TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Cable TV vs. UHF (was RE: DSL Speed)

Cable TV vs. UHF (was RE: DSL Speed)
Tue, 5 Jul 2005 19:28:34 -0600

Choreboy <> wrote:

> In 1956 I moved to Rutland VT, in a valley. We had three floors above
> the basement, and the peak of our slate roof may have been forty feet
> above the ground. On the peak was a mast with guy wires. There were
> three antennae on the mast, one pointed to Burlington 70 miles away,
> on to Albany 90 miles away, and one to Boston 160 miles away. Three
> cables led from the antennae to a switch on the back of the TV.

> The snow was bad all year. Community cable, with an antenna mast on a
> nearby mountain, was discussed. A year or so later, Lucky 13 started
> in Albany. In spite of the distance and the mountains, it came in
> without snow. I heard no more about community cable.

> I don't know how much it cost to operate a small UHF station, but in
> Rutland I think it could have been started and operated much cheaper
> than cable. The audience would probably have needed something
> besides a loop on their TV, and I suppose advertising would have had
> to support it.

Perhaps so, but that would have provided only one channel. So even if
a small UHF station had been built in Rutland, somebody would have
built a CATV system anyway. Even back in the 50s, CATV systems were
offering "full network service": all three commercial networks. They
supplemented these channels by adding nearby independent and NCE
(non-commercial educational) stations.

One UHF station obviously could not have provided anywhere near this
level of service. And I can't imagine that three network-affiliate
stations would have been able to survive financially.

Of course, it might have been possible to build three translator
stations to retransmit the signals of three distant network stations,
provided that some financial-support mechanism could be established.
Such an arrangement existed in Darlington, Wisconsin for several years
during the 60s and 70s: three UHF translators retransmitted the
signals of the three Madison commercial stations. The translators
were supported by "memberships"; although there was no way to prevent
non-members from tuning in, enough members apparently paid their dues
to keep things running.

But after the mid-70s, even membership-supported translators couldn't
compete with cable TV. The company I was working for at the time
built a cable system in Darlington in 1980, and the translators were
shut down. AFAIK, they're are still sitting there up on the hill
collecting cobwebs (although I once heard that the old transmitter
shack made a good deer-hunting blind).

Neal McLain

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