wireless microphones, white space

White Space: Performing Arts and Wireless Microphones

Background on White Space Advocacy

Nonprofit performing arts organizations rely on wireless technology for unrestricted on-stage movement, to create sophisticated sound, and for backstage communications for stagehands. This technology operates within the “white space” radio frequencies between TV broadcast channels.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 required the FCC to auction off TV broadcast spectrum to wireless broadband developers to help offset the federal deficit. In this auction, slated to begin spring 2016, the FCC will ‘repack’ or reorganize the broadcast spectrum which will result in wireless microphones and technologies having to move–once again–to another area of the broadcast spectrum. The FCC had previously required wireless entities to move in the spectrum in 2010. The move will result in performing arts organizations having to pay for the costly replacement of sound and other wireless equipment.

An August 2015 FCC proceeding ruled that unlicensed wireless microphones would not be able to access a geo-location database for interference protection from white space devices. This database would allow users to register the frequencies on which their wireless devices were operating. That same proceeding also eliminated the two safe-haven channels that had been set aside for wireless microphones, and the proceeding outlined the process for wireless microphones to move to new spectrum following the auction in 2016.

PAA encourages the Commission to ensure it protects existing services, including wireless microphones used in the performing arts and educational facilities.

See the White Space Statement of Concern for more information.

What's at Stake

It is essential that the FCC offer interference protection to performing arts entities since they provide valuable public services. Congress should urge the FCC to restore access to a reliable geo-location database and preserve nonprofit performing arts, education, and media organizations’ financial investments in technical equipment.

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What We're Asking For

Congress should urge the FCC to:

  • Provide professional wireless capability, with interference protection that works successfully, to the performing arts and community media sector.
  • Restore access to a reliable geo-location database
  • Offer some form of interference protection to performing arts entities.

 

We urge Congress to:

  • Recognize the investment that organizations in the performing arts, education, and media community have made in wireless microphones.
  • Consider the financial burden already borne by performing arts, education, and media organizations, and allow these wireless microphone users the ability to use current equipment as long as possible.
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Recent Activity

FCC to Consider New Proceeding to License Wireless Mics

At its July 13 open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to revise and clarify its rules for wireless microphone operations in the TV broadcast spectrum.  The agency’s action proposes permitting “certain qualifying professional theatre, music, performing arts organizations, and similar organizations” to obtain Part 74 licenses that would allow them to register their frequencies in a database that would provide interference protection.

PAA member Theatre Communications Group recently published a statement on what this proceeding means for the performing arts field: http://bit.ly/2uemogz

Previously, in August 2015, the FCC ruled that only entities using 50 or more microphones or wireless devices could be licensed to register for interference protection. That threshold excluded most nonprofit performing arts organizations. This new proposal could open the door for entities using less than 50 microphones to obtain a license, provided that applicants demonstrate “need and requisite professional ability” to operate in the bands where they would register their frequency.  Once the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is published in the Federal Register with deadlines, PAA and its Member Organizations will seek comments from the field. Please stay tuned for action needed soon! You can read the full announcement about the FCC’s proposal here on its website.  

FCC Issues New Rules For Wireless Microphones

At its Open Meeting on August 6, 2015, the FCC ruled on several proceedings that affect the current and future operations of wireless microphones used in the performing arts. Currently, there is no change to wireless microphone operations. Users can still register their needs in the database, subject to the 30-day comment period. However, once the Office of Management and Budget approves the FCC’s new rules, likely in late 2015, there will be a more distinct difference between the treatment of licensed and unlicensed wireless microphones.

The FCC’s new rules state that entities regularly using 50 or more wireless devices are eligible to apply for a license. Entities using fewer than 50 wireless devices are not eligible to apply for a license. As of July 2016, unlicensed wireless microphones in the 600 MHz band will have to register their frequencies in the database and may have to pay a registration fee. This registration does not provide interference protection, and it does not reserve channels. Effective between July 2016 and April 2017, unlicensed wireless microphones operating on any frequency will no longer be able to reserve channels protected from White Space Devices. 

At the August meeting, the Commission also began the process of moving wireless microphones to new spectrum following the 2016 spectrum auction. The official order to move will likely take place in 2019. This news presents some challenges. In the short term, it will be advantageous for unlicensed wireless microphone operators to find a way to become licensed. For example, they could find or create a “professional sound company” which would routinely use 50 or more devices. Rather than renting equipment from a professional sound company, an unlicensed performing arts entity could hire the professional sound company to conduct frequency coordination on its behalf. That company could use its license to register the frequency needs of unlicensed entities. Any performing arts entity that produces television programs would also qualify for a license. Both of these options would provide database interference protection along with the use of a much wider range of frequencies.

