I got the following message from a friend on my answering machine last week: “I didn’t know I was calling the request line on a Spanish radio station!” An AM station is now blasting on my home phone. The station is the main attraction when someone calls; the message has become background noise. This isn’t the first time we’ve had phone interference, it’s just the worst.
For a while the interference was limited to my radio, overwhelming any other station when I try to listen to AM. Now it’s is affecting my ability to hear anyone who calls. Or, for that matter, to hear myself when I’m trying to talk.
I live in Oak Hill Park, home of the WUNR, WRCA and WKOX radio towers and of people who value peace and quiet. These are the towers the neighborhood explicitly told local government it didn’t want to be upgraded and expanded when Clear Channel Radio, Beasley Broadcast Group and Champion Broadcasting System made the request to do so.
I received this lovely letter just when the radio again started playing on my telephone: “Neighbors: We are writing to assist you in obtaining support if you experience radio frequency interference or ‘RFI’ arising from broadcasts…” I’m also told with great urgency: “PLEASE CONTACT US AT ONCE IF YOU BELIEVE YOU NEED OUR ASSISTANCE.” First, whoever wrote this is not my neighbor. If he was, he’d be experiencing RFI and wouldn’t put up with it. Second, does “support” mean they’re going to fix the problem or they’re offering a shoulder for me to cry on? The letter invites me to visit their Web site, but if I want to, I can also call this number: 781-393-7838. What would you do if you couldn’t hear yourself talk on your own phone — visit a Web site? I’m guessing most people would pick up the malfunctioning phone. Which I did. The message — you didn’t expect a human, did you? — again guided me to the Web site: oakhillparettowers.com and told me there were helpful articles on the Web site. I don’t want to read articles. I want to use my phone. Come to think of it, I want to listen to other stations on AM radio, but have just about given up on that. According to this letter, I can also contact them if there are “radio frequency phenomena” on medical (!) and non-electronic devices. I’m glad I don’t have a pacemaker, and that my kitchen table hasn’t started giving me weather reports.
After three calls with no response, I decided to check the Web site, the “WKOX-WRCA-WUNR Interference Remediation Help Desk.” I did so, wondering what an older couple who might not have access to a computer might do, since the “Help Desk” answering machine doesn’t really answer. I had to register with the Web site before I could get my “support.” I stated my problem and got back a Ticket Number. Then I looked around to see what helpful information was offered. I’m told that on “16 March 2009 at 17:07, all three stations began broadcasting at full power today.” Congratulations stations, welcome to my home.
On the e-mail confirming my registration, I was directed to “Knowledge Based Articles” (as opposed to…?) that would help me. This included a 56-page “Interference Handbook” from the FCC, dated 1993, along with instructions on how to unplug everything in my home to see where the RFI is coming from. I think I already know.
I’m still waiting to hear about my promised “support.” Funny, Verizon doesn’t bill me less because I’m getting mediocre service. The neighborhood said no to these towers. But the towers and the FCC had the final say.
Ann Green is a freelance writer who recommends fellow RFI sufferers see the statement by Ruth Hoshino, co-president of the Oak Hill Park Association, at www.ci.newton.ma.us/cdbg/750%20SawMill/Info/RH’s%20Statement.pdf.