Friday, January 16, 2015

THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT IN WESTBARD

Aircraft warning lights on
Crown Castle tower off River Road
The telecommunication tower in the 5200 block of River Road in Bethesda has been (again) in violation of light pollution standards for several weeks. This time around, it was the middle light that was going berserk, creating a firework burst effect that could be seen inside of nearby apartments and homes. Then, Wednesday evening, the tower lights were entirely dark, creating a serious hazard for low-flying aircraft. That's the first time I've ever seen that happen on this particular tower. It's potentially very serious, as the tower is a whopping 850' tall.

Thursday morning, I contacted the tower's owner, Crown Castle, and informed them of the two issues. When a tower goes dark, the operator is required to contact the Federal Aviation Administration, so that a "FAA Notice to Airmen" can be issued regarding the unseen obstacle.

I did get a response from Crown Castle, and as of last evening, the tower lights were back on. And they are at the proper illumination setting.

I have again urged Crown Castle to consider replacing the white flashers with the standard red bulbs every other broadcasting tower in the vicinity uses at night. That would solve the repeated episodes of bulbs going haywire. Based on my documentation of past incidents, this occurs about once or twice a year. My assumption is that the white flashers are cheaper, but if you have some knowledge of the industry and can give a better explanation, I am sure readers would appreciate you leaving a comment below.

We'll see how long the compliant lights remain so this time, but I do appreciate Crown Castle's prompt response to the matter.

For those interested, the tower no longer is used for TV broadcast signals. It does transmit the radio signals for Hot 99.5 FM and 94.7 Fresh FM, and serves as a cell tower. There are also several satellite dishes at the base of the tower. The tower's height and location have made it very much in-demand even after broadcast TV was cut off by the federal government. Other than the recurring lighting issue, the tower has been a "good neighbor" over many decades, providing more services than many residents may even realize, as they use a variety of devices.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Robert, this is honestly an example of the informative sort of neighborhood stuff you should do more of instead of the redundant rants on county policies.

Sincerely, one of your haters

Anonymous said...

Broadcast TV was not cut off by the Federal Government. It was moved to a digital format and all stations reassigned to, mainly, channels in the UHF spectrum. All channels are broadcasting and can be received on digital TVs.

Anonymous said...

Just curious - has anyone ever even noticed these flashing light issues Dyer writes about every couple of months? I can't say it'd ever occur to me to be bothered by the color of the bulbs or the frequency of the flash. Are you OCD, Dyer, or does this bother other people, too? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:48 PM -

Good catch.

What an amazingly ill-informed statement by Dyer. Even by the standards he has already set for himself.

"[B]roadcast TV was cut off by the federal government."

Anonymous said...

Huh?! Isn't the FCC considered a government agency?

Anonymous said...

7:52. You must be new to the blog, Robert mentioned in the past that he had been contacted by nearby residents who were bothered by the lights, I think in the apartments right next to the tower. Nice try though!

Anonymous said...

@ 8:28 PM -

"Analog broadcast was replaced by digital broadcast" does not equal "broadcast TV was cut off by the federal government."

Anonymous said...

@8:30, nice try about what? I'm asking if real people have ever noticed an issue. You're the one who must be new here if you're dumb enough to take what comes out of Dyer's mouth at face value.

Robert Dyer said...

7:48 + others claiming federal government had no role in ending analog TV -> Stop the BS. Congress, President Bush, and the FCC are all (big shock here, folks) part of the Federal Government.

What are you guys smoking?

Robert Dyer said...

7:52: I have received multiple emails, and there was also a comment left by another resident of the area - which you can see yourself on one of the posts - complaining about the haywire lighting. The issue is NOT the color of the bulbs. It is that the ones on this tower repeatedly malfunction, and begin to exceed light pollution standards. I'm assuming you don't live near the tower, because the flash is like a firework going off. It shines right into the windows of the apartments right by the tower, and flashes off nearby homes and buildings. If you face a structure that faces the tower, and its facade is flashing, I think that is illegal light pollution by any measure.

I'm not sure why you would question this, or try to bring up fictitious medical conditions. Crown Castle HAS AGREED WITH ME EVERY TIME I'VE REPORTED IT THAT THE LIGHTS ARE MALFUNCTIONING. Why do you think they've switched the lights back to the proper setting? Good God.

Robert Dyer said...

9:03: Just curious, but, in your alternate reality, who besides the Federal Government authorized the switch that cut off analog TV, and sold the spectrum to their campaign donors? Captain Kangaroo?

Anonymous said...

You didn't say "analog TV" in the article. You said "broadcast TV".

Can't you be honest and admit that you made a mistake? Even once?

Anonymous said...

Also, you seem to think that the replacement of analog broadcast TV, with digital broadcast TV, is a bad thing. Why is that? Do you really think that nothing should ever be changed from the way it was in your childhood in the 1970s?

Robert Dyer said...