Over the next few years, it will also be important for performing arts venues to raise or set aside funds to purchase new sound equipment. Advocacy efforts to protect wireless microphones used in the performing arts from interference, as well as efforts to offset the costs incurred by transition to new spectrum are ongoing.

Please stay tuned for updates and see this timetable for more detailed information on the new FCC rules.

(Photo Credit: Paul Hudson, Flickr Creative Commons)

FCC to Discuss Wireless Microphones

The next Open Meeting of the FCC will take place on August 6, 2015. The agenda includes discussion of the proceedings for the agency’s spectrum incentive auction in 2016. In these auctions, the FCC is offering broadcasters the opportunity to put up for sale the rights/licenses to certain bands of broadcast spectrum where wireless microphones currently operate. After auctions, the FCC will reorganize and repack the spectrum and may require wireless microphones to relocate to a different part of the spectrum. 

The procedures adopted during this meeting will dictate the rules governing the upcoming auction and will affect the future distribution of services in the broadcast spectrum. The FCC will also adopt rules for the technical operations of both licensed and unlicensed wireless microphones and a plan for a long-term home in the spectrum for wireless microphones. 

PAA advocates for performing arts wireless technology as a part of the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group. The group recently filed an Ex Parte letter outlining the needs of wireless microphones in the performing arts. Stay tuned for an update following the August 6 Open Meeting.

Wireless Microphones on Agenda for August 6 FCC Meeting

​The next Open Meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will take place on August 6, 2015. The agenda includes discussion of the proceedings for the agency’s spectrum incentive auction in 2016. In an effort to raise federal revenues, the Administration and Congress have authorized the FCC to put up for sale the rights/licenses to use certain bands of radio waves –spectrum–on which wireless devices can operate. After auctions, the FCC will reorganize and repack the spectrum and may require wireless microphones to relocate to a different part of the spectrum. 

The procedures adopted during this meeting will dictate the rules governing the upcoming auction and will affect the future distribution of services in the broadcast spectrum. The FCC will also adopt rules for the technical operations of both licensed and unlicensed wireless microphones and a plan for a long-term home in the spectrum for wireless microphones. 

PAA advocates for performing arts wireless technology as a part of the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group. The group recently filed an Ex Parte letter outlining the needs of wireless microphones in the performing arts. Stay tuned for an update following the August 6 Open Meeting.

Wireless Microphones Update

PAA participates in the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group which asked its member organizations to prepare comments to submit to the FCC urging the protection of wireless microphones used in the performing arts.

The FCC has two open proceedings affecting wireless microphone operations. One proposes that entities using fewer than 50 microphones on a regular basis, would not be able to register in a geo-location database which provides interference protection. In the other proceeding, the FCC is considering a longer-term home for wireless microphones in a different area of the broadcast spectrum. Such a move in the spectrum would mean arts organizations would have to purchase expensive new equipment.

Over 60 letters were sent to the FCC and posted on its website urging interference protection for wireless microphones in the performing arts as well as reimbursement if new equipment needs to be purchased. Reply comments in these two proceedings  were due by February 25. Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ), the co-chairs of the Congressional Arts Caucus, agreed to take the lead on a Congressional sign-on letter which arts advocates circulated on Arts Advocacy Day, urging the FCC to protect wireless microphones.

Explanation of New FCC Rules for Part 74 License Eligibility

This summer, the FCC released its Order expanding eligibility for Part 74 licenses to users of wireless microphones, including performing arts venues. While the order bears some good news for the performing arts, it is important to know that change is coming after the spectrum incentive auctions.

PAA and the Performing Arts Wireless Microphone Working Group have provided this analysis and summary of the FCC’s Order explaining the changes ahead and detailing how you can apply for a license now.

NPRM Issued for Wireless Microphones

The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning the long-term needs of wireless microphone users. The FCC acknowledges that “wireless microphones enhance event productions in a variety of settings – including theaters and music venues, film studios, conventions…” and the performing arts field knows the importance of quality wireless transmissions for backstage communications systems and microphones onstage. In this NPRM, the FCC will explore how best to accommodate the different wireless microphone users’ needs in the future in light of the upcoming spectrum incentive auction. You can read more about the NPRM here.

Stay tuned to PAA for updates on the rulemaking process.

FCC Adopts Rules Expanding Part 74 License Eligibility

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. Click here to read the ex parte letter PAA sent to the FCC on May 7. Stay tuned for more details after the rules are published.

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