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Today's country music

By Scott Bradner

I'm sitting at home on a Saturday morning writing this column while listening to the Hillbilly at Harvard show on WHRB Harvard's student run radio station. The show is on every Saturday morning from 9am until 1pm and is one of the best radio shows of its type anywhere. But after 1pm it is real hard to find reasonable country music in the Boston area. The local station that claims it is a country music station seems to pride itself in not playing any song older than its listeners and, based on the banter of the announcers, assumes the average listener is about 7 years old. A real let-down after the announcers on WHRB. But a few months ago I found a way to bridge the gaps between Saturday mornings by using this Internet thing that everyone is talking about.

Cousin Lynn, one of the hosts of Hillbilly at Harvard, mentioned that they were now on-line (at This is not all that interesting to me since I can get them just fine the old fashioned way but he went on to say that KHYI ( from Plano Texas was broadcasting live over the net and that it had very good country music. He was right and I'm now a regular listener at home via cable modem and at work.

I was aware of the growing number of Internet radio sites but I had not realized the number of stations or the quality. KHYI transmits at 16Kbps. It is not the same as listening over a high quality FM radio but it is a lot better than my car radio. I use Real Networks RealPlayer (and worry a bit that Real Networks might be recording my preferences while I'm listing), KHYI also transmits in Windows Media Player format.

The station is quite good music-wise, even if the announcers vary from smart and articulate to pathetic, but they do not quite understand that they are transmitting to the world. The ads are still for local events, eateries or stores. There is plenty of opportunity for additional ad revenue here.

It is also impressively inefficient to have the server in Texas send data streams to each individual that wants to listen. I'm sure that intermediaries such as Ackiami << please correct the spelling>> can help the efficiency and quality, although I rarely get congestion-related problems. But the ideal would be to actually get IP multicast running as a normal service from Internet service providers (ISPs). At this time few ISPs are even trying to use multicast because of a mix of technical and business issues. The IETF is looking at what can be done to improve the technology but the business issues will be harder to solve.

disclaimer: Even though Harvard's business plan does occasionally look like simultaneous multiparty multicast the above observation is my own.