As regular readers will know, among my many wireless fixations are the use of the broadcast white spaces and the 700 MHz auction. So what happens when I get to combine the two together?
Answer: A 50 page complaint and Petition for Rulemaking, another 175 pages of evidence that Shure and other manufacturers have been marketing wireless microphones in violation of FCC rules, then using the victims of this deceptive marketing scam as “human shields” in the white spaces debate, and a possible road map toward solving the potential for massive interference with new public safety and wireless services operating on the returned UHF bands. As a side benefit, it also provides a route to authorization for the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of illegal wireless microphones, finds a use for that leftover 5 MHZ band in the AWS-2/AWS-3 proceeding (waste not want not), and potentially changes the debate in the white spaces fight by getting the goddamn fact that the overwhelming majority of wireless microphones are (at the moment) used illegally out in the open so people can have a rational discussion about interference protection.
Oh yeah, and it will require the wireless microphone manufacturers to clean up the mess by exchanging the old, unauthorized equipment for new equipment that doesn’t work on Channels 52-69. I love a plan that only punishes the guilty rather than letting the wireless microphone guys reap yet another windfall by requiring the unauthorized users to pay for their own equipment replacement.
And what was Shure’s response to the complaint? According to the Associated Press, Shure did not deny breaking the law. Instead, they said: “today’s uses of wireless microphones provide a valuable and irreplaceable public good, regardless of the licensing scheme.”
Or, in other words, “yeah, we broke the law — but it doesn’t matter because we will use Broadway and churches as human shields if you try to go after us” (insert international gesture of respect performed with raised middle finger at FCC).
God knows, I would never have imagined just how many wireless microphone systems were out there if the FCC didn’t keep getting this endless series of filings confessing to felonies. And I will certainly admit that it offends my delicate lawyer sensibilities to see Shure parading folks before the Commission — going ‘ha ha, we’re committing a felony and you can’t do squat!’ Heck, Shure has gotten members of Congress to bombard the FCC with letters that translate to “you must protect radio pirates at the expense of giving broadband to rural folks and poor folks in bad neighborhoods.” Why shouldn’t Shure parade around like it had an absolute right to demand protection for radio pirates.
And, I will confess, after what the NAB did in the low-power FM legislation. How they demanded that Congress ban anyone who ever operated a pirate radio station from getting an LPFM license — even if there was never any conviction — on the grounds that rules are rules and respect for law and blah blah blah. But, when politically convenient, they couldn’t wait to embrace unauthorized wireless microphone users to their hypocritical bosom. But my personal ire is not a good reason to file a complaint and Petition.
No, the final straw was when I realized that this was creating a serious problem for the upcoming 700 MHz licensees. Leaving aside that I would like public safety systems to work reliably, the thought that Shure systems could potentially mess with C Block open systems pissed me off no end. It would be just our luck to finally get open systems on VZ, only to have sporadic interference from unauthorized wireless microphones. “Wow,” VZ and the other licensees would rush to say. “Open source devices aren’t reliable. Better not force us to do wireless Carterfone or open our networks! Look what happened here.”
That was intolerable.
So I drafted the complaint/Petition, with the help of the good folks at PISC. The recommendations boil down to:
1) Stop manufacturing and selling wireless devices that operate on Channels 52-69.
2) Fix the loophole I blogged about earlier and make authorized wireless microphone users secondary to public safety and the new commercial 700 MHz users.
3) Provide a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal users by granting a general amnesty to all the wireless microphone users and create a new “General Wireless Microphone Service” that will operate below Channels 52-69. The GWMS will be secondary to full power licensed users, licensed wireless microphone users under Part 74, Subpart H, and will be co-equal with any unlicensed users authorized in Docket No. 04-186 (the white spaces proceeding). Because, bluntly, while there is no way to prosecute the 500,000+ illegal users, the FCC should treat not reward these “undocumented licensees” by giving them preference over devices properly authorized, that played by the rules, followed proper procedures, etc.
4) Take the 2020-2025 MHz channel left over in the AWS-2/AWS-3 reshuffle (assuming the Commission adopts current pending proposal) and give it to the GWMS on a primary basis, so if they really worry about interference from white spaces devices (a claim of which I remain highly suspicious, as there is not the slightest shred of evidence that white spaces devices would interfere with wireless microphones) they have somewhere else to go.
5) Make the wireless microphone manufacturers, whose marketing practices created this mess, clean this up by exchanging old equipment for new equipment that does not work on Channels 52-69.
So, not only do we save Broadway’s ungrateful sorry rear-end, we get them (and everyone else who got suckered by Shure and Co.) free new upgraded systems. While I expect that Shure will try to spin this as an attack on their beloved
human shields customers, it will be rather hard to explain how this is an attack when (a) we offer these unauthorized users a way out of pirate status to legal operation, and (b) we require Shure and co. to pay for it by exchanging illegal equipment for legal equipment.
I am also eager to see if NAB will support us in our effort to end radio piracy and make wireless microphone use legal — or if they will turn around and push hard to prevent authorization because they are hypocritical greedy piggies who would rather make their hypocrisies plain for all to see than admit that people can share the broadcast bands without interference.
And finally, perhaps we can actually have a rational debate about real threats of interference and sensible ways to mitigate them, rather than having Shure throw its weight around by suckering churches and theater groups into confessing to a felony and then daring the Commission to take action against the cuddly little users. Shure’s first cut reaction was to claim that it stopped selling these microphones (presumably the ones that operate on 52-69, since some of their marketing material to ineligible users is copyrighted 2008) and that silly old things like FCC licensing rules shouldn’t matter anyway, because our clients are cute and cuddly and make excellent human shields.
The beauty of my proposal is that it doesn’t blast the cuddly churches and the spiffy Broadway guys, but does smack Shure and friends up the side of the head like they deserve. It is so rare that one can come up with a solution that solves so many problems and requires only the guilty to pay for it. Gives me a very pleasant sense of job satisfaction — regardless of whether the FCC actually acts on our filing or not.
Stay tuned . . . .