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HD radio comes to Summit County

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news

In addition to KUVO returning to the air last Thursday afternoon, Summit County now has one of the first HD transmitter systems in the nation.

KUVO, on FM 89.7, has been missing from Summit County air waves for about three months, but the wait has been well worth it.

Summit Public Radio installed a new HD transmitter system atop Baldy Mountain last week, and it is responsible for KUVO’s return – but the new technology is offering more than just one station. In a few weeks, people who own HD radios in Summit County will be able to tune into two additional channels previously unavailable.

When listeners tune into 89.7 in Summit County with an HD radio, they will have three choices: HD1, HD2 and HD3 channels. HD allows up to three distinct program streams to broadcast within the same analog FM bandwidth.

Channel HD1 will offer KUVO’s jazz, blues and Latin jazz music (in addition to culturally diverse programs).

Channel HD2 will present news programming during the day, adult acoustic alternative music from 7-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and classical music from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday. The news programs will broadcast shows Summit County radio currently doesn’t provide, such as National Public Radio’s “Diane Rehm Show,” Public Radio International and BBC World Service’s “The Takeaway” and more.

Channel HD3 will provide a yet-to-be-named, continuous eclectic music service, which will rotate among different formats including blues, mellow rock, new age, jazz and Celtic music.

Right now, listeners with HD radios can tune to 89.7 and listen to KUVO, as well as pick up the HD2 channel intermittently, as engineers test the new system. When all three channels are up and running, there’s no guarantee every single Summit resident or driver will be able to receive the stations, as terrain features can interrupt the low-power transmission.

People with traditional radios will only be able to listen to KUVO.

Though KUVO lovers might not consider themselves lucky that Summit County experienced ongoing problems with receiving the Denver KUVO signal, the challenge ultimately led Summit to become one of the first in the nation to receive HD radio on a translator.

KUVO’s broadcast signal from Denver couldn’t reach Summit Public Radio’s transmitter location on Baldy Mountain directly, due to interference. The only method to transmit the signal was a long, involved process: A computer on Gibson Hill above Breckenridge received KUVO’s internet web stream. Then, a microwave transmission link delivered the signal about a mile to a transmitter on Baldy Mountain, which ultimately allowed listeners to tune in. But during the ski season, as more people surfed the Internet in Breckenridge, the computer would crash, and listeners would lose KUVO as a result. The station would remain off the air until Summit Public Radio staff could reset the computer.

So, when the computer went down about three months ago, Summit Public Radio and KUVO decided to wait for a permanent solution to deliver KUVO to the mountains.

KUVO and Summit Public Radio have been working on this solution since early 2008. Late last year, KUVO applied for – and earned – a $175,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The money helped fund: a new satellite uplink at KUVO’s Denver studio, a new satellite downlink dish at Baldy and a new, multi-channel, broadcast-capable HD system.

“This is one of the first HD transmitters in the country to go on the air,” said Gene Craven, president and CEO of KUVO. “One reason we got the grant is because this is essentially a research project for the rest of the public radio system.”

The project demonstrates – to approximately 900 pubic radio stations in the nation – that the system is capable of sending three separate program streams to distant transmitters via one satellite channel bandwidth.

The grant funded about 75 percent of the total cost of the project, so members of KUVO and Summit Public Radio hope Summit County listeners will collectively donate the remaining 25 percent.

Though KUVO received the grant last winter, Summit Public Radio engineers could not install the new system earlier than Tuesday because snow blocked access to the Baldy site until then. As a result, KUVO just reappeared in Summit Thursday.

“This project was the result of a lot of hard work,” Craven said, adding thanks to both the people at, and the volunteers who support, Summit Public Radio.


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