will soon come standard with TIS-HQTM capability.
"A relaxed filtering requirement could improve TIS audio quality to match that of AM broadcast stations."

   ...Federal Communications Commission
The request to change the audio filtering requirement was originally made by AAIRO (American Association of Information Radio Operators) as part of the earlier proceeding to clarify the service’s broadcast content. AAIRO also requested that licensees 1) would have the option to make the improvement but that it not be mandated, 2) would not have to recertify their transmitters and 3) would be allowed to use a stand-alone filter to make the change affordable and field-upgradable. The FCC concurred on all three points and proceeded to integrate them into the new ruling.

To put your agency's name on the list to receive information on upgrading your station(s) to TIS-HQ, contact Information Station Specialists and use the term HQ in the subject line.
Estes Park CO flood 
Communities Bringing Back "Local" Radio for Residents & Visitors
Cities Unserved by Broadcasters Fill Need with Information Radio (TIS) Service
ESTES PARK, CO:  It’s right in the name: 'broad’–casting. Conventional radio stations know that the more broadly their programming appeals, the more appealing their bottom lines. With deregulation of the industry and the advent of satellite-driven syndicated formats, many radio stations today are actually appealing to a national audience even though their towers are sited in local communities. The only thing “local” on such stations might be the commercials.

But communities are bucking the trend. Cities have begun installing FCC-licensed Information Radio (TIS) stations to keep residents informed. They now number in the hundreds and are found in all 50 states (see list). Information Stations are not for entertainment, even so they nonetheless provide a rallying-point for citizens and an information source for visitors. In an emergency, they may be the only source of critical local information.

A recent example is Estes Park, Colorado, located at the doorstep to Rocky Mountain National Park. In 2014, the Town installed an Information Station named “Estes 1470” on the same 1470 frequency a local broadcaster once operated. The Town announced the new station in the Estes Park Trail Gazette, as its construction was being completed in 2014.

About the new station, Public Information Officer Kate Rusch now says, “We're excited to have the station in place after several years of discussing the need and to know that it gives some peace of mind to residents.... In order to establish it [the station], we earmarked a small portion of a new voter-approved community reinvestment sales tax.”
"It's a small price to pay for community safety."

                                   ...Kate Rusch, Estes Park, CO
Estes' totally noncommercial everyday broadcasts orient visitors to area attractions and history and steer them to the Town's visitor center, so they can take advantage of services (listen to sample). Locals benefit from updates on how to find events, the locations and details about street closures along with traffic info and emergency information when it’s relevant.

New FCC guidelines allow Information Stations such as Estes Park’s to broadcast information about “emergencies” and “imminent danger” at the discretion of local emergency managers.

Rusch adds, “In extreme situations when other communication systems have failed, we know AM radio is likely to stay in operation. It's a small price to pay for community safety.” Estes Park and surrounding Larimer County have experienced severe flooding in recent years that has caused major property destruction and washed out roads to nearby communities.

Estes Park not only makes its programming available to listeners via radio but simulcasts it to the Internet using the StreamCast service from Information Station Specialists.
Solar-powered flashing sign beacons flash when Vashon Island, Washington's, Information Station has critical information about ferry boat schedule disruptions or emergencies.
Back East in North Plainfield, New Jersey, where flooding is also a perpetual issue, the local radio station went dark in 1996, leaving an information vacuum for the community to deal with. Its absence is mitigated to the extent possible by the Borough’s Information Station on 1630 AM. The service, nicknamed by locals “The Flamethrower,” gained notoriety during Hurricane Sandy as the only local radio information source during and after the storm (see New Jersey Municipalities Magazine article).

Borough clerk Rich Phoenix states that during the hurricane, “computers, smart phones, cell phones as well as TV and cable were plunged into darkness by a widespread commercial power failure. That was when I shifted our 10-watt TIS station into high gear with pointed hyper-local information that kept our residents safe during frightful conditions.”
Uber TIS?
Pennsylvania Agency Asks to Boost Antenna Height & Range
WEST GROVE, PA:  Can it hurt to ask the FCC for more antenna height and fewer signal restrictions for your Information Radio Station? The Avon Grove Regional Emergency Management (AGREM) group thinks not. And they are not the first to ask.

After the February 2014 ice storm that brought down trees, wires and all manner of public services in their area of Southeast Pennsylvania, local communities recognized the need for a reliable link to citizens that would function when “all else fails.” The storm stranded some residents in their homes for days without any means for contact. Warming shelters were set up, but with the Internet sidelined, there was no way to tell people where the shelters were located.
 
Power Line Damage from 2014 West Grove, Pennsylvania, Ice Storm
So why install a trio of Information Radio Stations to cover the area when one antenna location (on a water tower) with expanded signal limits would do the job just as well for a much smaller investment? That’s the question AGREM is asking FCC in their recent request for a waiver of the rules that govern the Travelers Information Service. It’s based on a similar waiver granted to Howard County, Maryland, in 2009 in which the Commission granted a higher field strength for the County’s TIS stations, based on a showing that interference to local broadcasters would not result. It was also based on waivers granted to other communities who have mounted their antennas on taller-than-normally-allowed water towers.

But instead of granting AGREM’s waiver, the FCC is first asking what we think about the idea, through a public notice about the matter issued on March 20, 2015. If you want to throw your weight behind the plan or cite an objection, you can file your comments directly with the FCC; or you can send them to the American Association of Information Operators (AAIRO) who will file them for you along with theirs before the May 5 deadline. Just email your comments to info@AAIRO.org.

In the broader picture, there is nothing preventing any TIS licensee from applying for such a waiver, if it can be shown that interference to other radio stations will not result. Contact Information Station Specialists to learn more.