KBFR (pirate radio)
|Branding||Boulder Free Radio|
|Frequency||95.3 MHz originally; now variable|
|ERP||approx. 150 watts originally; now variable|
|Callsign meaning||Boulder Free Radio|
It was founded by a person calling himself "Monk". Originally intended to be a new legal LPFM station, changes in the new LPFM rules originally defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made it impossible to obtain a license for the Boulder area. Monk, having already purchased equipment in anticipation of being granted a license decided to go on the air without the license.
Run out of the basement of the house in which he had rented a room, he initially operated the station with a fellow pirate known as "Sparky" (an electrical engineer with substantial pirate radio experience in the past) who served as the RF Engineer. After approximately 5 months, the FCC visited and left a "Notice of Apparent Liability". In effect, a warning to produce a valid license or shut down the station under penalty of up to $11,000 per day and one year in jail for non-compliance. Monk shut down the station and was asked by the owner of the house to move out.
Undaunted, he and Sparky proceeded to use wireless unlicensed broadband (2.4 GHz) with the studio separated from the transmitter. In the first installation, they found a local business that would rent them a parking space for a van they had purchased, and a small studio space inside the business. They put the transmitter in a locked van, parked the van near a tree and placed the antenna approx. 50 feet (15 m) up the tree. They then placed a 2.4 GHz receiver in the van and created a small studio using MP3 based libraries of music on a computer and a 2.4 GHz transmitter that sent a signal through the walls of the business into the van, effectively separating the studio and the transmitter. When the FCC inevitably came, the business owner showed them the (legal) studio and the van with the (unlicensed) transmitter. Since the business owner did not have a key to the van, the FCC was unable to verify its contents and left, for "Monk and Sparky" another letter of apparent liability.
After consulting with lawyers (who were fans of and listeners to the station) it became clear that each time the FCC came and the transmitter was at a 'new' location, the clock was set to zero. FCC procedure is to gain compliance (shutting off the transmitter). They prefer not to incur actual legal action primarily due to a lack of legal resources within the FCC to go after every pirate radio operator in the US. This tactic usually works. After the first visit most pirate stations go dark permanently.
Not so with Monk, Sparky and KBFR. They created a three part system now used by pirate radio stations all over the world.
This system, consisting of three parts, successfully ran for the next four years evading FCC shut down.
The first part called 'The Transmitter Site' consisted of a weatherproof box with a laptop computer, an FM transmitter, a cable leading to an antenna (roof or tree) and a connection to the internet. KBFR listeners would allow the box to be placed in their backyards or businesses. KBFR would then pay for the monthly DSL or Cable internet connection for that location.
The second part, a streaming audio server (Shoutcast based) was set up with an ISP in New Jersey. This server would 'stream' a live (legal) radio show out to any computer that logged into it through KBFRs website at www.kbfr.org (which was set up by a college professor in Florida).
The third part consisted of a streaming internet radio station studio somewhere in Boulder, usually miles away from the transmitter site. This studio was completely legal and set up with multiple computers, a server with 1 Terabyte of music files and content to play on air and room to have multiple DJs, live bands and recording equipment.
The Studio, through its own internet connection would stream their audio signal to the streaming server at the New Jersey based ISP. The laptop computer at the transmitter site would be remotely controlled from the studio, to log into that site, pull down the stream and send it directly into the transmitter where it would then be broadcast via the FM signal over most of Boulder County.
Whenever the FCC would show up at a transmitter site, they would find a box in the back yard connected to power and the internet. The owners of the house or business would then tell the FCC that it was some sort of radio re-broadcaster and they allowed it to be put there in return for the internet connection at their home/business being paid for. They would promptly unplug the transmitter, shutting down the offending transmission and the FCC, having accomplished its mission, would leave, usually leaving a letter of apparent liability for Monk, Sparky or any other name of DJs they had at that time. The FCC was unable to confiscate the boxes without a warrant (although they usually asked and were politely told it didn't belong to the homeowner so they couldn't approve anyone removing it).
The 'host' would then send an email to the KBFR contact (usually a friend, or friend of a friend) that there had been a 'visit' and the transmitter site relocation team would wait a few hours (for the FCC to leave town) pick up the box, and relocate it to another site in Boulder usually preset up with antenna already in place. The down time was usually less than 24 hours.
Over the 5 years of KBFR's existence, the FCC visited an average of once every 10–12 months. Each time, the transmitter was relocated, resetting the enforcement clock back to zero.
