April 2014 Issue  
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Naperville Information Station
Naperville Advances
Kicking 1990's Info Radio System Up to 21st-Century Standard
NAPERVILLE, IL:  The nation’s information radio pioneer and the first city to operate multiple/synchronized stations is again moving forward: upgrading and making more efficient their network of stations. Many in the sprawling “Chicagoland” suburb still remember the devastating 1996 flood that proved the value of the service when all communication with many residents was lost except for the 1610 kHz radio system.
1996 Flood that Inundated Naperville
Naperville 1996 Flood
Former emergency management coordinator and visionary Bill Reynolds called information radio stations a "great emergency management tool to keep residents informed." See the story.
This spring, the Naperville Emergency Management Agency is deleting aspects of the original system that are “old school” in favor of cost-effective/efficient technologies that they believe will improve the service. Coordinator Dan Nelson tells The Source, "We seek the best quality and most diverse means of keeping our citizens informed and information radio is a good way to do that, especially should other means of communication be compromised."

Here’s a short list of Naperville’s ”INs" and "OUTs."
Telephone-recorded broadcast messages*.  Message files recorded and distributed via software, managed on a network for greater overall quality, ease of editing, audio processing and archiving.
Radio-only program dissemination.   Radio plus StreamCASTing to parallel the program to portable devices and PCs for indoor, on-foot and out-of-area listening. 
Staff recording of all messages. Staff recordings plus InfoRadio format to improve professional sound.
Audio storage requiring battery backup. Flash-based audio storage on IP.76 and NX8R Message Players.
No means of measuring and maintaining signal levels.  Portable Signal Measurement Receiver to maintain compliance with FCC signal limits. 
Telephone line program distribution. VHF program distribution (wireless audio link).
Three broadcast locations.   Two locations with greater coverage, sited to better serve areas where the City has grown.
Carrier synchronization based on super-stable crystals. GPS-based carrier synchronization.
Naperville is one of dozens of operators across the USA that are making these kinds of upgrades to their stations. (See "Status Report; Recent Station Upgrades," right.) According to Bill Baker, president of Information Station Specialists, “The most common improvements we see nationally are the really affordable ones that result in increased ease of operation and listener access. By far, moving away from telephone-based recording methods and toward audio file/IP based message management is the number-one activity. But right behind it is what we call ‘StreamCASTing,’ which makes the program available to PCs and smart phones via the Internet. StreamCASTs really increase penetration of the programming into the population.”

Information Station Specialists has recently upgraded the StreamCAST service so there is no limit on the number of people who can listen to the program simultaneously in an emergency. Most new station operators both broadcast and StreamCAST their programs to citizens.

Baker also cites the InfoRadio Format that the company now provides as a third example of a very affordable upgrade that can enormously improve broadcast quality. The custom-written format uses multiple professional announcers to bring major market quality to information radio.

(*) Naperville will retain the ability to record messages via phone, should its network be lost.
FCC Asks for Comment on NAB's "Wide Filter" Idea
Groups Claim Audio Filters
Still Needed Because Stations Sometimes Broadcast Music???
WASHINGTON, DC:  You may recall that in the November edition of The Source, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) proposed in a letter to the FCC that audio filters be retained on TIS transmitters to protect broadcasters. But the NAB also proposed a compromise: keep the filters but widen them from the present 3 kHz to 5 kHz to improve intelligibility. AAIRO, the American Association of Information Radio Operators, subsequently filed comments in support of the NAB idea. The FCC has now issued a public notice to invite input on the compromise proposal. Comments are due May 16th. 
TIS Filter Icon
It all began as a Reply Comment by AAIRO, suggesting the wholesale removal of the filters as a way to improve the intelligibility of the service. The NAB proffered a “compromise approach” to “relax but not eliminate” the filters that apparently has gained ground with the Commission as a consensus position. NAB opines that a change to a 5-kHz filter would “allow for a TIS signal of sufficiently higher quality” and that full power AM broadcasters “routinely use 5-kHz filters to address and prevent interference among AM stations with few significant problems.”

The NAB cautions that the 5-kHz filter might not be adequate, if “TIS Stations continue broadcasting musical content, ” which is not permitted by the FCC’s rules. The NAB does not identify by name any TIS stations broadcasting music nor does it explain why a complaint to the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau would not be sufficient to bring such stations into compliance. The NAB cites the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) as the source of the notion that TIS stations play music.

The SBE continues to oppose removing or relaxing the filters, believing that “harmful interference to adjacent channel AM broadcast station(s)” would result, which will “contribute to the inability of AM broadcasters to compete in the radio marketplace.” In its comments, the SBE, like the NAB, did not identify by name any TIS stations that broadcast music, nor does it cite stations that have done so in the past.

Status Report
Recent Station Upgrades
  •  Irvine, CA
  • Saratoga, CA
  • UC Irvine, CA
  •  Fort Myers Beach, FL
  • Pinellas County, FL
  •  Aurora, IL
  •  Naperville, IL
  • Lexington/Fayette County, KY
  •  Peabody, MA
  • Ambassador Bridge, MI
  •  Livonia, MI
  • Edison Township, NJ
  •  Ft Lee Borough, NJ
  •  North Wildwood Borough, NJ
  •  Rumson Borough, NJ
  • Fort Jackson, SC
  • Memphis Shelby County Airport, TN
  • Mount Rainer National Park, WA

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
Weather or Not
Despite 2013 Report & Order, FCC Chairman Cites "Weather Forecasts" as Acceptable TIS Content
WASHINGTON, DC:  The Source has obtained a copy of a letter from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne in which the Chairman states that TIS radio stations may broadcast “Weather Forecasts.” The American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO) has been questioning FCC policy on this for some time, contending that not only emergency weather warnings, but conventional daily forecasts are useful to motorists who use the stations.

The Chairman’s words appear to concur with AAIRO, stating, “In general, TIS provides a means of communicating certain kinds of information to travelers over low power radio transmitters licensed to local government entities, specifically information designed to reduce traffic congestion and to transmit road conditions, travel restrictions and weather forecasts to motorists.” 
POD Exercise a Hit at NACCHO Summit
Public Health Pros Experience Info Radio in POD Demo 
ATLANTA, GA:  Most people would go through a Point of Dispensing (POD) to receive medicine during a disease outbreak. Last month in at NACCHO’s Preparedness Summit, Public Health officials experienced a POD in order to get their lunch.

As part of the creative demonstration, participants received instructions via Information Station Specialists’ RadioSTAT station, as they waited to enter the exercise during lunchhour. A tasty reward awaited them at the end.

The RadioSTAT messages were recorded by various health administrators, including Shelby County Tennessee’s PIO Elizabeth Hart. Hart’s agency – coincidentally – has just acquired a RadioSTAT system for use at PODs and for other applications in the Memphis area. Hear the audio program that Preparedness Summit participants were served.  
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Information Radio Stations is a generic term synonymous with Travelers Information Stations (TIS), Highway Advisory Radio Stations (HAR) / Highway Information Systems & Low Power Radio Stations (LPR). Operation of the stations is governed by FCC Part 90.242 Rules. A FCC license is required. Information Radio Stations may be fixed or portable. Subcomponents may include transmitter, antenna and ground system, digital voice player, wattmeter, cabinet with conventional or Corbin locks, lightning arrestors for RF, power and telephone lines, coaxial cable. Most stations employ black maximized antennas to discourage ice accumulation and security measures to prevent unauthorized program access. Options include synchronization, battery backup, solar power, remote programming by local, network or telco, multi-station audio distribution via RF or LAN / WAN or wireless network.