Will the FCC Play Lollapalooza?


As the debate rages over who can access the white spaces between licensed digital television spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission itself has emerged as a hot ticket. Everyone from the NFL to Lollapalooza is clamoring to have its events be used as a staging ground by the agency for the testing of devices aimed at utilizing portions of the DTV spectrum for wireless Internet access. The FCC has said it will test interference of the white space devices in 10 geographic locations or buildings in the DC area; it’s looking for other venues as well.

At issue is the ability of these proposed white space devices to operate in the spectrum, which will become available after the conversion to digital TV signals next year. Companies such as Google, Motorola, Microsoft and Intel all would like to see that spectrum used for wireless broadband access. However users of wireless microphones — everyone from recording stars to preachers at megachurches — are against that plan as they’re worried about interference on their wireless mics. The National Association of Broadcasters is opposing the efforts as well, arguing that such devices could interfere with the transmission of DTV channels.

The FCC is expected to make a decision about them later this year. Depending on the summer concert lineup, it may want to hold off doing its field tests until Madonna’s latest tour starts in October or until Led Zeppelin reunites — might as well enjoy the music along the way.



Sorry to be commenting late on this, but most of the venues you list above are actually using wireless mics illegally. Most people don’t know it, but those wireless mics you see for sale at Radio Shack or on the Internet are only supposed to be used in conjunction with a TV or radio broadcast. Yes, the NFL would be okay to use the mics when broadcasting the games, but Lollapalooza, Madonna, nor Britney Spears actually use those mics with a license, as they’re required by the FCC. Same goes for broadway plays, churches, local community theaters, etc–and the sad thing is, most of those folks don’t even know that their use of those mics are illegal (because the manufacturers don’t tell them).

Is it right for the FCC to be testing whitespace devices in venues where the use of mics is illegal? When the FCC shows up to do the testing, shouldn’t they be handing out fines?

On the flip side, these wireless mics aren’t causing interference with the TV stations they’re broadcasting adjacent to–and they don’t even use any sensing technologies like whitespace devices would. Doesn’t all this unlicensed microphone use kind of prove the point of the whitespaces folks–that unlicensed use can exist in the same empty TV frequencies–without causing interference?

(Disclosure, I work for a public interest group that supports whitespaces).

Stacey Higginbotham

Maddog, you’re right. I started thinking about Madonna and her mic and then started thinking about awesome tours and got carried away. I suppose they could always try to catch Britney Spears on tour.


Zep is the WRONG band to use this argument against.
Have you not seen Song Remains the Same?
Has anyone in the history of man every commanded a wired mic better than our boy Robert?
Down with intentional emitters,
bring back those crazy mile long whipped about wired microphones!!!

Felicity Erickson

Now we need to add interference for the straight. You can bet as interference, as you want to. If you decide to go with one of The FCC, however, then interference just got a little bigger.

Comments are closed.