Industry Braces For White Spaces Ruling This Month

October 5, 2007

October 2007 is the Deadline For New FCC Regulations For Wireless Operation NEW YORK, NY, October 5, 2007—As the 123rd AES convened this fall, the professional audio industry remained focused on the prospect of an imminent ruling from the FCC on new regulations governing use of the "White Spaces" between TV channels. A hot zone of debate, the White Spaces are viewed by some as an under-utilized frontier where long-range wireless broadband connections can be made and a host of personal gadgets could be operated to provide consumers with new, unprecedented communications tools. Implemented without mindful care, however, this type of usage could be potentially damaging to audio professionals, given that the same RF spectrum has been the traditional home of wireless microphone operation for decades. Along with Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Google, Microsoft and Philips form the backbone of The White Spaces Coalition, a group pushing for a quick ruling by the FCC to provide open access to the White Spaces, which in the current broadcast TV spectrum, lie between 174-216 MHz in the VHF bandwidth, and 470-698 MHz in the UHF band. On the other side of the fence are the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Microphone Interests Coalition (MIC), the Sports Technology Alliance (STA) and other groups including heavyweights from the music, theater, and house of worship communities. In the last few months, the pro audio industry watched with interest as the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) completed testing in July showing that new, prototype spectrum-sensing devices submitted by Microsoft and Philips for use in the White Spaces failed miserably at detecting both wireless microphone operations and DTV channels, and caused interference with the transmissions of both. The White Spaces Coalition disputed the FCC's test results based on alleged damage to one of the prototype devices' scanners and has recently provided its own independent data for the record. Since the outcome remains unclear as to the exact nature of how the FCC will rule later this month (or even if they will rule, choosing to postpone a decision until later instead), users and manufacturers of wireless microphones aren't letting up. At AES, Mark Brunner and Edgar Reihl from Shure Inc. joined David Donovan from the Association for Maximum Service Television, Inc. (MSTV) for a presentation and Q&A. They explored the topic in-depth and provided a comprehensive status report on the political and technical aspects of the White Spaces issue from the pro audio and broadcast perspective. Having been vanguard participants in this debate since its beginning, Brunner, Reihl, and Donovan additionally presented an up-to-the-minute report on further device testing, industry preparations currently underway, and proposed legislation. Among legislative efforts being considered in Washington D.C., The Interference Protection for Existing Television Band Devices Act of 2007 (H.R. 1320) introduced by Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) seeks to protect users of wireless microphones and other devices that transmit in the television band from interference from new devices. "This debate has a long way to go yet," notes Shure's Mark Brunner. "And it's certainly not too late to get involved. Everyone in our industry should contact their local representatives in the House and ask them to lend their support to H.R. 1320. It's a quick and easy process, all you have to do is go to, find your representative by entering your zip code, and key in a message asking them to support the bill. The time for all of us to act is now, before the regulations are made."