BY TOM READ
I run a faith-based radio network called ACN (American Christian Network). We originate our programming in Spokane, Washington, and we have seven stations (3 AM stations, and 4 FM stations). Our programming covers eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and northeastern Oregon – according to FCC figures, we reach over 2.5 million people altogether.
Most of our programming is original – we produce and host it locally in Spokane, and we also cover a lot of local events. (It’s fair to say we produce more locally hosted and produced programming than all other stations in Spokane combined.) Because we have such a large reach, organizations and politicians have asked us to provide live coverage of their events for years. These organizations rely on us to spread their message outside the walls of the banquet hall or church that they’re speaking from, and so we need the flexibility to go live from wherever their events may be.
We’ve used ISDN for years and I’m a big fan of it – at one time, we had ISDN lines installed in all major hotels and event venues in Spokane. But as phone companies have stopped maintaining ISDN infrastructure and as technology has become more IP-based, ISDN is no longer an option for us.
We purchased our Comrex ACCESS as a way to replace ISDN, and we’ve found it’s incredibly versatile. It makes it possible for us to broadcast from anywhere, as long as we have a strong internet connection. Generally, I prefer to plug it into a Cat-5 Ethernet cable, but if we don’t have access to that, we use a Verizon 4G LTE modem and it works amazingly well.
We’re a network with seven affiliates, and we needed a way to have separate programs on each station. For our main network programming, we use satellite, but for one of our affiliates, we wanted to provide separate programming to their FM station at certain times of day.
We learned that BRIC-Link II is designed for 24/7 connections, and we were told by users that it’s very dependable, so purchased a kit with 2 units. We’ve now been using them for years, and it’s been marvelous. The fidelity is amazing – like the ACCESS, as long as you have a good internet connection, the audio is flawless. It just works for us.
One of my major considerations when purchasing new equipment is the customer service provided by a manufacturer. I probably know more about engineering than the average station owner, but I’m not a technician or an IT expert. Most manuals are written with the assumption that the reader has more than a basic understanding of the technology, which makes them difficult to follow for me. So I rely on technical support to learn how to use and configure my equipment.
With Comrex, I know my questions will be answered. It’s Cadillac service. I work with one tech expert in particular who has helped me understand my codecs from the very beginning – I finally met him at NAB this year, and after our conversation he followed up via email about a particular problem I had mentioned to offer suggestions and ask if they worked for me. You don’t find that anywhere else, and that help is so valuable to me as a small broadcaster. The reliability of the equipment is important to me, but the reliability of the company is just as important.
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Tom Read is the owner and CEO of American Christian Network.