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Net Neutrality, Maintenance, & Copper

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on Feb 13, 2015 12:22:00 PM

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TWiRT 245Lots of questions about the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules under Title II, like “when is the Public Internet actually private?”  Plus, Chris Tobin lays a foundation for the value of maintenance, and Kevin Kidd joins us to help stop copper thieves.






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Kirk: This Week in Radio Tech episode 245 is brought to you by Lawo and the new crystalCLEAR virtual radio console. crystalCLEAR is the radio console with a multi-touch touchscreen interface. By the Telos Hx6 Talkshow system. Six lines and two advanced hybrids deliver great calls at a popular price. And by the new Axia Fusion AoIP mixing console, packed with features and capabilities refined from over a decade's worth of IP audio experience.

Lots of questions about the FCCs net neutrality rules under Title II like, "When is the public internet actually private?" Plus Chris Tobin lays a foundation for the value of maintenance, and Kevin Kidd joins us to help stop copper thieves.

Welcome to This Week in Radio Tech. I'm Kirk Harnack, your host. I'm glad you're here. Boy, we're just happy to be doing the show. We talk about everything radio, audio, RF, and some really interesting subjects today that are kind of ancillary. We're talking about how not get ripped off by either an engineer, your own stupidity, or thieves. Yes, thieves. All that's coming up.

Our show is brought to you today by the folks at Lawo and Telos and Axia. We'll tell you about the sponsors as we move along today.

As usual, joining us on the show is our favorite engineer in Manhattan, the best-dressed engineer in radio. It's Chris Tobin. Hey, Chris. How are you doing?

Chris: Hello, Kirk. Hello, everyone. I'm doing well despite the single-digit temperatures coming this evening. It's going to be good.

Kirk: Did you guys get a lot of snow in New York in the past few days?

Chris: No, here in Manhattan it was a dusting. Outside Manhattan itself, the Boroughs--Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and the Bronx--got significant snowfall. New Jersey, Long Island, Westchester. But Manhattan itself, no. It was interesting. It just passed over us.

Kirk: You have that protective bubble, the Mayor de Blasio bubble.

Chris: Please, no. There's no bubble. Even the groundhog is not safe.

Kirk: I was in Cleveland the early part of this week. I flew in Sunday afternoon and snow, snow, snow, yeah. It wasn't really deep, but it was the usual traffic snarls and people getting to work late on Monday morning.

It was beautiful, though, I was staying in the hotel across from the cathedral in downtown Cleveland, and there was just absolutely gorgeous snow all over the cathedral. It's pretty when you don't have to deal with it. Just look out the window at it, right?

Chris: Oh, yeah.

Kirk: Hey, a few things in the news this week. Net neutrality, we have some view of the proposal, a summary of the proposed rules from Chairman Wheeler. I'm sure that will make news when they vote on it, which will be late in February. The full FCC board will vote on the proposed rules, basically making your internet service provider into where it's governed by Title II of the Communications Act. We'll see how that works out. Chairman Wheeler promises to ignore the enforcement of certain provisions in the Communications Act.

Chris: Oh, boy.

Kirk: Yeah, that will be interesting. "Don't worry about those rules. We're not going to enforce all of that unless we change our mind."

Chris: Well, you know what's interesting with the whole net neutrality BS, because that's what it really is, there are already laws on the books for antitrust and for consumer protection for the stuff they claim this is going to help prevent or at least provide.

Remember, if you're really up on utilities and how they function, where they come and go, just remember your electric bill, your phone bill, your water bill, and a few other municipalities that you have to pay for.

Kirk: Yeah. Of course, most people have exactly one place from which they can buy their water, and that's how it is here at my house.

Chris: It's true.

Kirk: I realize stuff gets more expensive over time, and I realize stuff costs money, but at my house here in Nashville, Tennessee, I'm pretty happy with the things I have to buy here in Nashville, like taxes. Property taxes are not so high here in Nashville. They're not terrible. I couldn't afford taxes up in your part of the world. Oh, my goodness.

My water bill here in Nashville is water and sewer together. They got you coming and going. Typically, it's about $110 a month for water, and that's just inconceivably, amazingly high. Does that seem high to you?


Chris: Yeah, well, you have to look and see how they justify all the costs and who gets paid for what.

I was just watching the other day the New York City Council channel, and it was interesting to discover what the citizens pay for in city services and who gets paid and why and how. It's scary. You don't even get an eight-hour day's worth of work out of people anymore. The costs of what they do and why it costs so much, it just doesn't track. If you're a private business or a publicly trade business, you'd be out of business if you followed some of these municipalities and the way they justify their finances.

Man: Hey, Kirk. That's how much I pay for my water and sewer.

Kirk: Oh, really? About $110 a month?

Man: About $110, $120 a month.

Kirk: Wow, that's amazing. Oh, well. It's decently clean water here at least. It's probably not bad in New York, either.

On the net neutrality thing, I'm sure we'll have some stuff to say, but I'm sure we'll also wait until after it passes or doesn't pass, and we'll find out more about it.

But I just want to say that I've always felt that the benefits the people want to get out of net neutrality are not an issue for the FCC to handle. Instead, if you want to put it under the auspices of some controlling body, it's a Department of Commerce issue. It's Fair Trade. It's a consumer thing.

If I pay for 50 megabits a second download and 12 megabits a second upload, which is what I pay for on Comcast, I should get that on a statistically reasonable basis. Anytime I want to try it, I should get 50 megabits to the edge of Comcast's network and beyond.

In other words, put a server at the other side of their peer, at the output of their peering, not in their network but at the spigot out. And if I get that speed and it's not hindered, then Comcast has done their job.

It doesn't mean that everybody can test at the same time. I get that. There's not enough gym equipment for every member of the gym to work out at the same time. I get that. But if, on some statistically significant basis, like 98.2% of the time, I get what I pay for, then that should be okay. There ought to be enough bandwidth at the peering points that I get that all the way through to the other port on the peering point. That's what Comcast is responsible for.

If Cogent hasn't provided enough connectivity to Comcast at that peering point, that's Cogent's fault, and I can't expect Comcast to solve that. But that's my opinion. I think it's more of a Consumer Affairs problem.

Chris: It absolutely is. It absolutely is. That's what I'm saying. There are already laws in place, rules and regulations for that. But if you don't treat it that way, if you don't go after the businesses that's not providing the service you're paying for, then this is what you get. You get people talking about net neutrality, which is going to be a mess. Just like you said, Comcast to the peering point, that's where the bottleneck is. That's where the all the issues are.

Interestingly enough, this week I had to go to my Time Warner Cable office because you can't just send the stuff back to them in the mail. You have to go there. I asked the person because they were asking me if I am satisfied with my internet service that they provide.

I was like, "Well, define satisfied."

They were like, "What do you mean?

I was like, "Well, I'm not certain if I'm really getting my up and download speeds."

"Well, you have this. You have that."

I said, "Right, but which part of your network does it go to? Is it just to the connection in the building, to the DOCSIS point, or the network's server inside your network? Or does it actually go to the end where you hand off to the other part of the internet?" I didn't even say peering or anything.

The person just looked at me like, "Well."

I said, "See. If you can't answer that question while you're trying to take my money, I'm concerned. I don't think you really understand what's going on."

They were charging me for a digital television adapter, and I said, "Look. I'm watching stuff. You told me it was for free. Now all of a sudden, I'm getting a bill in the mail for $0.99 a month so I can watch basic cable." I was like, "It doesn't make any sense. You told me free for a year. Now all of a sudden, it's not free."

