MPBN signal upgrade on tap for June

Posted May 03, 2011, at 9:02 p.m.
Last modified May 04, 2011, at 9:34 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Barring any further delays, an equipment upgrade aimed at boosting Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s television signal in Greater Bangor — and possibly beyond — should be completed by late June.

MPBN announced plans in December to significantly improve the signal strength of its over-the-air television broadcasts in the Bangor viewing area — and possibly beyond — by installing new broadcasting equipment on Blackcap Mountain in Eddington.

The conversion from analog to digital signals in mid-2009 had the unintended effect of leaving some noncable and nonsatellite viewers without access to MPBN and some commercial broadcasters.

Mainers who receive television reception over the air learned that digital signals are more sensitive to such obstacles as mountains and hills, granite, oceans and rough weather, MPBN President and CEO Jim Dowe said in announcing the planned upgrade in December.

He said MPBN planned to invest about $75,000 in a television translator that would correct a signal deficiency that resulted from the nationwide conversion to digital broadcasting technology in February 2009.

At that time, Dowe said he anticipated that the upgrade would be under way in April or May.

Delays in the manufacturing and shipping of the needed equipment have pushed the implementation time frame ahead to June, Gil Maxwell, MPBN’s chief technology officer, said Tuesday. He said a tower crew also will have to be hired to install the equipment.

While Maxwell said he couldn’t guarantee that the upgrade would restore the signal to everyone who lost it, he did say that “it’s going to make a major impact. It should definitely resolve a number of problems.”

“You’re looking at a 30- or 40-mile radius,” he said. “Fifty percent of the people [who lost the signal] will get the signal about 90 percent of the time.”

“I’d say there might be 1,000 households out there that were affected, but that’s only an estimate,” Dowe said in December, referring to the Bangor area. “I don’t think we had any way of identifying” which or how many viewers lost their ability to view the station on their televisions.

“Restoring signal integrity in Bangor has been a top priority at MPBN since the day we converted to digital in 2009,” Dowe said.

“We’ve agonized about this,” he said. “I felt devastated when it dropped out, because we didn’t expect that. People tell us they can’t imagine life without public television.”

Jennifer Foley, director of development, major gifts and planned giving, said fundraisers to help pay for the upgrade will be held in the near future.

To contribute to the effort or for information, contact Foley at jfoley@mpbn.net or 330-4510.

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