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FCC Votes to Prohibit Distribution and Sale of Wireless Mics Using 700 MHz

Wireless microphones using the 700 MHz band will be
following the stand-alone analog TV set into the sunset.

The FCC has voted to prohibit the distribution and sale of
devices, primarily wireless microphones, that have been operating in the 700 MHz band.

Those mics used to share the spectrum with broadcasters
(channels 52-69) before stations were moved off that band as part of the DTV
transition and the spectrum was auctioned for next-generation wireless uses.

The FCC has given current users of those devices--wireless
mics are used for sports and theatrical productions, for example--until June
12, 2010, one year from the digital transition, to get off the band, with the
caveat that they have to get off immediately if they are found to be
interfering with public safety or commercial users.

The Coalition of Wireless Microphone Users told the
commission earlier this week it was ready to vacate the band and help with
a consumer education effort.

In addition to making clear that no new devices may be sold
or distributed, the FCC will launch a consumer outreach program to help those
who have bought wireless mike systems and other devices that use the band,
including helping them find out whether the devices can be made to operate on
another band.

The order includes a mandate for consumer disclosures at the
point of sale, much as it did with analog TV's as the DTV deadline approached.

That will include the core DTV band, where the FCC says
low-power mics will be able to operate.

The commission was planning to vote on the order at its Jan.
20 public meeting, but did so early and deleted the item from the agenda Friday
(Jan. 15).

"Today's action by the chairman and commissioners represents the next critical step in the DTV Transition," said CTIA President Steve Largent in a statement. CTIA represents wireless carriers looking to get unfettered access to that spectrum. "The order will help ensure that harmful interference does not hamper commercial wireless carriers' 4th Generation deployment plans, which promise to increase mobile broadband availability and adoption, as well as create much needed jobs. The order also will protect public safety from harmful interference that could jeopardize life‑saving missions."