Longform

Bad Signal

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For as long as Paula could remember, Angle was big on guns and conspiracy theories and secrecy, and Dana went along. When the Committee for Legal Reform, a fringe common-law group, began holding seminars at the Hiltop Inn in Dallas, Dana went with Randy and ended up buying various books and tapes, attending more sessions than her husband. They both obtained through the mail "international drivers permits," which purport to have been issued in Managua, Nicaragua.

Out near Fruitvale, at the couple's Van Zandt County ranch, Randy had hooked up a generator-battery device that provided enough power to let them unhook from the grid. The two would listen on the shortwave to militia leader Bo Gritz, the former Green Beret commando who hosts a radio program for the far-right militia movement. One colleague in the radio business recalls seeing a picture of Angle in a militia beret, but those he has left behind who will talk about such matters aren't quite sure what affiliations he had.

Mostly, says Richard Youngblood, who worked for Angle for about 15 years, "Randy was out for one thing. That was helping Randy."


If there's one thing everyone agrees on about Randy Angle, it's that he was a genius with dispatch radios. "He was the most savvy technician in the DFW market," says one competitor. Most agree, too, that he was devious, smart, and calculating enough to build a business in a field where competitors would jerk with one another as they vied for control of the airwaves.Angle got his start in the Dallas area working for another shop -- Advanced Communications -- but in the early '80s he set up Quality Communications Inc. in a rented space in a Garland industrial park. Youngblood, who went to work for Angle and mistakenly thought he had been given an ownership stake in the business, says Angle started with one tower site -- above the Athena Condominiums on Northwest Highway near Preston Road -- and a couple of 800-MHz frequencies. They also did work installing car phones and fitting police cars with radios and lights.

Angle and Youngblood became friends and would go out to eat together with their families. Angle would constantly preach "about how I had to get my life right with God," says the lanky 42-year-old. On paydays, delivery of the check was usually preceded by hours of talk about God and redemption. Over beers, Angle told him he was foolish to pay taxes. Or he'd recall how fascinated he was with CB radios when he was a kid.

Mostly, though, the two worked long days and into the night visiting their tower sites, doing the frequently needed repairs and keeping their system on the air. A lightning strike that would knock everyone off the air could require back-to-back 20-hour days to set things straight. Radio repeaters -- the transmitters that under perfect conditions can send a signal in a 75-mile radius -- require a lot of work.

Within seven months of opening the business, Youngblood recalls, Dana bought a new car -- things seemed to be going that well. Angle realized that the business' success depended on expanding to more and more frequencies, by whatever means he could.

Under Federal Communications Commission rules, dispatch-radio frequencies could be used by several co-licensees. Also, if a licensee did not fully develop and use the channels in his network, regulators could take them away and award them to other operators. The government was more interested in making use of the system than making revenue from it, so the frequencies were obtained for nominal fees. At various times, too, there were limits on how many channels an individual could own.

With his temperament, Randy Angle would use all sorts of irregular methods to expand his business in this regulated world.

According to Youngblood, he'd put ownership of frequencies in different names to get around limits on how many one person could have.

"He'd tell me how he'd jam his competitors' stuff, play games with them," recalls Wayne Lott, owner of Delta Communications and Electronics, which rented so much air time from Angle that it accounted for about $40,000 of Angle's roughly $50,000 monthly revenue. "You've got a guy here who wasn't stupid. His IQ must be in the 145 range. He's a very intelligent person who doesn't like to say, 'Let's discuss things. Let's see if we can work it out.' Randy would decide the way he wanted things to work, and he'd make that happen. He was a taker, not a giver."

Another competitor, who asked not to be identified, says Angle would put his Spanish-speaking customers on shared channels with, say, high-end hotel clients who would become annoyed with the foreign language that came over their sets. Some would get so irritated that they'd simply drop the channel, leaving it for Angle to take over. On other shared channels he'd employ a "dead-key," which holds the frequency open similar to an open mike, thereby making them unusable. Others using the channel would be annoyed to the point where they would relent and pick up service elsewhere.

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Thomas Korosec
Contact: Thomas Korosec

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