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It’s that time of year—sun outage season

You’ve heard the song, no doubt.

“Here comes the sun, doot-doot-do-doo
Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright.”

Surely it’s stuck in your head now. You’re welcome.

But while we’re on the topic, here comes the sun, indeed. The sun outages.

Just like this time last year, another round of sun outages is on the way from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 3-15.

So what the heck is a sun outage? Well, for about two weeks each spring and fall, cable companies experience a technical phenomenon in which the sun causes “solar interference” to all geostationary satellite signals. As the sun’s path across the sky gets lower each day, there are times when it is in a direct line behind a communication satellite that is sending signals to a receiving satellite antenna here on earth. When the antenna is looking into the sun, the interference from the sun overrides the signals from the satellite. That’s when a sun outage occurs.

"Macro-blocking" or "tiling" of channels occurs during sun outages.

“Macro-blocking” or “tiling” of channels occurs during sun outages.

At first, the effects of a sun outage are minimal. But they will gradually worsen to the point of total outage. Some channels will experience “macro-blocking” or “tiling” of the picture before and after peak times. These are the channels we receive digitally from the satellite.

Sun outages typically occur during a 15-day period in February or March and September or October and can last as long as 15 minutes a day. The effects of a sun outage vary in degree from minimal to total outage throughout the 15 days. Once it reaches its peak, the interference will gradually decrease, becoming less noticeable each day after.

Unfortunately, there is technically nothing we can do to prevent sun outages from occurring. Each satellite service that we receive signals from will experience this interference in the timeframe mentioned above.

About Krista Ledbetter

Krista Ledbetter comes from a newspaper reporting background. Several years, tweets, and a career shift later, she keeps busy as an associate manager of public relations for TDS Telecom, and represents their cable markets. You're most likely to find her on Twitter, running around Madison, Wisconsin or on the couch--hers or otherwise.

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