She goes, "Oh, our promotions are always 12 months."

I was like, "Really? So what does this promotion say, because it doesn't say 12 months only?"

Eventually, I got them to take it back. Now I'm not paying for it. But that's the problem. That situation right there, my little encounter, is that an FCC-regulated encounter, or would that be the Department of Commerce or Consumer Affairs? That would be Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Kirk: Like you, I hear horror stories.

Chris: Maybe I'm simplifying it. I don't know. That's my gut feeling.

Kirk: Yeah, like you, I hear horror stories from people. There are people who just hate, hate, hate Comcast and hate whoever their provider is. Okay. I haven't had that same hateful experience, but I can understand that you might.

Maybe I'm very lucky here in Nashville. If you have to go into a Comcast office here, it's always a dismal experience. Dealing with them on the phone is fairly dismal. But if you don't have to deal with them, I get great service. My speeds keep going up, and my bill doesn't really get much higher.

I guess my point is this. Comcast, I asked an installer who came to my house a few years ago. I said, "I've noticed that I'm buying 50 megabits, and I always get 52 or 53 down, and I think I'm paying for 10 megabits."

Maybe I was paying for eight megabits up, and I was always getting 10, 11, 11.5 megabits up.

I said, "I'm always getting, at least in your network to a server no matter where it is on the Comcast, I'm always getting a little bit more than I'm paying for. What's up with that? I'm thankful."

He said, "We got sick and tired of people complaining that, 'I'm paying for 10 megabits. I'm only getting 8.3.'"

Why create that angst with your customers? Just give them 8% more than they're paying for all the time at least within your network. The peering points are a little different issue, but give people a bit more than that, and they're not going to complain.

I guess I wish Comcast would do that with other parts of their service. I wish they'd apply that same thinking to other places, and I wish AT&T and Sprint and everybody else would apply that same kind of thinking. Give the customer at least what they're paying for so that they can't just sit there and grouch and bitch and bellyache because they're not getting the last 5% of the speed that they're paying for.

Have you ever thought about that before, Chris?

Chris: Absolutely. Basically, what you're saying is that installer, who is an employee of Comcast, who represents Comcast as far as your concerned in your eyes, actually admitted that they weren't providing the proper service or the level of service expected by the payments that were being made. They were tired of people complaining about people not getting what they were paying for, so they decided they'll add an extra 10% just to get them to stop complaining.

Kirk: That's what it sounded like to me. I don't know if he was speaking from an official position, but that was his heartfelt impression and maybe what his boss told him.

Why make an acute angle every time you deal with somebody who is a little bit savvy and says, "I'm not getting the speed I'm paying for?" Instead of provisioning it for 10 and you end up eking 9.8 out of it, provision it for 12 megabits, and they get 10-plus all the time.

Chris: Right. So what you're basically asking them to do is something that makes common sense to apply commons sense, and it doesn't. It's just like what I experienced this week with the digital terminal adapter that allows you to get basic service because of the digital conversion that was lobbied by the industry.

The FCC said to everybody, "You can no longer have unencrypted or QAM-modulated cable." They want to charge you a dollar per box per month just to connect so you can get the decoded basic service, which is literally five channels.

Kirk: Right.

Chris: So why would you go to the trouble of all that back office stuff for a $0.99 incident? And then when somebody challenges it like I did, they say, "Well, we'll change it. We won't charge you for it."

I'm like, "Why couldn't you do that in the beginning?"

These are the things that Consumer Affairs departments and public utilities commissions, that's what their job is. That's what they have to be told about from people like us. You don't do net neutrality because you think it's a nice thing because the guys at the cable industry need some kind of lobbying to protect them. That's basically what it is. It's protection money.

I know for a fact that in New York City, there are several dozen buildings that can't get a competing internet service because for some reason, the internet competing service says it's not worth their trouble.

I'm like, "You're a privately funded company. You're actually publicly traded. If I was a shareholder, you're telling me you're turning away business, but your dividends haven't gone up, and your share value hasn't gone up. What's going on?

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: That's where you need to get in there and the Commerce Department, Consumer Affairs, all those laws are on the books. There's a lot of stuff that's out there. It's already there. I'm only saying this because I have no problem with the internet stuff. I like the way it's working. I like the fact that competition is getting people ticked off, okay? That's good.

But we're just letting people know. I said to somebody the other day, "At the rate we're going with net neutrality, just put up a slate of lemmings going off a cliff, because that's basically what we're doing."

Tom Wheeler, FCC commissioner, chairman, whatever you call him, politically appointed person, came out of which industry? Oh, cable.

Kirk: Cable.

Chris: Whose interests do you think he has at heart? Oh, please. Don't tell me he's being very, very nonpartisan or whatever you want to call it. Come on. Read some of this stuff, and it's like, "Whoa."

Just like you pointed out, you're doing great. As a matter of fact, didn't you say your service improved when they found out Google was coming to town?

Kirk: Yeah, I did.

Chris: Yeah, there you go.

Kirk: And I fully expect it to get even better before Google gets here. It's still four or five years before Google gets fiber around Nashville.

Chris: Yeah, but that's what I'm saying, I know I have family members who have Cablevision, and the price has gone up almost 200%. Service hasn't changed any. Nothing's changed. They're being told they have to pay more. So they've canceled it, and then they say, "Well, we want to go somewhere else."

"Sorry. The franchise licensing doesn't permit anybody else into the neighborhood."

So Cablevision has a lock on the neighbors.

Kirk: Right. I tell you what. Let's talk about that just a bit more. I know we got off on the subject, but we've got a couple more things to say about it before the value of maintenance.

Our show is brought to you in part by the folks at Lawo, L-A-W-O, pronounced Lawo. It is a company that makes consoles, audio consoles, and routing systems. Lawo is a German company, and they're known for making great, big, huge, enormous audio consoles for television and live sound and sports trucks and things like that.

They also make a line of consoles for radio stations. It's their crystal line of consoles, and one of their newest products is called the crystalCLEAR. This is a virtual radio mixing console. It uses a DSP-based mixing engine that also has the inputs and outputs. That's a one-rack unit box that goes in the rack.

To control it, well, you could plug a crystal console surface into it over a network. It works over Ethernet. Or you can run a computer with this crystalCLEAR software running on it. And this gives you a console that is virtual. It's running on a PC. It's actually a Windows 8 operating system, and it's actually an app.

They've chosen to use a computer that has a multi-touch, touchscreen interface. This is very cool. You get eight faders on the surface. You get a total, I think, of 24 possible inputs on the console, and those are physical inputs. The DSP engine can also speak RAVENNA and AES67.

So you can go with audio over IP to other devices that are on your network. It means you can talk to other competing AOIP systems as long as they can produce and receive an AES67 stream or RAVENNA stream.

It's compatible. It's small. It's a one-rack unit box that has all the local I/O including a couple of mic inputs, some analog, some AES, and then some analog and AES outputs as well and that AOIP connection for RAVENNA or AES67.

Dual power supplies are available, so you get some redundancy there. And you know what? If for some reason you need to reboot the computer that's running the surface, no problem. You just reboot it. The engine just sits there and keeps doing what it was doing. If you were mixing three automation sources together at the same time, it will continue to do that. If you need to pull that crystalCLEAR surface, that computer, out and replace it with another one, you can do that.

You can even control it with a crystalCLEAR surface that is a bit farther away. I'm not sure if it can be around the world, but certainly through VPN you could do this as well. It's just some data going back and forth between the surface and the DSP engine. The folks at Lawo have really latched on to this idea of controlling consoles over distance over a network and giving you this virtual work surface, the crystalCLEAR.

