Protecting Wireless Microphones – Recent Developments

by Laurie Baskin

in Advocacy

Post image for Protecting Wireless Microphones – Recent Developments

(Photo by Emily Travis. From left to right: Knapp, Baskin, Pope, Libin, Fierstein and Bunyan)

As you may know, TCG has been advocating with the FCC and on Capitol Hill to protect wireless microphones for the past 6 years. On Monday, July 29, TCG participated in a Briefing on Capitol Hill called “Pardon the Interruption,” a forum on the need to protect broadcast and wireless microphones used in the performing arts and other sectors. The event was hosted by Representative Bobby Rush (D-1st IL) and was used to announce the introduction of a Bill – H.R. 2911 – the Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013, which he introduced in the House on August 1st. This forum stressed the importance of wireless technology to the performing arts and other industries’ abilities to produce high quality and safe experiences for their audiences. The FCC was urged to protect wireless microphones when it conducts spectrum auctions.

I testified on a panel of stakeholders that included Julius Knapp, Federal Communications Commission; Tom Pope, First Baptist Church of Glenarden; Louis Libin, Broad Comm., Inc. (representing the NFL); and Maureen Bunyan, ABC 7 local news. Harvey Fierstein, Tony-award winning actor and playwright also participated, delivering testimony on the importance of this issue to the NYC Broadway theatre community. Click here to listen to this story from NPR that mentions the forum and talks about this issue.

In September, 2010, the FCC concluded the White Space proceeding by Ruling that White Space would be shared by wireless microphones and new TV Band Devices. There is great concern that new TV Band Devices will cause significant interference to wireless microphones. Due to our collective advocacy efforts, the FCC instituted several protections for wireless microphones, including: two safe-haven channels; additional channels in most markets (those channels occupied by or adjacent to TV stations); the ability to register in a geo-location database which would protect against new TV Band Devices; and establishing that wireless microphone users are legitimate users of the broadcast spectrum under Part 15 rules.

However, when Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, it required the FCC to transfer spectrum from TV broadcasting to wireless broadband through incentive auctions. After broadcasters have an opportunity to sell-off spectrum, the FCC will “repack” or reorganize the remaining broadcast spectrum into a more compact configuration. Less broadcasting spectrum means less White Space for wireless microphones and TV Band Devices alike.

Now the FCC is also considering the elimination of the two safe-haven channels to make more spectrum available for auctioning to commercial wireless providers.

We also know that many theatres only recently bought new equipment when they were required to move from the 700 MHz band. Theatres may now need to buy more new equipment for another spectrum move.

Because of heavy consumer demand for faster and better wireless data service for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, wireless carriers are applying tremendous pressure to free up more spectrum. There are expected profits from spectrum auctions which would help pay down the national debt.

So, wireless microphones continue to be vulnerable as the FCC moves toward Rulemaking on these incentive auctions.

You can learn more about White Space on the TCG Legislative Issues page.

Laurie Baskin is TCG’s Director of Research, Policy & Collective Action.