Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Interview with Bill Baker

This post is in relation to yesterdays post about the small company "TouRadio" which quickly grew to become 'Information Station Specialist" (ISS), the foremost provider of T.I.S. stations in the U.S.

A couple of nights ago I listened to what I found to be an extremely interesting interview with Bill Baker from about 5 years ago. It's one of the KDX Low Power Hour episodes, a few others of which had been featured here before. While this episode is not really specifically about part 15, it is addressed, and does prove to be a fascinating listening experience for any part 15 hobbyist... or for that matter, you're listening audience. 
Download and listen: Low Power Hour # 78 - T.I.S.

Low Power Hour # 78 - T.I.S. Sept. 3, 2013 (54:56)  Low Power Hour No. 78 is titled "T.I.S." for "Traveler's Information Stations," bringing a visit with Bill Baker of I.S.S., "Information Station Specialists." It's an in depth step into an alternate low power universe with all kinds of creative angles.

Here's my summery and overview of this episode:
Carl introduces the episode and proceeds with the usual "Low Power in the News" segment including announcements of 6 AM NOUO, 5 of which by the same agent being the same who cited KENC, and Gerald Gaulle, others for some on 1710, and curiosities of only 15.209 citations with no mention of 15.219.. And then something about Indian tribes getting kicked off the air.. Carl also ponders upon just who it is making the complaints.. those self righteous rats!.. Carl expresses outrage but the mood quickly changes as Bill Baker enters the scene, then quickly ducks back out again for a moment as Carl fills the gap with a delightful presentation of a low power lesson with fictitious caricatures... Bill Baker returns and the interview begins....

Bill Baker Interviewed. TIS and Part 15 options:
Baker talks for the majority of the hour and there's several things that really jumped out at me - although most of it is about licensed TIS, he does talk a little about their part 15 method towards the end of the interview and some places it's being used, as well as it's installation methods including use of the ATU, even some about linking multiple transmitters in analog, but that discussion is rather brief, most of the interview concerns licensed TIS.-nevertheless in his discussion of TIS he talks about some things that can, or possibly can be applied to part 15..

Groundplanes and Alternatives:
For example he talks about their patented pre-made "powerplane" which some of us have utilized or are at least familiar with ISS' patented PowerPlane® Factory-Assembled Groundplane. You don't see much mention of this on their site anymore because after 20 years of them utilizing it, ISS doesn't really use them anymore since they came up with a better and ultimately less expensive option that they've been using over ten years now; it's easier to install, doesn't tear up the property, and their test have shown it emulates almost equally the results of a 10ft wide ground radial system does- I've noticed the described system on their site before but never really paid much attention to it, is the "Vertical Profile Antenna System" which utilizes a "conductive vertical shaft" made from solid copper as it's base which goes into the ground and supports the antenna, it's all shipped out as one piece on a truck and basically plopped into the ground... It seems like something similar could somehow be modified and utilized for a part 15 system? -I don't know, I'm just speculating.

Who owns TIS and Rule Changes on Permitted Content:
Also found it interesting that about 20% of the TIS stations are actually owned and operated by private entities yet with the license held by the state to meet the FCCs requirements of only government organizations making use of TIS. He also talks about some recent changes to the rules that weather and emergency info can be broadcast - I remember reading about this a few years ago when the rule was changed and thought it ridiculous that it hadn't already been allowable, but as Bill explains there had been several citations issued to TIS stations (evidently sometime around 2007-2009) who had been 
The American Association of
Information Radio Operators
broadcasting such info, and in response to these citations the AAIRO (which Bill and some others had founded) submitted request to the FCC for clarifications on permitted content, which in turn resulted in a rewrite of the rules in relation to permitted content, as well as who may make those determinations of when such content is permissible. Also new permissions where granted of making use of multiple TIS station networks synchronized to broadcast the same feed. So today, due to the AAIROs efforts, TIS are permitted to air such information. This was a big change (although at the time of this broadcast was still in consideration). Bill says ISS created has created an acronym to describe this; "TIDE Broadcast" T=Travel, ID= Imminent Danger, and E=Emergency.

Inexpensive Field Strength Meter
SMR Receiver
Another thing, and it being something I've seen asked several times before.. in fact someone asked just recently again in the forums about where to fond an inexpensive field strength meter.. Where here's an answer.. Bill explains, ISS not only sells but usually also performs the installations of those TIS systems, for which they utilize a Potimatic field strength meter,
Project Manager Tom Coviak compares
size of Potomatic to the SMR Receiver.
but they also do provide a special Signal Measurement Radio Receiver to every agency that has TIS stations installed. He says ISS test have shown that these SMR receivers which have an S-meter on it that registers in increments from 15-99 has demonstrated itself able to provide reading rather accurately in comparison to their own very expensive Potimatics, they also offer these radios separately.. but there's no price shown. I never knew about these but after hearing him talk about it and then finding it on their website (link above), made and inquiry just today.. Haven't heard back yet, but will return with an update. However, truth be told it's really not a necessary item for a part 15 station, but if the price is right it certainly would be a pretty cool addition!

"The SMR Receiver is the first device of its kind capable of measuring and displaying AM signal levels with a useful level of precision... This handheld, battery-operated receiver can be utilized in the field to estimate signal intensities of broadcast radio stations. Though not a calibrated measurement device, it displays relative signal intensity in dbu, which can be used for rough translation to millivolts per meter (mV/m) in a given frequency range using an included correlation chart..

Anyway, I think any part 15 broadcaster would enjoy and find this interview of great interest. Carl also has a lot of other episodes that feature interviews with part 15 operators and their stations. There are a substantial amount of those episodes which I considered to be just as exceptional as this one was with Bill Baker; You can browse the full list of " The Low Power Hour" and download episodes from his archive at: http://kdxradio.com/lph_archive.html Most, but not all of them have descriptions providing an overview. You must contact Carl for permission to rebroadcast on your own station.

A couple other Low Power Hour episodes I've reviewed:
(I really thought there were more, but evidently I never got around to it) 

Charles Hefti - Car Tunes, and the first(?) stereo broadcaster
 LPH #3 Neil Radio8Z

Update already!:
As mentioned above I inquired about the SMR radio a few hours ago and have already received a response:

Sent: Tuesday, February 5, 2019 10:26 AM
To: info@theradiosource.com
Subject: SMR Receiver
Hello, What radio is that and what's the price?

Thank you,

======= The response was.. ==========
The price is $144 plus a little freight, Rich.
It includes a correlation data so you can determine approximate relative electrical field intensity using the display.
Bill Baker
Information Station Specialists
PO Box 51
Zeeland, MI  49464 USA
616-772-2300 (ext 102)  fax 616-772-2966
Founded in 1983, Information Station Specialists is the USA's best known source for information radio stations, advisory signage and related products and services.

He didn't respond what make/model it was, my hopes were to find some online reviews about it as just an AM/FM/SW/LW receiver as compared to something premium like one of the CCrane radios, which if proved positive would be an added bonus for everyday use (my use of it for only field strength readings would be far and few between, but I'm enthused about that feature) . I was already guessing it would be about $130 so I was close on my estimation. Chances are it's a good quality radio but I could not find a visual match while searching online. It's going to have to wait till this summer but I will be getting one... When I do I provide my novice review about it.
If anyone picks one up before I do, please leave a review in the comments or contact me directly.
See more details about it on their website here: Signal Measurement Radio Receiver

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