Of course, it has all the usual things you'd find in a console--program one, program two, a preview channel, scene saving, and easy recall. One of the cool things, though, is when you press a button on the virtual surface, it's very context sensitive. If you're wanting to deal with the options button for a microphone, it doesn't show you options that aren't available for a microphone. It shows you the things that have to do with what you're touching. That's another benefit. There's a lot less confusion, and you really get to the point when you deal with any option on this console.

Check it out if you would. It's on the web at Lawo.com. The founder, Philipp Lawo, has really done a great job of moving this product forward and trying to meet the needs of broadcasters and give them something interesting and new and beneficial to work with.

Lawo.com. Look for radio products and the crystalCLEAR audio console. We thank them for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech.

We were just finishing up, Chris Tobin, about some net neutrality. Broadcasters are a bit concerned about this, and I think Tom Wheeler's proposal tries to separate. I don't know how this works practically.

Some people feel like, "Oh, we don't want fast lanes. We don't want a big company to pay for preferential treatment."

Well, okay. I hope they're talking about the publicly accessible internet, the internet that we know of when we sit down at a computer, hook to the internet, and go to Google or Yahoo! or ESPN or something or GFQ Live. We hope we're talking about that internet.

There are all kinds of data connectivity provided by internet providers, and we want that prioritized. Voice over IP. Skype packets like we're using now. If CBS Television is doing a sports remote and they're sending three cameras of HD video back to some switching center in New York, they would love to pay for some prioritization.

Is that the public internet, and it won't be available? Or is that a separate data service that is run on the same switches perhaps, run, perhaps, even over the same fibers, but are we going to be able to pay for the things we want to do to make the thing we want to do reliable?

Any idea, Chris?

Chris: Sure you can. Yeah, sure you can. You can do it right now. What we're doing here is...

Kirk: You can do it now, but after net neutrality, you won't be able to.

Chris: Net neutrality is going to be a whole new game.

Kirk: There is some question. I read the summary of Wheeler's proposal, and it did appear to separate the public internet that most people, when you type Google.com, that's where you go. You're going through that versus, "Hey, I want to buy this data service from you, Comcast. Can you provide it for me?" Will that be prioritizable?

Chris: Well, this is what makes me laugh. Right now, we're on what I'll call the consumer retail internet connection.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: There are restrictions on this account that I have, because if I wanted to put a server up, I guarantee you that within short order I'd be told that I violated my terms of service.

But if I am business--and we'll use your example where CBS Television wants to do the Democratic or Republican political convention from Chicago back to New York or from Brooklyn back to Manhattan--basically, you have a choice. You can either purchase a business link MPLS from any carrier or you can try and cheat and just simply order a local, retail, internet drop, a cable modem, and hope for the best. Those are your choices.

But net neutrality now says, "Guess what? The onus is going to be on the carrier to dictate what exactly is public and private."

Right now, on my retail consumer connection, if I choose, I can do a VPN tunnel to my office and get on to my business internet. Now what do you call that? What have I done? Have I violated the terms of service? Have I bypassed something? Have I cheated Comcast or, in this case, Time Warner Cable out of something because I'm doing a VPN, and they can't do anything in the middle?

That's why I'm saying that all this stuff is out there now. It's just a question of who is willing to look it up. You can go to a company called Towerstream, and they'd be more than happy to give you a wireless local loop and whatever bandwidth you'd like to pay for. It's professional, and they give you guaranteed quality of service if you want it. You can also go to Rainbow Broadband. That's another one.

But everybody has got this thing in their head that they should be able to just go to a local carrier, get a cable modem in their office, and be able to do what they want when technically, it's consumer retail.

So really, it's already there. But by doing this with the FCC, you're now sort of obfuscating the ability to really regulate, as you pointed out, how do I know which is public and which is private? If I'm a business, am I paying for business class, or am I paying for just retail?

Because they were willing to put it in, and they just said, "Well, if you do anything beyond a retail approach," I'll just call it that, there's probably a better term, then I can be hit with a terms of service violation, and that opens up a whole other can of worms.

Just like my LTE 4G Verizon USB modem. Technically, it's just a consumer connection. If I start doing crazy stuff with it, they could technically tell me I'm violating terms of service.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: All I have to do is say, "Look. I'm going to do it for business."

Then they say, "Well, for business, we need to give you this pricing."


"Because that pricing guarantees you what we'll call a fast lane, maybe, on that highway of other things."

Kirk: As broadcasters...

Chris: Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm totally wrong, and I just don't get it.

Kirk: No.

Chris: But if I'm going to look to do stuff and I know it's a specialty item, like you pointed out in the case of CBS TV carrying video across, or even if it's ABC or any network, there are services out there. They can do it. They do it now, most of the companies, with their own private networks.

Kirk: You're not wrong to ask the question, because it's not been addressed clearly or at all, perhaps. You're not wrong to ask, "Well, what does this do to any kind of preferential treatment or violating my terms of service?"

Let me ask you this. Companies like Telos, Comrex, and, I'm sure, others have talked to various wireless carriers and said, "Is there some way that a broadcaster who wants to run, let's say, an IP codec that's connected to a 4G USB modem, is there some way that we can pay you extra and get a little guarantee of some bandwidth?"

Let's say we're at a big sports venue, and there are 20,000 people using their Verizon data plan. Here I am, and I'd like for my packets to make sure they get through so the broadcast can go on, and I'm willing to pay you something extra for that. It appears to me that there will be no opportunity for that to happen.

Chris: There is no opportunity for that to happen if they go in the course they're taking, but to do that example, I actually did propose that and talked to Verizon five years ago working with a newsroom operation because that's what we wanted to do.

I discovered that the Verizon Wireless Network is not allowed to do business with the Verizon retail ISP landline DSL off to the other part of the world. That's because of regulations. But I did discover, talking with the Verizon folks and I'm sure this is probably true for AT&T and anyone else, and as a matter of fact I know it is for two other ISPs I talked to recently, that if I chose, I can put in and install a virtual private connection to their point of presence where their wireless modems come out of.

So picture this. You have a wireless network. Say you're doing the Super Bowl. You're in Arizona. You call up Verizon or AT&T and say, "Guys, I want to install a VPC to your point of presence where you hand off from your wireless to the first pop," or however they structure it, "so I can get somewhat guaranteed connectivity. I know where I'm going. What can we do?"

Odds are, they'd probably be willing to say, "Sure, we'll do that. Here's the cost." But nobody's ever talked about it.

I've talked to several people over the last two years proposing that a couple of companies, large companies, and they all looked at me like, "Oh, you can't do that."

I'm like, "Yes, you can. It's a really simple thing. You just have to be willing to pay for it." And nobody ever thought or even talked about it. I'm like, "These are things that are out there." I actually worked with the Department of Commerce last year and the National Weather Service on a project, and I did exactly that with a local wireless ISP.

The guy was like, "Yeah, we never thought of it that way. Yeah, you could do that. We'll let you hand off."

And we made it work. For five months, we used half public internet and another private connection back to make some things happen, and everyone sat there scratching their heads going, "Oh, wow. It actually worked."

But if net neutrality goes the way I think it will go, I don't think I would be able to do that again. If I can, it would probably cost me 500 times what it's worth because of the restrictions that will be put in place or the fact that the plausible deniability could be applied, and the carriers can simply say, "Look. It's the law. That's the regulation. I have to charge you," like they used to do with the old tariffs.

