White Space on the Broadcast Spectrum and Why We Should Care

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates every device that emits radio waves.  This means cell phones, radio, television, and wireless microphones.  In 2010 the FCC issued a rule that ordered users of wireless microphones to stop broadcasting at 700 MHz.  This resulted in the forced scrapping and purchase of tens of thousands of dollars of wireless microphones that broadcast on that length of spectrum.  Story over?  Not really.  Now, two years later the FCC is talking about 'repacking' the broadcast spectrum again. Any change of this type would result in tens of thousands of dollars of additional cost for every arts organization effected.  This is cost that was already borne out in good faith two years ago.  As congress moves forwards with legislation that would patch the budget with broadcast spectrum  auctions the arts community finds itself potentially under the gun in a time where budgets are already lean.

To give a sense of scope for this issue, there are an estimated 21,000 school theaters in addition to the thousands of professional theaters.  Combined, these facilities serve millions of patrons and students and contribute nearly eight billion dollars to the economy.

The problem is that the FCC hasn't formally recognized wireless microphones formally as a broadcast user of the spectrum.  As a result it is easy to give away the spectrum that they use.  For more information on this issue Theater Communications Group (TCG) has put together a list of articles on the subject.