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Is Your Wireless Mic Being Banned?

Later this year, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is banning the use of wireless microphones that operate in the 700 MHz spectrum. This post describes when and why the ban is being implemented, provides access to a list of prohibited equipment, and briefly weighs the ban’s economic impacts.

On the FCC website, the page titled “Operation of Wireless Microphones in the 700 MHz Spectrum is Prohibited After June 12, 2010” explains what’s going on:

“Certain wireless microphones have operated in frequencies that are needed for public safety. When these microphones were first designed, the frequencies they used were in between the frequencies that television stations used to broadcast television programs. With the completion of the digital television (DTV) transition on June 12, 2009, television stations no longer use the frequencies between 698 and 806 MHz (the 700 MHz Band) for broadcast. These frequencies are now being used by public safety entities (such as police, fire and emergency services) and by commercial providers of wireless services (such as wireless broadband services).

“The wireless microphones that had been operating in the old TV broadcast channels can cause harmful interference to these public safety and wireless consumer services. Therefore, all users of wireless microphones (or certain low power auxiliary stations) that operate on any of the frequencies in the 700 MHz band – including both licensed users (under Part 74) and unlicensed users – now have to stop operating in this band.

“The FCC is only prohibiting the use of wireless microphones that operate in the 700 MHz Band. You may continue to use wireless microphones that operate on other broadcast frequencies. Microphones with cords are not affected by the FCC’s decision.” (webpage accessed 1/23/10 and last updated 1/14/10)

If you’re unsure whether any of your mics operate in the 700 MHz band, the FCC has published a manufacturers equipment list where you can search for prohibited devices and learn whether they can be modified (most cannot). As I write this, the manufacturers list indicates that it was updated on January 22, 2010.

By the way, if you perform with a 700 MHz mic (or a 700 MHz in-ear monitor system), you may already be experiencing interference as more and more of that spectrum is being used for wireless broadband and public safety communications.

Will the ban have a significant economic impact on our industry? For some presenters, schools, and religious centers the costs to retool will be considerable. In a January 15 article on Bloomberg, a spokesman for the Broadway League estimates that some New York City theaters will spend as much as $100,000 to replace their mics.

Independent performers with banned gear will be less burdened than theaters, but we all know that any unexpected expense can be tough for self-supporting musicians. Nonetheless, we must comply with the law. The FCC isn’t saying what the penalties might be for those who defy the new ruling, but none of us wants to undermine emergency communications or be written up in the local media for doing so.

Fortunately, several leading manufacturers offer rebates to purchasers of 700 MHz equipment. Shure and Sennheiser, for example, just extended their rebate deadlines to June 30, 2010.

If you’d like more information, the FCC is maintaining a Frequently Asked Questions page, which even offers suggestions for recycling old electronics. You can also call, fax, or write the FCC – their contact info is published at the bottom of their web pages.

© 2010 Gerald Klickstein

Gerald Klickstein is Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and an active guitarist, author, and arts advocate. His landmark book “The Musician’s Way” was released in 2009 by Oxford University Press; he also publishes a website, blog and quarterly newsletter that explore issues of artistic and career development for musicians.

Reader Comments (5)

As a self-employed musician who will now have to replace thousands of dollars worth of equipment because of this, I see this as the culmination of what was arguably one of the stupidest decisions I have ever seen. For all intents and purposes, the wireless microphone industry was using these frequencies FIRST. That means they were licensed by the FCC for their use BEFORE they stupidly granted permission for other sources to use them. That makes it the FCC's mistake, so why should WE pay for it? Furthermore, the services that are edging out the poor musicians are in a financial position to be able to replace their equipment easily without financial difficulty (and, for that matter, to replace it with more reliable equipment in more powerful frequency ranges). In my personal opinion: while I have no desire to interfere with emergency services, if the FCC wants my old wireless equipment, the FCC can pay to buy me new equipment. It's taken me years of scraping together enough money to purchase the equipment I have, I require it to survive, and there's certainly no way I can afford to replace any of it on my income. So unless the FCC is footing the bill, I fully expect to be continuing business as usual in June.

January 26 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Marks

Ouch, Greg. Thanks for letting us know how much difficulty this new ruling is causing you. Many affected groups and individuals are banding together to contest the new ruling - a web search will reveal many of them. Will the U.S. govt. grant some individuals and groups compensation or exemptions? I can't say. I invite other MTT readers to pipe in.

January 26 | Registered CommenterGerald Klickstein

This is going to make it REAL tough on many full time Mobile DJs with whom I work. The economy has hit us as it is with many folks retaining our services wanting to pay less, and hence we, the service provider, having to settle for less.

April 21 | Unregistered CommenterLarry Green

I can appreciate Greg's response to the article. As a freelance producer/videographer, I also have taken a big hit recently to replace a complete analog BetaCam SP camera package with an entirely new digital XDCAM HD camcorder, wide-angle lens,16x9 HD production monitor and tripod. That decision was made for us by Congress which dictated deadlines for the switch by all broadcast stations from analog to digital. (Just as they forced all consumers in the viewing audience to either replace their TV or add a converter box.) Now, with the FCC grabbing part of the frequency band used by the production industry, it just adds insult to injury. I'm sure my bank, which we taxpayers bailed out, will be glad to loan more money to make new purchases.

October 11 | Unregistered CommenterRon Day

F**K the FCC!! These articles also forgot to mention that the FCC then auctioned off the bandwidths they stole to the highest bidders, making millions of dollars off the deal. Thesebandwidths were NOT needed for safety reasons. That is B.S. It is the lie perpetuated by the FCC to get people to take getting bent over quietly. More bandwidths were needed by Cell phone comanies and wireless companies that changed from analog to digital, to serve growing markets, and were willing to bribe the corrupt FCC to lie to the public and steal from people to make massive profits. We are supposed to pay with our blood to replace our equipment so the FCC can steal from us what belonged to us and sell it for a profits to thier buddies in the big companies that pay thier under the table "bonuses." nothing more, nothing less.... bribery and corruption. So again I say..... F**K THE FCC.... They can have my wireles Mic when they pry it from my dead stiff hand!! And if 911 systems are disrupted (which is BULLS**T, the only thing us using our equipment will disrupt is the bribing comapnies wireless) the blood is on the hands of the corrupt FCC. that's what we get when the government creates rogue agencies with no real oversite!! Absolute power currupt absolutely. they want my wireless Mic, I'll be happy to shove it up each and every one of them, but other than that..... la la la la (the sound of me singing through it!!)

November 18 | Unregistered CommenterDarryl

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