Kirk: Did Comcast wittingly or unwittingly stoke the fires of the net neutrality advocacy crowd by their spat with Netflix a year ago where they curtailed the bandwidth of Netflix, saying, "Pay us money?"

I got frustrated with Netflix. I couldn't watch Netflix in HD, and the pictures I was getting from Netflix were pretty crummy. Thank goodness I was only paying $9 a month for it, but I was a little honked off.

The public internet itself doesn't support quality of service tags right now anyway, and it's probably good that it doesn't. Everybody who knew anything would put their DSCP tag at some high value for everything. That wouldn't be right either.

But Comcast certainly had the ability to say, "Oh, here's a big honking bunch of data coming in from Netflix through Cogent or whoever Netflix's ISP was. We're just going to curtail that." Comcast had the ability to do that. They did it, and they honked off a bunch of consumers by doing that. Did that stoke the fires?

Chris: Well, it created misdirection because quite frankly, I'm paying for a service. I'm paying for an internet service from Time Warner Cable, and I expect to be able to connect to Netflix and get what I want. What right does Time Warner have to disrupt my service from Netflix because they failed to meet my expectations through the contract I have with them? That's basically what they're doing.

They have a deal to hand off data to me, and whatever I do with it is what I do with it, and I chose to be a subscriber to Netflix. So therefore, their business plan should be, "Hey, we've got 1,200 people looking to do Netflix in this region. What do we need to do to ensure that our bandwidth meets their requirements because they're doing the business?"

Instead, what we get is the cable companies crying, "Oh, my goodness. I don't know what to do. All these people want their service."

Well, listen. Either you're in the business of delivering data, or you're in the business of delivering content, and you can't have your cake and eat it, too. Which is it?

Netflix does business with Cogent. We'll use Cogent as an example. I'm not endorsing anything here. They do business with Cogent to get the peering behind the scenes, to get off to the various cable distribution centers. Then, all of a sudden, the people taking it in say, "Wait a minute. This is not what we agreed to."

It's like, "Well, yes, it is. It's not my fault you have the largest group of customers deciding they want our service because we now provide programming they like, like 'House of Cards' or 'Orange is the New Black.'" All of a sudden, now there's a spike, and they're not getting what they want.

The same is true for Google searches. Why, all of a sudden, does a cable company say, "Sorry, you're doing too much with Google, and we don't like that?" Really? Maybe you should be talking to your back office people. Did you plan this? Did you not see that this was growing and things were happening? I really fault them because they're in the content business--Comcast, Universal, NBC. It's not like as if you didn't know that something popular is going to be spiking the network.

The same thing could be true for the Super Bowl. You're going to tell me now if the NFL decides to stream the Super Bowl and 1,200 people decide they want to watch it off their phones or their tablets in their house, is Comcast going to have the right to say to the NFL, "Hey, pay me more because tough bananas? All of a sudden, people want to use you instead of the TV."

Wait a minute. The TV is DOCSIS 3.0, so how do I know that the TV service you're providing me, you're not double dipping? Because I can tell you right now with Time Warner Cable, four times a day my cable box for television constantly goes black and says, "Please wait." I'm not sure why. No one can tell me what's going on, but it seems to happen on a regular basis. And then when I'm watching certain Netflix services, conveniently, every night at around 11:55 p.m. Eastern, the box resets, but only when I'm watching Netflix. When I've done the same thing at the same time with other stuff, the box doesn't reset.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: But I can't prove anything because according to the people I talked to, they have no record of the box doing these things. That's why I'm a little annoyed with net neutrality stuff, and people are just like lemmings just running around.

It's like, "You can do a lot." Like you pointed out, it's Consumer Affairs. It's Department of Commerce. It's already there. If nobody complains, the guys getting away with murder will continue to do their thing.

Kirk: Just give me what I paid for.

Chris: Maybe I'm crazy, but that's what it is.

Kirk: It's interesting how often peering is pointed to as a problem. Of course, peering requires two companies or multiple companies that have all built up some stuff in cages in the same place to talk to each other.

"Comcast and Cogent, here, you're in the same room. You have to talk to each other. Have a conversation now, and if there's more data that you need to discuss than you have a mouth for, guess what? You've got to bring in some more mouths. You've got to bring in some more lawyers. You've got to bring in some more people talking to each other."

I've certainly read blog sites and reports showing the saturation of peering points. Of course, the engineers say, "Well, just get some more bandwidth. Run some more fiber, and put some more cards in there, and connect up. Get more bandwidth, and solve that problem."

What I'm a little fuzzy on is the cost involved with peering points and how things are charged for, and I do hear often enough that asymmetrical bandwidth is apparently a bad thing at peering point. I don't know why.

Of course, in the world we live in, things are getting more asymmetrical as high-bandwidth services are provided from a one-to-many basis. That is going to result in asymmetry. But there has always been a fair amount of asymmetry. That's why your download speed has always been 10 times what your upload speed is or five times, anyway.

Asymmetry is part of the internet anyway. But yet, I hear from certain bloggers and certain people that when you run a server, when you go to a peering point that the provider of that service or that space is very concerned with they want you to have symmetrical amounts of data. That's a little piece of the puzzle that I certainly don't get.

Chris: Well, I think part of it is the asymmetry is a result of the technologies in order to squeeze the bandwidth into what you've got to do. If you look at the away DSL works, DOCSIS 3.0 and a few other services, they have to do asymmetry to some degree in order to make it work. Otherwise, it just doesn't. That's in the simplest terms.

Peering points, I'm not sure about.

Kirk: At peering points, they want...

Chris: The peering points could be a whole different thing.

Kirk: Yeah. Hey, gosh, we spent a bunch of time on this. I'm sure we'll spend more in it as we see how things start to shake out.

Our premise of this episode was to talk about the value of maintenance, and on the surface, that sounds like a [yawning] kind of a subject, but it ain't. Do you want to waste money, or do you want to save money? It's just amazing how much money you can waste if you don't think about some basic stuff as you go on.

What would happen at your own home if you never changed the air filter? What would happen in your clothes dryer if you don't clean the lint out of it? Too many people have found out that it means a fire. It means your clothes not getting dry. It means your clothes taking way too long to get dry. A simple piece of maintenance is to pull that lint screen out and clean the lint out of it when you dry your clothes.

Believe me, I've run into so many people that don't do that. "Oh, gee, Kirk. My dryer's not working. While you're here, can you have a look at it?"

"Yeah, sure, I'll look at it." I open the lint thing, and it's clogged.

Well, it's the same thing for transmitter sites and other interesting sites. I see Chris that you're even talking about rooftops and things like that, so why don't you carry us through some of the most important things that you come across where the value of maintenance is just obvious, but maybe it's not obvious to everybody. What do you have for us?

Chris: Okay. Well, let's start off with something really simple. As you pointed out, filters on the transmitter. Have you ever considered where the dirt comes from?

We recently got a transmitter site that was not very well maintained as far as the floor dirt and other things like that, and as a result, as the air was being drawn into the transmitters, guess where it went? To the filters. But because the person was understaffed, because there was only him and one other person for engineering for three sites, they didn't get out there very often. That posed a problem. One of the things you always consider at your site is keeping the place organized and clean.

Another thing I discovered in my travels and over the years working at facilities are tools. How many times do you go to a transmitter site and the tools are either in a cardboard box, spread out on a table, or not well organized? At first, it may seem like, "What's the big deal?" Here's the big deal.

Two o'clock in the morning, you're at the transmitter site. You're trying to fix a problem. You're off the air, but because you haven't organized the tools and test gear to some degree, you're now spending time looking for stuff. Add that up.

