Microphone (custom)Over the last few years the FCC has began to reshuffle the way it hands out licenses for the wireless radio spectrum.  The most notable of these has been the transition to digital television from the old style analog TV, but now this transition may bite your music program in a way you had not expected.  Certain wireless microphone systems will now be illegal to use under the new rules.  Will the airwave police come battering down your office door the next time you use your school or church's wireless microphone system?

What Wireless Microphones are Affected By This Ruling?
In a recent ruling by the Federal Communications Commission all unlicensed users of the 700mHz frequency band must stop using their devices.  The deadline set by the FCC is June 12th, 2010.  By that date all owners of these now illegal wireless microphone systems must shut them down permanently.  To see if the wireless system that your school or organization is using is affected by this ruling check the table of manufacturers and devices provided by the FCC.  Almost every major wireless microphone vendor including Shure, Audio Technica, Samson, Sony, and many others have at least one device on the list. There are no exceptions to this rule, even if your organization purchased a special license in the past.  Organizations that have further questions can also contact the FCC directly at 1-888-CALL-FCC.


Why Is The FCC Mandating That Users Stop Using These Devices?
The reasoning behind the change in policy toward these 700mHz devices is to open up those frequencies for use by emergency services and for the implimentation of wireless broadband Internet access.  Over the long run this change may result in lower Internet access prices or truly ubiquitous Internet access where everyone in the country may be able to grab an Internet signal from any appropriately equipped mobile or desktop computer.  This is also the same frequency that the new 4G wireless cell phone services are set to operate in, promising super fast data speeds for cell phone users as well.

These potential benefits are not pacifying the wireless users and their associated groups however.  A recent story on Bloomberg reports that for some organizations such as Broadway theater companies the cost to replace the equipment may run as high as $100,000.  For schools and churches the replacement cost is lower but still may result in some headaches for cash strapped districts and parishes.

Continuing to use unlicensed 700mHz devices will most certainly cause interference issues with public services and other authorized entities.  In fact, according to the FCC frequently asked questions page on the topic if your devices are currently experiencing increased amounts of interference when you use them you are most likely already interfering with these same emergency services frequencies that this ruling is intended to free up.  There is no word on what the penalties would be for users that continue to use these devices after June 12th.

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