Last week, analogue television broadcasting in Canada ended. I’ve enjoyed OTA broadcasts for two years. That’s right … it’s been two years since I broke up with Rogers. They still send me ads trying to win me back. It’s kind of sad, really.

This is my current channel selection with the signal strengths at my place:

Virtual
Channel Channel  Name          Call Sign  Signal
  4-1     25     CBC Ottawa      CBOT       92%
  6-1      6     Global TV       CIII       79%
  9-1*     9     Radio-Canada    CBOFT     100%
 11-1     22     CHCH            CHCH       83%
 13-1     13     CTV Ottawa      CJOH      100%
 14-1     20     OMNI-2          CJMT       90%
 24-1     24     TVOntario       CICO       87%
 30-1*    30     Télé-Québec     CIVO       92%
 40-1*    40     TVA             CHOT       86%
 42-1*    42     Crossroads TV   CITS       92%
 43-1     43     CTV2 Ottawa     CHRO       92%
 60-1     27     OMNI-1          CFMT       86%
 65-1     17     CityTV          CITY       87%

I receive the stations with asterisks just fine, but I’ve removed them from my scans because I’m not interested in those stations. So I receive 13 and enjoy 9. A whopping 9 stations isn’t much in this hundred-channel universe, but suits me fine because they all come in perfectly, and along with Zip.ca and Netflix, they’re all I need. And unlike Zip.ca and Netflix, they’re free.

When the switch occurred last Wednesday, I had a bit of a shock. In addition to the above stations, I also received these on the evening of September 1:

Virtual
Channel Channel  Name                  Call Sign
 16-1     41     PBS Watertown (SD)      WPBS
 16-2     41     Create/ThinkBright TV   WPBS
 16-3     41     PBS Watertown (HD)      WPBS
 50-1     21     ABC Watertown           WWTI
 50-2     21     North Country CW (SD)   WWTI

I was ecstatic to see that I could receive PBS. I love that station! I was also quite surprised because the transmitters of these two stations are 162 kilometres away which means they’re below my horizon. I didn’t really understand, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying an episode of Nova.

I haven’t been able to receive these stations since that day, but now I understand what happened. I’ve seen conversations on the Internet about ‘tropo’ conditions, and that’s what I experienced. Wikipedia describes tropospheric ducting as,

a type of radio propagation that tends to happen during periods of stable, anticyclonic weather. In this propagation method, when the signal encounters a rise in temperature in the atmosphere instead of the normal decrease (known as a temperature inversion), the higher refractive index of the atmosphere there will cause the signal to be bent.

So when conditions are right, the signal either follows the curvature of the Earth, or the signal travels upward and is bent back toward the surface of the Earth, enabling me to receive a signal that is normally blocked by the curvature of the Earth. I don’t know how often it happens, how long it lasts when it does happen, or how dependable the signal is while it is happening, but if I can’t depend on it, I’ll likely ignore it completely.

According to TV Fool signal locator, I might be able to pull in WCFE (PBS Plattsburgh), WNPI (PBS Watertown), and WNYF (Fox Watertown) if I were closer to the top of my building. But would I change apartments for that? I’m tempted by PBS, but when I really think about the trouble involved, I find that I’m perfectly comfortable where I am. That said, I will certainly consult the signal locator the next time I move if I can choose between apartments on different floors.

In the meantime, I’m very pleased with the local stations I now receive.