I worked at a site recently, well, last year in November, where the tools and test gear were not to be found easily. We actually spent an extra hour trying to find stuff. By the time we were done, we were like, "Wow. It took us longer than we thought it should." We spent most of the time trying to find the tools.

As you pointed out, this is nothing really big, but it's little stuff like that that adds up. And before you know it if you have a short window to work with because maybe you're in a major market and being off the air is not an option, or you're in a smaller market where you can tolerate off the air overnight, and you can get by. You still shouldn't just assume it's okay.

Something else to consider. If you have a bathroom on the site, try to keep it organized and clean. I was at a site also last year that didn't bother to do that. So I decided to use the outside outhouse, which is basically out in the woods by a birch tree.

These are little things, but they actually are very important because at 2:00 in the morning on any day of the week or even during the day during the week, these are things that help you get through your day troubleshooting.

We all know that when you're troubleshooting, it's all about focus. It's about what the problem is and going through it step-by-step. If you're distracted by finding a tool or test gear or a bathroom you can't use or doors that don't open properly and you have to prop them open and find something to keep it open so you don't get locked out, these things take you away from one word--concentration. It's very important to consider.

Those are things to think about. I know it may not seem like much, but trust me. I know recently, I can say it's burned me five times because the people I was working with did not do this kind of stuff. I've done it in the past, and I know it pays off. It's definitely worth it.

The other thing to look at at your transmitter sites and even at your studio, something we overlook a lot are the outdoor elements. Say you're at the studio. You have STLs, wireless STLs, or even wired stuff. You have a ROHN 45 or ROHN 25 tower section on the rooftop for antennas. Maybe it's an AM loop. Maybe it's an FM Yagi. Maybe it's a scanner antenna for local police and law enforcement stuff. Check the cables. Check the paint if you have to paint it for any local zoning reasons.

As a matter of fact, if our studio producer would be so kind, there is a jpeg that's labeled "bad ground wire tower base." If you can bring that up, I can show you. This is a rooftop, the studio rooftop of a STL antenna section. That's the ground wire that's supposed to protect the tower section 40 feet from, as we know, lightning and other things. It's not connected to anything.

Kirk: No, it's bare and just lying there.

Chris: Right, and the reason I'm at that location is because a recent storm rolled through, and they were off the air, and they couldn't figure out what happened. We discovered that because the tower wasn't properly grounded, they took a hit. Not a direct hit but just enough static discharge on the tower that it burned a hole in the transmission line.

Kirk: On the rooftop there, are there places that this tower could have been grounded to?

Chris: Yes. Actually, that ground wire was connected. It just broke somewhere along the rooftop.

Kirk: Okay.

Chris: Here we go back to, "Hey, you know, I don't do anything with my car until the light comes on. I wait another six months and then do something about the car having a problem."

The radio station decides only one person for engineering because we don't need two, so we tend to out of sight, out of mind forget about the one place that really needs to at least see somebody twice a month. If you can do it once a week, that's great, but at least twice a month, and you should have a checklist. Have a clipboard, a book, a tablet, whatever you want to do. Just have a checklist, and when you get out there, you go through the list. This way, you can catch these things.

I went with the engineer who was a contractor. He's a contract engineer for the site, and he's like, "Look. I only get out here, if I'm lucky, once every two or three months. I don't know what to tell people.

That's the result. Now the job we did cost them $5,000, $5,000 because the ground wire wasn't observed on a visit.

Kirk: Yeah.

Chris: Do the math. You're an owner of radio stations. You understand. You know. Wait a minute. If you had an engineer come to you and say, "Hey, boss, we've got a problem at the site, and it's going to cost us $10,000," you're like, "What? How did this happen?"

"Well, since you don't let me go out to the transmitter site on a regular basis because of X, Y, and Z, I couldn't catch the fact that the last two storms that rolled through ripped the wire out of the ground."

That actually happened to me many years ago back in 1992, I think it was.

Kirk: Even as a station owner, I suffer from the same. I and my partners in the station suffer from the same problem. Out of sight, out of mind.

"We've got to get this satellite receiver hooked up for the ballgame. I'm going to be at my stations for three days. Here's what has to get done. Oh, yeah. We never did ground that STL coax coming down off the tower, and the tower was only grounded when it was brand new with a couple of spindly little number 10 wires that go to a little ground rod. In other words, it's not very adequately grounded."

And we put that off and put it off and put it off until lightning strikes and blows something up. If I were a perfect owner and time were unlimited, then sure, this would be taken care of. But I've got equipment myself that isn't grounded as well as common, good, best practices would dictate.

My point in all that is all of us have 24 hours in a day, and we have to, at some point, prioritize. This is important. We've got to make a trip to the transmitter site, to the rooftop, behind the building and buy the materials and do this job, because if we don't intentionally do it, it's not going to do itself.

Chris: Right. But at least in your situation, you know, because you're a one man band for the engineering, so to speak, that you have to prioritize and go, "Okay. We're not going to make it out to the site. We know we have a thing we haven't finished. So be it." But there are plenty of other places where they have actual staff members who don't get to go out there.

I'm just saying that to protect yourself, you should find a way to talk to the management or whatever you want to call it of the radio station facility and say, "Look. We need to get out here at least once or twice." Put it in writing and say, "Look. If we don't do this, here's what could possibly happen." But if you're on contract, that's a whole different story. I get that.

That's part of you just go out, and you say, "Hey." I was doing a contract job last month. I was called out to cover somebody who was going on vacation, and they said, "Can you cover for our guy while he's away?"

I said, "Yeah, sure. Let me go out to the site with him, walk through everything, make sure I have all the proper notes."

While we were out there, and again, he couldn't get out there on a regular basis, so for the last six months, the site sort of got looked at, I discovered two things at the base of the tower, and we're like, "Whoa." If we hadn't gone out there, odds are they would have been off the air within a week or two because of the issue at hand.

I know it's not easy but boy, oh, boy, I tell you, if you don't try and figure out a way to work it into your schedule at least once a month, then it's just going to be a mess.

Kirk: Chris, I want to pause and remind folks that you're listening to or watching This Week in Radio Tech. It's our 245th episode. We talked a bit about net neutrality, but we're also talking about the value of maintenance.

Coming up after the next break, we're going to talk... I had a chance to talk to Kevin Kidd. Kevin is a long-time engineer from Tennessee, and he is an absolute expert at this very subject of grounding. He does AM ground systems, and he also does protection and lightning-type grounding, and he's really become an expert at transmitter site security and how to keep your copper from getting ripped off by meth heads and how to secure it pretty well.

That interview with Kevin Kidd is coming up in just a few minutes.

I tell you what, Chris, let's hit one more subject here in your list, and then we're going to have to take a break and hear from Kevin. What's the next most important you want to mention?

Chris: Okay. The next important thing is something that people overlook. If you're at a shared site, if our illustrious producer would bring up the shared site info placard jpeg, shared sites. There could be several stations at a location sharing a tower or whatever. One thing I've run into on many occasions, and I've got a couple of calls from people about this, is posting notifications.

Say, "Hey, this is whose equipment this is. This is what's going on. Here are the phone numbers to call. Here are the people to contact, blah, blah, blah." That's something to really consider, and make sure you have that info also at the outside of your transmitter.

I talked to a guy a couple of months ago who had a fire at his transmitter site. Nobody knew who to call. Thank goodness the trees at the fence line, the fence kept the trees from getting to the building, but now they have metal placards up that actually say, "In the event of an emergency, call this number," or whatever.

