The Issue of White Space and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

Action Alerts:

5/15/14: Limited Expansion of Part 74 Licensing for Wireless Microphones
At an Open Meeting on May 15, the FCC adopted rules expanding Part 74 license eligibility to include sound companies and venues regularly using at least 50 wireless microphones. The rules are intended to ensure interference protection and high quality sound for large events. After the auction, the Commission anticipates there will be one channel in each area which would be available for shared use by wireless microphones and TV white space devices.  PAA continues to advocate for two safe-haven channels of spectrum for wireless microphones to protect against interference, as well as eligibility for performing arts venues using at least 25 microphones to obtain a license from the FCC.
ACTION: Read PAA’s Ex Parte Letter to the FCC on May 7.

10/30/13: New FCC Chairman is Moving Fast to Change Radio Frequency Laws
With the new chairman in place, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is quickly moving forward on spectrum auctions, which is the FCC’s plan to work with broadcasters to voluntarily auction unused spectrum in the television band. While nonprofit performing arts organizations, commercial theatres, schools and performers have all relied on  wireless microphones  operating within certain frequencies, the FCC wants to auction off portions of  this broadcast spectrum called “white space” which may require wireless microphone operations to move which would necessitate the purchase of new sound equipment, and would also likely increase the chance of harmful interference from new white space devices.
ACTION: Contact your representatives today and urge them to cosponsor H.R. 2911, the Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013. This bill, introduced by Congressman Bobby L. Rush (D-1-IL), will protect performing arts wireless technology such as microphones and backstage communications systems operating in the "white space.

8/1/13: Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013 Introduced in the House 
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st IL) introduced to the House H.R. 2911, the Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013, which would set in place certain protections for users of wireless microphones and wireless technologies. The bill asks the Federal Communications Commission to expand eligibility for Part 74 licenses to certain wireless microphone users including the performing arts sector, to establish safe haven channels for wireless microphones, and to authorize access by owners and operators of wireless microphones to the TV bands databases for the purpose of protecting wireless microphone operations from interference. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
ACTION: Contact your Representative and ask them to support H.R. 2911, the Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013 today!

7/29/13: TCG and the PAA Host A Capitol Hill Forum on Wireless Technology
TCG along with Rep. Rush and his staff hosted “Pardon the Interruption,” a forum on Capitol Hill addressing the need to protect broadcast and wireless microphones used in the performing arts and other sectors. The event was held in conjunction with Rep. Bobby Rush’s (D-1st IL) development of H.R. 2911, the Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act of 2013, which he introduced to the House on August 1. This forum stressed the importance of wireless technology to the performing arts and other industries’ abilities to produce high quality experiences for their audiences. The FCC was urged to protect wireless microphones when it conducts spectrum auctions. Theatre Communication Group’s Laurie Baskin represented PAA, testifying 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.  To read Laurie Baskin's complete remarks, click here. To read Harvey Fierstein's complete remarks: click here.
ACTION: Listen to this story from NPR that mentions the forum and talks about this issue. Learn more about white space in the PAA Issue Center.

News Alert! Movement on Protecting Wireless Microphones for the Performing Arts - On September 23, 2010, The FCC ruled that portions of the broadcast spectrum called white space would be shared by wireless microphones used in the performing arts and by new white space devices (aka TV Band Devices) yet to be developed. Because interference between wireless microphones and white space devices could be a concern, the FCC ordered several protection measures. These messures are now being reconsidered. Learn what's now at stake for wireless microphone users:

  Threats to safe-haven channels designated for wireless microphones:
In the current spectrum auction and repacking rulemaking, the FCC indicated it was considering eliminating the two safe haven channels the FCC had previously designated for wireless microphones. Some wireless microphone users have advocated that they would have to compete for bandwidth with a growing number of mobile broadband devices and other heavy spectrum users.  If these two reserved channels are eliminated, interference for wireless microphone users would increase and they would no longer be able to depend on this vital technology to do their work and serve the public.

  A Reliable geo-location database:
Given the thousands of performances held by arts organizations each year that rely on wireless devices, it is essential that the FCC’s interference protection works successfully. A reliable geo-location database will avoid interference between wireless microphones and TV Band Devices.

  High cost of replacing equipment to operate in new spectrum:
Our nation’s nonprofit performing arts organizations make substantial financial investments in their technical equipment, including wireless microphones and backstage communications devices. In 2010, these organizations were subject to an FCC rule that required wireless microphone users to cease using equipment that operated in the 700 MHz band of spectrum. Many performing arts organizations were required to relocate to another band of spectrum which brought unanticipated expenses of $25,000-$100,000 to purchase new equipment that could operate in another band of spectrum.

In an effort to raise federal revenues, the Administration and Congress have authorized spectrum auctions, putting up for sale the rights/licenses to use certain bands of spectrum. After auctions, the FCC will reorganize and repack the spectrum that has been made available and may require wireless microphones to relocate to a different part of the spectrum. If that happens, performing arts organizations may yet again have to purchase new, expensive equipment. The valuable public benefits produced by our nation’s performing arts sector should be considered in any future plan to reallocate or ”repack” the broadcast spectrum as a result of these auctions.
More information on the white space issue can be found on TCG's White Space legislative issue page.

Archived White Space Action Alerts here

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