7:32: I didn't make a mistake. Traditional broadcast TV was broadcast in analog. It's a completely different technology, and cannot be received by a traditional television.

Robert Dyer said...

8:04: It was a bad thing for people who can't afford cable or satellite TV in every room, or at all. I know many people who receive less channels today than in the 1970s, so, yeah, that's pretty embarrassing for the cable industry hacks who pushed for the switch. They knew the reception would be abysmal, and that holdouts would be forced to get cable just to get their broadcast channels back. It's all about making people pay for what used to be free. That's why the same forces are trying to stop net neutrality, so they can gouge all these streaming TV addicts for the pipes. Hans Riemer and Mitt Romney would approve.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I could never get the digital converter to pick up the channels, it was ridiculous! I got great reception before the switch. I guess there must have been some sort of interference of signal where I was?

Anonymous said...

The transition from analog broadcast TV to digital broadcast TV wasn't just some arbitrary mandate by the US federal government. It's been done in every country in Europe, and in Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and southern Africa already. Two-thirds of the countries in the world will have completed the transition within five years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_television_transition

Anonymous said...

You're a Republican. It's your party that's blocking net neutrality. And Mitt Romney was your party's candidate for president in 2012. And it's not clear what Hans Riemer has do do with this, since this is a federal issue, not a local one.

Anonymous said...

9:37. Obviously you are the dumb one.

G. Money said...

I don't have cable and get digital HD broadcast reception just fine on my TV. The TV I have now has built in digital reception, but I remember that when they made the switch I was able to get a digital converter for free. I get dozens of channels over broadcast, and that plus the availability of streaming media led me to dump cable.

So the notion that the conversion from analog to digital is a ploy to force people to sign up for cable is straight up false.

Anonymous said...

"I was able to get a digital converter for free"

Several of my neighbors got these, too. Including one who had a TV set that was so old that it had a mechanical channel selector.

And guess what, all have reception that is just fine.

Don't you hate it when BS talking points vanish in a puff of smoke?

Anonymous said...

It all seems to depend on where you live as to what reception you got obviously because I was one of the people who didn't get good reception and I was living in Bethesda at the time. Time to get a life, loser trolls!

Anonymous said...

You must live in Westbard. Everything is crappy there.

Robert Dyer said...

9:08: Yes, and cable companies operate in all of those markets. Cutting off analog was not some kind of Bob Geldolf humanitarian action. It was to provide campaign donors with valuable spectrum, and drive people to cable TV out of frustration.

Robert Dyer said...

9:30: You obviously don't know my political beliefs very well, if you think I share the boilerplate GOP positions on this and every other issue. Mitt Romney does agree with their position and his Bain Capital wrote a $500 check to Hans Riemer. That's what Hans has to do with this, and we know he likes people to have to pay for things that used to be free or inexpensive in the past. He also was solidly behind the insurance companies in the Obamacare debate. Those companies' lobbyists wrote thousands of dollars in checks to Hans Riemer as well. $$$ At least you admit it was a federal action to cut off analog.

Anonymous said...

Will you ever admit that you were wrong when you said "broadcast TV was cut off by the federal government"?

Or will you just spend several more hours moving the goalposts?

Robert Dyer said...

Glad it worked out for you, G. Money. My experience has been quite different, depending on the station. Some are rock solid, some break up all the time, some only work a few times a year, and some don't come in at all. If you read up on this online, you'll quickly find that many people are experiencing major reception difficulties. They would have required technology as good as analog if they weren't shills for the cable industry.

Robert Dyer said...

2:18: Not my experience, which has been mixed. If you are seriously claiming that everyone in America got free boxes and is getting crystal clear reception of all available channels, that "puff of smoke" may be coming from whatever you're smoking right now.

Robert Dyer said...

3:01: "Anger and victimization at the loss of absolute power to control your message." - Jon Stewart

Robert Dyer said...

3:56: I was 100% correct in my statement. You are the one moving goalposts, changing the topic from tower malfunctions to fake medical conditions to a passing reference to analog cutoff to reception quality of digital set-top boxes. What that has to do with aircraft warning lights, I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

Paranoia, the destroia.

Anonymous said...

Digital TV in theory is great. Better video quality, more channels, etc.

Problem is in practice, a lot of folks can't get a good signal. And the sub channels are under utilized except for retro television. WEAR has good sub channels, but I can't pick them up with my antenna.

Regarding Reimer, the problem Dyer, The Washington Post and others have with Hans isn't that he is a Democrat, it's more of a competency issue.

Anonymous said...

Should be WETA, not WEAR

Robert Dyer said...

4:40: Is it the Comcast checks that go to the MoCo Machine that make you so "naive" to the role of cable and wireless companies in crushing their competition in TV, internet and phone markets?

Don't tell me, developers' top priority is the environment, right? You're either a paid political operative, or a very gullible person.

Robert Dyer said...

7:36: I agree on all points. Marc Elrich is a Democrat, and he has been a very effective councilmember for the last 4 four years and deserved reelection.