Little things like that, just as you pointed out earlier. The simple stuff like, "Who knows?" These are the things that you can get burned with.

At shared sites or even if you're not a shared site, post the information as to what to do in the event of emergencies and things of that sort. If you have multiple towers, label the towers so that when you send somebody out to check on it, they know which tower you're talking about.

Kirk: Great idea. At our radio stations, we've got to go do this. We've just got to take a Brother P-Touch and label the equipment. You or I know what an STL transmitter looks like, but the morning man doesn't.

"It's the gray box with the meter on it."

Duh, that doesn't help much.

Chris: Yeah, yeah, but it's true. It's true.

Kirk: Actually, I think none of the sites that I take care of are multitenant sites, but that's really common in a lot of markets, and knowing who your neighbors are and how to reach them, that's not only a courtesy to your neighbors, but it could also be good for you. What if one of your other tenants, friends, or cohabitants discovers something that you need to know about? Make it easy for them to tell you?

Chris: Yeah, it's true.

Kirk: Good point. I hadn't thought of that at all. That's a really good point. Just the tower registration number isn't enough. Nobody is going to go write that long number down and go look it up in the database and find out who owns the tower. And anyway, you may not be an owner. You may be just another tenant there.

But to make it easy for somebody to reach you, yeah, good idea.

Chris: They did have the tower registration placard on the fence, though. They did have that. But unfortunately, like you say, nobody knew what to do with it.

Kirk: All right. Thanks, Chris. We've got a lot more of those subjects to cover. I think we'll cover more of these as time goes on. Mark off the things we've talked about, and we'll keep on the others.

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The other job of the hybrid, you may wonder what a hybrid does, well, it passes the caller's voice to you. And then when your voice as the announcer, when your voice goes towards the caller, the whole idea there is to keep it from reflecting back into the same input on your audio console that the caller's voice is at. In other words, you want a great deal of separation between the send audio and the receive audio.

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All right, this is episode 245 of This Week in Radio Tech. Chris Tobin is with me, but Chris and I are going to kick up our heels for a minute and sit back and relax and watch what my friend Kevin Kidd has to say.

I got to talk to Kevin just today. Kevin came to the SBE meeting in Nashville and talked about site security. Man, was it a good presentation. We learned a lot, and then I got to talk to Kevin for a few minutes afterwards.

Andrew, if you're ready, let's hear from Kevin Kidd.

Kirk: So we're talking with Kevin Kidd. He's the proprietor at AM Ground Systems Company, and is it KK Engineering?

Kevin: KK Broadcast Engineering.

Kirk: Broadcast Engineering, that's right. We don't want to get you involved in other kinds of engineering. We're talking about the value of maintenance. Kevin, I know that a lot of people end up having to call you and your company a lot later than they should have called you.

Kevin: Yes.

Kirk: I'm sure that while, on the one hand, you enjoy being needed, there are probably preventative things that transmitter site owners can do, whether their AM or FM or multiuse, that would help them from having to call you on an emergency basis. What's your top advice that you'd give to a tower site owner so that he doesn't have to call you on an emergency basis?

Kevin: Actually, for somebody other than me to know where the transmitter site is at is probably one of the number one things I've run into.

Kirk: That's a problem?

Kevin: Oh, yes.

Kirk: Wow.

Kevin: I have made emergency calls to stations that they had to go find the transmitter site themselves, and then they had to find the keys for it. I went to a station- I won't mention where--that was off air for no other reason than a breaker was tripped in the building.

Kirk: Wow.

Kevin: Except they didn't have a key to the building, and they needed a thief. I managed to get the transmitter door open without a key. Most engineers know how to do such things. I reached in. I never entered the building. I reached around and flipped the breaker back on. The transmitter came on. I looked over and checked the readings and done. Thank you.

Kirk: Wow. Well, that sounds funny, my goodness. You notice my surprise. That sounds so basic that a station owner wouldn't know where a key was or even maybe not even where the site is.

Kevin: In this instance, the station owner was out of town.

Kirk: Okay.

Kevin: So he would have had a key but nobody else. I recommend that you keep numerous sets of keys, complete sets of keys for transmitter sites and the studio as well.

There should be a set with the program director. The owner should have a set. There should be a set that is accessible somewhere in the studio building hanging. And it doesn't have to be identified. It doesn't have to have a big tag on it that says "transmitter keys".

Kirk: Right.

Kevin: But it should have a great big purple number one or something on it. So if you have to tell somebody where the keys are at, you can say, "Go to the men's bathroom and get the set of keys with the big number one on it."

Kirk: Now, speaking of getting at the transmitter site itself, you just gave us a talk here at the SBE meeting about security items. What are the top two or three things that you think site owners ought to make sure are taken care of.

Kevin: Well, like I said in the presentation, somebody paying attention to what's going on at the site is number one thing. The site should be kept fairly clean. Of course, the building filters need to be cleaned in buildings and so forth, but as far as outside the building, it's making the place look lived in.

Kirk: Oh, okay. Part of your presentation was about not giving potential thieves a place to hide. By the way, I guess we should point out that a lot of the thievery that goes on is copper theft, isn't it?

Kevin: Yes.

Kirk: To trade it in for money and go buy drugs or whatever somebody might need. Copper is a convenient way to convey some money from one place to another, take it from one person and...

Kevin: Absolutely. It's the new gold.

Kirk: Yeah, yeah. You mentioned don't give thieves a place to hide where their activities couldn't be seen.

Kevin: Make sure all lighting is working, and make sure that the fences aren't overgrown. Make sure of that. Of course, there are a lot of transmitter sites where there is not another living soul within 20 miles.

Kirk: Right.

Kevin: But if there's a road close by, keep things clean to where you can actually see the transmitter site from the road. Sometimes that's a double edged sword. Sometimes it's maybe better to not be able to see the site.

Kirk: I see.

Kevin: However, it's kind of hard to hide a 200 or 300 or 500-foot tower, so actually having it to where somebody might be seen by a passerby is very useful.

Keep the site clean. Keeping the fences cleaned out is one of the biggest things to discourage vandalism that there is, period.


Kirk: I think you also mentioned to look for signs of people spending time there that shouldn't be, maybe Coke cans or McDonald's wrappers or other things that you might find out in the world.

Kevin: Or tire tracks.

Kirk: Tire tracks. Okay.

Kevin: Somebody should go to the tower site several times a week if possible, at least once a week. Vandalism that is found later is almost never solved. We've worked on sites that have literally been probably months since anybody had been there.

Kirk: Checking the site at least a couple times a week, that doesn't have to be a technical person just to stop by and have a look.

Kevin: No. A technical person needs to have a look regularly.

Kirk: Yeah.

Kevin: But a non-technical person can drive into the site and see if the gate's lying on the ground or if the lights are knocked out or if the fence is cut through or the doors are hanging open on the building or there has been digging around the towers. Anybody can drive through and do that. We've even had some stations have an intern go out a couple times a week.

Kirk: You brought up a good point there. You mentioned the lights were working, but it also sounds like you need to stop by sometimes during the day and sometimes at night. You mentioned lights as if you assume people had them. I'm thinking of tower sites that aren't very well-lighted. What do you recommend?

Kevin: Well, first off, they need to be completely lit, and I highly recommend dusk-to-dawn lighting with current monitoring.

Kirk: You mean as opposed to motion-sensed lighting?

Kevin: Yes.

Kirk: Okay.

Kevin: Motion-sensed lighting, if that's all you can have or that's all you can afford, do it. It's better than nothing. But for sure, you need to keep a closer eye, physically, on the lights because there is no reliable way to remotely monitor a motion light because, well, if there's no motion, it's off.

