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Microphone Mythbusters Vol. 2 – FCC National Broadband Plan Update

by Gino Sigismondi

A summary of a FCC National Broadband Plan update that was released on March 16, 2010.

Greetings once again! In continuing our discussion on broadcast spectrum reallocation, I had planned to address the National Broadband Plan and the supporting Presidential Memo. The memo in particular has caused a considerable amount of consternation, mostly resulting from readers misinterpreting the memo’s recommendation to allocate 500 MHz of spectrum to new broadband services as taking back the “500 MHz” spectrum (as in, frequencies from 500 to 599 MHz!). As I was getting ready to tackle this thorny subject, a memo from Shure’s own master wordsmith, Chris Lyons, came across my desk that pretty much sums it all up. So rather than reinvent the wheel, I present this memo in its entirety below. Thanks, Chris!

The FCC’s National Broadband Plan (released on March 16, 2010) contains its recommendations for ensuring that every American has access to broadband service.  One of these recommendations is to make available 500 MHz of additional spectrum for wireless broadband use by 2020, with the first 300 MHz available by 2015.

The 500 MHz would be made up of numerous slices in different sections of the spectrum, not a single block or a so-called “500 MHz band.”  Most of the potential spectrum identified in the Plan is currently used by wireless data networks or satellite telephone services in the 1.5–2.5 GHz range.

President Barack Obama recently issued a memorandum endorsing the Plan and directing government agencies to “participate and cooperate fully” with the FCC.   Because some of the spectrum that is most suitable for wireless broadband is allocated to government/military users, the cooperation of these agencies will be essential to the task of identifying underutilized spectrum.

The timing of the President’s memo (almost four months after the National Broadband Plan’s release) seems to have caused some confusion.  The memo refers to the same 500 MHz of spectrum recommended by the FCC in the National Broadband Plan – not an additional 500 MHz.  The memo does not alter the technical aspects of the Plan in any way.

Some media stories have implied that the President’s memo makes this spectrum available immediately, which is not true.  Like the DTV transition, the repurposing of spectrum as outlined in the Plan will require significant changes to existing FCC rules, which must pass through the Commission’s normal rulemaking process.  Some parts of the Plan (such as the proposed incentive auction program) cannot be carried out until authorized by Congressional legislation.

Neither the National Broadband Plan nor the President’s memorandum changes the frequency ranges in which wireless microphones and similar products can operate.  Depending on the degree to which any parts of the Plan are eventually implemented, the operating environment for wireless microphones may become more crowded in the future.  Shure continues to work closely with the Commission to ensure that the needs of wireless microphone users are fully appreciated.

So there you have it. For further reading, here’s a couple of interesting articles on the broadband plan:

http://www.tvnewscheck.com/articles/2010/07/09/daily.5/

http://www.freepress.net/node/81105

Next month, we will leave the spectrum issues behind and get back to the concrete world of hardwired microphones!