Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Will Churches be Excluded from Wireless Interference Protection Plans?

Shure Wireless In the wake of the recent FCC ruling that set a final date for the retirement of wireless microphones in the 700 MHz band, there’s word that churches may be excluded from the new geo-location database that will provide important protection from interference with your wireless mics.

Chris Lyons with Shure, and Doug Gould of Worship MD (formerly with Shure, too!) along with many others are working hard to get the word out on what could be a huge issue for churches. It’s another part of the complex 700 MHz, digital TV transition, white spaces issue that have been causing confusion for wireless users for the past few years.

The FCC is considering a change in licensing rules, for wireless microphone, in-ear monitors, wireless com and similar equipment operating in the television broadcast band.

Until now, only a select few, like broadcasters, and movie and TV producers could actually license this equipment. All other users, including churches, schools, theaters and other users were operating without a license. The FCC has been aware of this for years, and operation of these devices is permitted with or without a license.

However, development and testing of a new generation of portable devices and fixed location services has begun. Look forward to a lot of cool new connected toys. But, they will be operating in the same TV bands that wireless mics use.

To protect wireless mic, monitor and com users, the FCC is working to develop a geo-location database that will allow licensed wireless users to register their systems. These new TV band devices will check that database to avoid licensed wireless users. It’s an important protection to avoid having someone with a cool new connected handheld device stepping all over your wireless mic transmissions in the middle of a show.

The question is whether churches will be among those who can obtain licenses, and register in the database.

“The FCC believes that not everyone needs protection from interference, and that protecting everyone would make too much spectrum off-limits to new internet-enabled ‘white space’ devices.,” said Lyons. “They are seeking some way of classifying wireless mic users so that they can easily determine whether they should or should not be eligible for license, whether that is based on the type of facility (church, school, theater), type of activity (broadcasting, recording, live performance), number of seats, or whatever.”

And, if churches are not on that list, that could potentially leave churches wide open to intermittent and continuous interference in their systems.

So, what can you do about it?

The FCC is accepting comments on who should be allowed to get licenses until February 22nd. It is critical that they hear, loud and clear from churches about how important it is that they be allowed to register.

For guidelines on how you can submit comments on this issue, send an email message to wirelessmicrophones@shure.com. You will receive a reply message with details on information to be included in your comments and how to file them with the FCC.

In your comments, be sure to include how many systems you use, what kind of services and productions you do, and describe the impact that losing reliable wireless would have on your services.

I’ll be sending my comments later today. I hope you will, too.

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: If you think you’re seeing double on this post, you’re correct. I also write at ChurchTechMatters.com, and it’s always been my policy not to duplicate posts between the two. I want you to read both blogs, and hope what I write at CTM has some real value. I’m making an exception with this post, because the issue is time sensitive and critical.


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