Kirk: It's usually off.

Kevin: Yeah.

Kevin: But you're saying a dusk-to-dawn light, you could measure the current or give yourself a remote indication that the light is on or the light is off, and if it's 2 a.m. and the light's not on, maybe you ought to have the remote control give you a call.

Kevin: Yes, having a light go out, if you have a good lighting system and the area is well-lit and you have a light go off, that's not necessarily a reason for mass panic.

Kirk: Right.

Kevin: But if you see a light go off on your remote control and it lets you know. Ten or 15 minutes later, another light goes off. Ten or 15 minutes later, the door alarm goes off. Well, guess what?

Kirk: Yeah.

Kevin: They're here.

Kirk: Yeah, that's a good point.

Kevin: Practically all of the sites that I have worked on, I can't honestly recall a single site that has had working lights that the lights weren't somehow compromised. Most of the time, they knock them out.

Kirk: Okay. So if a site is vandalized or theft occurs, you're saying that in almost every case, lights are knocked out.

Kevin: Right, and normally, they are physically broken.

Kirk: I see.

Kevin: So if you are monitoring the current on those lights and that light's broken out, the current and the alarm should go off.

Kirk: But for engineers that don't know, you could have the same photocell that turns the lights on at dusk activate the ability of your remote control system to monitor them.

Kevin: There are any number of ways to do it, not necessarily any, but one of the better things that I have come across is a--I think I'm pronouncing it correctly--a sidereal timer.

Kirk: Oh.

Kevin: They're used for turning on in place of a photocell.

Kirk: Okay.

Kevin: Especially in areas where it can be cloudy. This sidereal timer, generally, is just a microprocessor. You usually put your zip code in.

Kirk: Okay.

Kevin: And you tell it then whether you want it to be at sunrise and what parameters you want. Do you want sunset to sunrise? One hour after?

Kirk: At twilight, yeah.

Kevin: Yeah, on for two hours, off for the rest of the night, back on.

Kirk: Yeah.

Kevin: Most thefts that we have come across have not occurred immediately after sunset. Most of them occur in the wee hours of the morning.

Kirk: Really? Like, 1, 2, 3 a.m.?

Kevin: One, 2, or 3:00 in the morning.

Kirk: Really.

Kevin: So you could actually have a timer on it and be reasonably safe to enable the current sensors to start the alarming at 8:00 or 9:00, and in the winter time, if you didn't want to set it, it might be dark from 4:30 until 9:00. But you do have to disable it because when the lights go off, at dawn when the lights go off, your alarm is going to go off.

Kirk: Understood, understood. Something you touched on just a little bit, but if you can put security cameras at the transmitter site, great, and a lot of engineers at this point turn their brain off. "Well, we can't get internet at our transmitter site."

Well, I've got to tell you, we've installed some of these at my stations in American Samoa, and we're going to be installing more at our station in Mississippi. We've got sites you can't get internet to, but you can shoot a microwave signal out there, and the radios to do that are now dirt cheap, a couple hundred, $300, and you can shoot...

Kevin: Less than $100.

Kirk: Okay. And you can get some internet out to there, some network, and put your cameras on that same network.

Kevin: Yes.

Kirk: That said, there's a bit of an older style of cameras that are available that are pretty cheap. They're meant for home. A brand like Swann is one particular brand name. They're not IP cameras, but they feed into a DVR that is IP, and you can set them up for motion detection and to send you an email.

You don't have to sit there and watch the camera 24/7, but you can watch your email, and if something comes in, then you can say, "Oh, maybe I better go have a look at my cameras." Get on your cellphone or Internet Explorer and have a look at the cameras.

Kevin: UBNT, the radios, they make--and I don't own stock in Ubiquiti or anything else--but they make an amazing, for $89 to $110 or $120, line of radios. The 900 meg may be more expensive, but they make an amazing line of 2.4, 5.8, and even higher. How they can make them that cheap and that good is just unbelievable.

Kirk: And the point of that is you can extend your network at your radio station out to the transmitter site. You can hook up a VOIP phone or IP camera. You could even have offsite backup of your automation files out there. There are a lot of uses. My point is you don't have to put this link in.

You do have some expense for climbing the towers and properly grounding the Ethernet cable that goes up the tower. But once you do that, it opens up a world of possibilities including security for the site.

Do you have people that do that? I know I've mentioned all of this. Do you have anybody doing that?

Kevin: I've got a couple of clients that at least temporarily on some occasions have. I've got several clients doing the radio to the transmitter using those.

Kirk: Yeah.

Kevin: And I've got a couple of clients that have temporarily put up some cameras just to see what was going on.

As a matter of fact, I had a transmitter that was doing some weird stuff and could never catch it doing it, so I carried one of my cameras out and sat on it and pointed it at it, and found later what was wrong but was able to actually see it when it happened.

Kirk: What else makes a site attractive to a thief?

Kevin: Well, any of the exposed copper is. You want to keep them away from the exposed copper. Gates, which would be part and parcel with the fences, but you don't want to give somebody enough room to get in and get comfortable, so the gate should be out at the road.

Anything copper that might be exposed around above ground level has got to be disguised one way or the other. You can now buy, if it's copper bus bars, which have typically been, they've always been in danger.

Kirk: Those are the big bars that radio stations and cell companies, in particular, tie a lot of grounding to a bar.

Kevin: Those have always been highly sought after. But now some of the manufacturers of those have started making them tinned. It's still a copper bus bar. It just has a tin coating.

Kirk: Tin on the outside so it looks less valuable?

Kevin: It looks less valuable.

Kirk: I see.

Kevin: They've also started stamping almost continuously on that bus bar, "Stolen. Do not recycle."

Kirk: Oh, my goodness.

Kevin: And some of the bigger companies have even had their name stamped all over it.

Kirk: Okay. Like AT&T.

Kevin: Yeah.

Kirk: Yeah, okay.

Kevin: One of the things we have found quite by accident that seems to work very well at least if you have exposed copper. Just a simple can of gray paint would work as well, but the cold galv stays longer. Slather. Don't be shy about spraying it. Soak it down with it.

We've had success with sites that had trouble, had been stolen, and then put new stuff in and maybe it would get gone again. Replace it, and then soak it down with copper or contaminate it with tar.

Kirk: Oh.

Kevin: The gooey, black, sticky, adhesive type of tar.

Kirk: Yeah.

Kevin: First off, recyclers don't want to take it.

Kirk: Right, right.

Kevin: Then again, it doesn't necessarily look like copper.

Kirk: I'm guessing you want make all your solid connections first before you put your tar on.

Kevin: Oh, yeah. You'll hate life, and whoever does your laundry will hate life.

Kirk: Goodness. So you're talking about disguising the metal and making it look worse or hiding it behind a wooden plank if it's a copper strap going down the side of the building. Okay.

Kevin: These days, you are better off to knock a hole in the side of the building and get the strap inside.

Kirk: Inside, yeah.

Kevin: Inside the building, and then grout that hole back up and make everything outside look as normal as you can.

Kirk: One more question. It seems like I heard about a substance that you could put over or into your AM ground system. I don't know if it was some kind of a concrete. It made it very difficult to get the radials out.

Kevin: There is a product. We have not used it. We will probably be looking into it. There are two different things that we're looking into. One is conductive concrete, if that's what you're...

Kirk: Maybe that's it.

Kevin: It literally is a concrete mixture that has something, I don't think it's carbon, in it. Normal concrete, as long as it has some moisture in it, you can measure resistance across normal concrete.