The staff of KBFR grew to approx 50 DJ's. Each DJ paid monthly dues to cover the cost of internet, rent for the studio and other costs. Two to three times a year, KBFR would hold benefit concerts at local venues to raise money.
In January 2005, The FCC agent Jon R. Sprague (now retired) who had been the principal agent during the entire five year span of KBFR's existence, decided to do whatever it took to shut down the station (although he was an avid fan of Sid Pink & RKD's "Afternoon Delight" program). He visited the studio location and determined the DJ on the air (known as "Beerguy") was driving a certain vehicle (which had KBFR stickers on it). He then went to what he thought was "Beerguys" place of work and told his boss 'your employee's are breaking the law' threatening Beerguy's livelihood.
In reality, Beerguy was only running an internet based radio program. The offending transmitter was miles away and logged into KBFR's website pulling the stream and transmitting it. Beerguy didn't even know where this transmitter was (only 3 people ever knew its location at any given time). The FCC then put a notice of apparent liability under Beerguys apartment door (even though, again, he had no provable connection with the offending transmitter).
The FCC then went after Monk's original roommate claiming he was, in fact, Monk. This person was forced into hiring a lawyer to answer a letter demanding information designed to incriminate him.
The KBFR group, and Monk, decided that if the FCC was going to use Gestapo tactics like this causing the potential firing of alleged DJs from their jobs and the harassment of people only very loosely connected to suspected KBFR DJs, it was time to call it a day and shut down the station.
On January 11, 2005, KBFR went off the air permanently. The equipment still lives on, somewhere in Boulder, in the hands of ex DJs who may someday bring back KBFR. Monk has moved on and is no longer involved in pirate radio.
On January 20, 2005 the evening of GW Bush Second Inauguration, KBFR rented the Fox Theater to throw a benefit concert to help fund KBFR. Unfortunately for KBFR, the Boulder Leftists staged a boycott of Boulder businesses that day to protest GW Bush's second term. As a result, KBFR was unable to recoup the cost of the Theater rental and announced that the evening was the financial ruin and end of KBFR.
In April 2006, KBFR went back on the air at 95.3 FM. It is rebroadcasting the internet stream from KGNU.
Within a few weeks, the FCC sent Notice of Apparent Liabilities to the resident of the house the broadcast was originating from, as well as the owner of the house (who was renting it to the inhabitant). They also called the house's inhabitant and according to the broadcaster, harassed and threatened him. The broadcaster has decided to discontinue his activities.
In 2008, several groups of broadcasters in Colorado have taken up the KBFR mission and are sporadically broadcasting from different locations in Denver, Boulder, Longmont, Ft. Collins, smaller towns in the plains and other communities along the front range. Approximately 4 LPFM style transmitters with supporting equipment and transportation gear is spread among the group, calling itself CURG (the Colorado Underground Radio Group). At least 30 people are actively involved, primarily from the University of Colorado, Denver University, The Colorado Institute of Art and a several Art and Music collective groups from around the region.
The original founder of KBFR, Monk, who recently moved out of the state, decided to leave all the equipment accumulated by the KBFR/Boulder Free Radio collective during its operations (2000-2005) to a new generation of underground radio enthusiasts. They can be found on several frequencies including 103.9, 102.7, 95.3 and at least 6 others. They often broadcast from parties, raves and cultural events.
As of 2008 a new group of Boulder pirates has emerged under the call letters KGLR (green light radio). They have taken the reins and presented a whole new station on 95.3 fm in Boulder, CO.
Sometime in or around August 2008, someone or someone's pirated the original pirate station and launched an all new KBFR. Broadcasting at 93.9, the most recent and current incarnation of KBFR maintains a routine schedule with nightly DJs and weekly programs. KBFR currently broadcasts 24/7 with periodic downtimes. Little is known about the new station minus an article on November 2, 2008 in The Daily Camera, Boulder's local newspaper. They can be found on the internet at www.boulderfreeradio.org
- The Boulder Weekly's comprehensive article on KBFR shortly after the first shutdown.
- Boulder Weekly follow-up article from July 2002.
- Recordings from the Studio Free series (live bands who performed in KBFR's studios over the years) can be found online at clickcaster.com/kbfr and the Live Music Archive.
- Monk's Free Media blog.
- Monk's rarely used livejournal
- archive.org's wayback machine's copies of the KBFR website
- Monk's Commentary on what happened at YourHub.com-Boulder
- WestWord article on KBFR
- Independence Media article on KBFR
- @KBFRBoulder, a Twitter account active in 2010