Anonymous said...

11:29 PM DST [2:29 AM EST]

Go to bed, you're drunk.

"cable and wireless companies in crushing their competition in TV, internet and phone markets"

Who were these imaginary "little guys" that were "crushed"?

Did you forget that broadcast TV is owned mostly by the networks and several very large companies?

Do you miss dial-up internet?

Anonymous said...

Also, my comment of 4:40 PM was in reference to your notion that multiple persons who commented here yesterday are a single entity.

Anonymous said...

"The tower's height and location have made it very much in-demand even after broadcast TV was cut off by the federal government."

Well, WDCA is very much alive and still broadcasting. They simply integrated their antenna system with their sister station WTTG, which is on higher ground in Tenley. They did so shortly after Fox Network bought them, in the early 2000s, several years before the requirement to switch from analog to digital. Again, nothing to do with any "cut off by the federal government".

Robert Dyer said...

7:03: This tower broadcasted more than WDCA in terms of TV signals. But after analog was cut off by the federal government, the array at the top was changed to accomodate the new demands in telecommunications post-analog TV.

Robert Dyer said...

5:30: The little guys were the television viewer and internet and cellphone customers. They had to fork over more money to get what used to be free in terms Of TV. High-speed internet providers are fewer, and - surprise - unlimited data plans are all-but-extinct for cell phones.

I don't miss dial-up because, unlike digital TV, the broadband product and signal are superior to what it replaced.

Robert Dyer said...

5:49: There aren't likely to be more than 1 or 2 people in America who are cheerleaders for the cable monopolies of America. I think they rank near Barwood in terms of public support - and hmm, the negative comments on here are the only public support I've heard for Barwood. What a coincidence. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm

Anonymous said...

"cheerleaders for the cable monopolies of America"

LOL, just keep jumping to your idiotic conclusions.

Anonymous said...

"support...for Barwood"

Another jump to an idiotic conclusion. And another shift of the goalposts.

Anonymous said...

The tower companies are moving away from the red steady burning lights because scientific research shows that they are implicated in the deaths of migratory birds that collide with the guy wires (if the tower is guyed) or circle around the tower, exhausting themselves and falling to the ground. The FAA gave permission for the tower companies to stop using the red steady burning lights a year or two ago, after doing a study to determine if the pilots had trouble spotting the towers without the red steady lights (they didn't). Most companies are just letting them burn out.

I live under the southflow approach (in Cabin John, near the river). Any aircraft that is at 850 ft near that tower is in serious trouble and that tower is the least of it. At that point, they should be at 3,000 ft. When they start down the glide slope, they are still at 1,000 ft.

Anonymous said...

"...circl[ing] around... exhausting themselves and falling to the ground."

LOL... sounds like Dyer in just about any discussion.

Robert Dyer said...

9:42: Finding a commenter who supports cable companies and Barwood Cab suspicious is an idiotic conclusion? I would call it an intelligent conclusion. What's next? "I just love getting my license renewed at the DMV!"

Robert Dyer said...

1:44: Interesting. I imagine the lights would be important if an aircraft was in trouble, and trying to navigate at a lower altitude, where this tower is the tallest structure in the immediate area.

Robert Dyer said...

3:25: Or like the County Council trying to enforce sidewalk rules in downtown Bethesda.

Anonymous said...

@ 4:36 PM -

What's idiotic is claiming that anyone who thinks that all car-for-hire services should be covered by the same regulations, or who notes the fact that Uber is a large, international company, thus not any kind of "underdog", somehow "supports Barwood".

What's idiotic is claiming that anyone who thinks that we don't need to keep obsolete broadcasting technology which has been dropped by every country in Europe, by Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the countries of southern Africa, is somehow "in cahoots with America's cable TV companies".

Robert Dyer said...

5:15: You contradict yourself. You say dropping "obsolete" analog TV made sense, but that the government should take action to preserve obsolete Barwood Taxi. There is no other competitor complaining about Uber.

Uber, Lyft, etc. are not taxis. They are a completely different category, and should not be under the same set of regulations, as I've said previously.

I would point out that there are cable companies in all of the countries you mentioned, which all had an interest in making it harder and more costly to obtain free TV.

Anonymous said...

Barwood is a monopoly because of the medallion system and limits on the number of licencees. This kind of regulation is a barrier to entry and should be ended. Necessary safety, liability and performance regulations on car-for-hire services are completely separate from this.

The only difference between Uber and "traditional taxis" is the manner in which you hail them. Everything else is the same.

If you absolutely believe that digital broadcast TV is some sort of global conspiracy by cable companies worldwide, then I guess there's not really anything I can do to dissuade you from this lunatic belief.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog.

It's literally the only place where you can find supporters of things that no one likes: Barwood cabs, Giant self checkout, Comcast and Mr. Reimer.

Anonymous said...

LOL, Dyer's little toady is back, parroting Dyer's nonsense.