Kirk: Sure, yeah.

Kevin: But this measures, depending on which version of it you get, I think down into hundreds of ohms. Over a fairly good distance. That's being tried to try actually grounding that and using it around tower bases to protect. Most of the bigger copper in AM ground systems is around the tower base.

Kirk: The copper that's worth your time in pulling out if you're a thief.

Kevin: Right. That's the first place. When somebody gets into an AM ground system, that's the first place they usually start.

Kirk: Right.

Kevin: They get the strap or tubing that goes around the tower, the straps coming off the tower, and if you can protect that.

The other product, we probably will use in the next while. One of the problems with pouring just concrete over copper around the tower is it carries the moisture away. Moisture is needed for it to work correctly. There's a product now that is being used in the road building trades called permeable pavement.

It is a concrete mixture except it has very, very little, fine aggregate in it, and the rocks stick together make, if you can imagine, an almond patty with lots of almonds but not much chocolate on it. It literally is rock that water will just run through.

Kirk: Okay.

Kevin: We're working on a project where that's probably going to be used partially to protect the concrete and partially because the designer wanted the areas covered around it because there actually will be some traffic around it.

Kirk: If a station needs some security consulting or some actual ground system work and repair, where can folks get a hold of you?

Kevin: You can find me at www.amgroundsystems.com.

Kirk: Okay.

Kevin: Or email me at kkidd4@kkbc.com.

Kirk: Or they can probably Google Kevin Kidd with two Ds and AM Ground Systems.

Kevin: Absolutely.

Kirk: Find you right there. Kevin, thank you very much for your time.

Kevin: I appreciate it.

Kirk: I sure appreciate your advice. Thanks.

Kevin: Thank you.

Kirk: And I sure enjoyed talking to talking Kevin Kidd. If you need him, amgroundsystems.com. Obviously, he does AM ground systems and other grounding and regular kinds of maintenance as well. He's a good guy.

Hey, our show, This Week in Radio Tech, is brought to you in part by Axia and the Axia Fusion console. Earlier this week, I had the chance to talk to a number of Axia dealers about some of the cool things that the Fusion console does.

In the last few episodes of our show, we've been actually running a little commercial, a little explainer about the Fusion that Clark Novak has done, and we'll return to that next week. But I'll just go ahead and give you a few oversights of the Fusion console.

It's really been the kind of thing. The folks at Axia took so much advice, so many comments that they've heard about Axia consoles over the last 10 years from the SmartSurface to the Element to the iQ and the Radius, and they've taken that advice, and they put as much as they possibly could into a new console, the Axia Fusion.

A lot of the console is based on the original Element console, but there are a number of improvements--mechanical, metal, circuit design, and layout.

For example, instead of being a CAN bus cable between the Fusion's surface and the power supply or the power station that it might be hooked to, now it's Ethernet. And that means you can hook it up anywhere on the Axia Ethernet network that you want to. It doesn't have to be limited to being a 35 or 40 or 50-foot CAN bus cable,

It's still powered by 48 volts, so there are, of course, power supplies available from Axia. There's a new Fusion power supply, and you can make it redundant. We actually designed a circuit board that goes into the Fusion console that accepts up to two power supply cables coming into it. It converts the Ethernet, then, into the CAN bus that's still used inside the console itself.

A couple things about the Fusion design are that it's really gorgeous and very usable. You look at this thing, and it just makes so much sense. It's so clear, and it meets the, let's say, the sensibilities, the design sensibilities, of a lot of engineers and users.

Also, above every channel strip is a new OLED display. This is organic LED. It's very sharp and crisp and bright, and it gives you some information that we couldn't previously give you. It gives you the pre-fader source level coming in, so it's got pre-fader level displayed there for confidence that, "Hey, there's something there," and it gives you a send level because the Fusion, like all the Axia consoles, can do automatic mix-minus and talkback, that is IFB, interruptible feedback.

You can push a talkback button, and if there's a path back to the source, you can talk to it, like a guest with headphones or somebody on a telephone hybrid or somebody on an ISDN or and IP codec or somebody coming in by satellite that's dialed in to an auto-answer coupler for their telephone IFB. Well, you get all that, and you can see your levels going out to that caller.

Of course, there is an enormous array of accessories and other things. The Axia Fusion console works perfectly with every other Axia device out there and all the Livewire enabled devices. I think something like 70 different manufacturers and partners have equipment, automation systems, and hardware that plug right into Axia's Livewire and lets you talk.

And of course, Fusion is part of the AES67 standard. When you connect an Axia xNode to the system, you have right there the box that does the proper clocking and the proper formatting for AES67 IP audio streams, making it compatible with anybody else who is doing AES67.

Check out the Fusion console. Hey, it's available from anywhere from, let's see, you could build a four-fader console. You can build a six-fader console. You can go up to a 40-fader console with Fusion. The number of sizes, accessory modules, and design layouts is almost infinite. It's literally in the tens of thousands of different consoles you can build with the Axia Fusion's layout.

Also, if you want to check it out on the website, go to axiaaudio.com and go take a look at the videos that we sometimes show here during this commercial time with Clark Novak describing the Axia console.

Thanks a lot to Axia for sponsoring This Week in Radio Tech. We sure appreciate that.

All right, Chris Tobin. Are you still there, buddy, or have you fallen asleep?

Chris: I'm still here, yes. No, no, no, good stuff.

Kirk: All right. Hey, we've got more great shows coming up, a whole year of them, and I'm just delighted to have you along with us.

Hey, Chris, if folks need some expertise from you, you do IP codecs both for radio and television. You're the expert solutionist to figure out how to get signal from here to there in this brave new world of IP. Where can folks get a hold of you?

Chris: Oh, just at support@ipcodecs.com. I've been doing more than just IP stuff and that kind of thing. I've been hanging from tower sections and building rooftops and doing antenna work.

Kirk: Oh my goodness.

Chris: Yeah, you didn't get to see one of the pictures that Andrew has. It's me on a ladder beneath a TV 6, channel 6 log periodic antenna on top of a building in Queens.

Kirk: Oh, wow. Wow.

Chris: There it is. There you go.

Kirk: Whoa.

Chris: Part of the conversation of maintenance was outdoor wear and how to minimize freezing your hands and stuff. That was the picture I was going to show.

Kirk: Wow.

Chris: Yeah, that was a cold day.

Kirk: I don't know about you, but when I get done doing some kind of work--oh, what a view--when I get done with something like that...

Chris: That's from the ladder I was on.

Kirk: I find out all the muscles that I haven't used in the last six months.

Chris: Oh, yeah.

Kirk: And they're sore.

Chris: Oh, trust me. I can assure you that after a couple days' worth of that kind of stuff, I do feel those muscles. I'm like, "Wow, I didn't know that existed."

Kirk: Wow.

Chris: But it's good. It's fun. It keeps you on your toes and makes you think about stuff in a very different way, so I enjoy it.

Kirk: Well, Chris, thanks for being with us. We didn't get through our whole value of maintenance list, which just means that we'll have plenty more fodder for our next show when we don't have a guest for the whole hour. Stay tuned for more of Chris's tips on how to take care of stuff and the value of maintenance.

We're going to go. Hey, thanks to Andrew Zarian for being the producer on This Week in Radio Tech. Thanks to our sponsors, Lawo with the touchscreen console, also Telos and the Hx6, and the folks at Axia with the new, beautiful Fusion console now shipping.

We'll see you next week on This Week in Radio Tech. Bye-bye, everybody.

Topics: Broadcast Engineering


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