Pending Legislation Could Help Refine White-Space Management

The White Space issue, which could potentially threaten the integrity of wireless microphones used for sports broadcasts and officiating, is heating up again. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) proposes to protect 13 classes of wireless-microphone users from interference resulting from the operation of devices that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved for the “white-spaces” frequencies currently occupied by wireless-microphone users.

H.R. 4353 would require the FCC to provide access to an electronic database where wireless-microphone users will register their frequencies, thereby protecting their operation from interference from signals transmitted from the newly approved white-spaces devices. The 13 classes of wireless microphone users in the Rush bill include sporting arenas and stadiums. The legislation would require that users specified in the bill have access to a geolocation database identifying protected professional-use frequencies.

The FCC’s ruling approves the use of devices at powers of up to 100 mW on the white-space spectrum or up to 40 mW on spectrum adjacent to operating TV stations.

Google, which was among the entities pressing for the white spaces to be opened up, announced Jan. 5 that it has solicited the FCC to allow it to become an administrator of the white-spaces database. The move was something of a surprise, considering that, last February, Google stated that it did not plan to become an administrator, although it has regularly hosted working groups on the subject.

The database will likely have an open architecture and act as a clearinghouse, constantly updated, collecting and distributing changes to other database providers, according to its proposal.

After years of often controversial testing, the FCC voted 16 months ago to open the white spaces to unlicensed (that is, unregulated) wireless devices, the vast majority of which are consumer-electronics devices. The move was vigorously opposed by broadcasters, who filed suit last February, asking a federal appeals court to declare the FCC’s fiat unlawful. That appeal is still pending. They and other entities, including the NFL, have maintained that the testing that led to the decision was flawed.

Mark Brunner, senior director of global brand management for Shure, which has taken a very proactive position in the debate, says the implications of the proposed new legislation are significant for sports audio. “This will ensure that locations in which wireless microphones are used will be afforded protection from future portable wireless devices via a new geolocation database that will have time, date, and location components,” he tells SVG.

Brunner cites Rush and Sports Video Group for “continued vigilance” on the white-spaces issue, noting that, despite the FCC ruling, many operational points remain to be addressed. “The devil is in still in the details,” he says. “There are still unresolved steps in terms of real protections for existing wireless user bases.”

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