Locast announced on Wednesday that it is now offering its free streaming television service in the Raleigh-Durham broadcast market, making local television stations there accessible over the Internet without a cable or satellite subscription.
The launch will allow television viewers in 23 North Carolina counties to access live feeds of their local ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates, PBS member station and a handful of other broadcast outlets.
“Within the Triangle region of Raleigh-Durham, which includes North Carolina State University, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Shaw University, among others, Locast is an invaluable free tool for residents and students to stay informed about major storms and hurricanes, health updates, local news, weather, and sports on local broadcast TV,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Locast is free to access, but programming streams are interrupted once every 15 minutes with a request for viewers to donate at least $5 a month to supplement the cost of the service.
Last week, Locast announced a new program that will give 25,000 customers one year of uninterrupted access to the service. The program, called Locast Cares, is specifically targeted to military personnel, first responders and low-income households, though the application process is open to all.
Locast operates as a not-for-profit service that circumvents traditional carriage agreements with broadcasters by exploiting a loophole in the copyright law that allows non-profit organizations to re-transmit broadcast signals without commercial arrangements.
The provision was intended to allow hospitals, schools and college campuses to create their own distribution networks for free-to-air broadcast stations, but the law never limited it to these entities, and Locast says it applies equally to not-for-profit enterprises like theirs who re-transmit broadcast stations over the Internet.
Locast has the support of some major pay television distributors, including AT&T and Dish Network, who have sparred with broadcasters over the years due to rising programming costs. Not surprisingly, broadcasters are less supportive of Locast; a consortium of major broadcast network owners are suing the service in federal cout.