Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FCC Change In TV Rules Impacts Many Church Wireless Microphone Systems

According to an ABP report yesterday, many churches will be surprised to learn that they have been affected by the Federal Communications Commission's decision requiring television stations, as of June 12, to end analog broadcasts. As part of the conversion, all stations were required to move to channels 2 through 51-- something made possible by the improved efficiency of digital transmissions. That allowed the FCC to also reallocate the 700 MHz wireless spectrum that had previously been used primarily for UHF channels 52 through 69. The lower half of the 700 MHz band was auctioned off to various telecommunications companies, while the upper half was reserved for a public safety network to be used by law enforcement, fire and safety forces and municipalities. (Background from Wikipedia.)

The problem is that many church sound systems operate in the 700 MHz range. That means that there may well be interference in some locations. Also these churches are apparently acting illegally in continuing to operate their systems. As explained in a posting last year on Geeks&God, the FCC adopted rules in late 2008 to allow the unlicensed use of "white spaces" between TV stations below 698 MHz. (FCC News Release, Nov. 4, 2008). However as of Feb. 17, 2009, wireless microphones using higher frequencies were to cease operating. Manufacturers no longer sell wireless microphone systems in the 700 MHz range and they offer discounts to churches that trade in their old systems for new ones in permitted ranges.