Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Day The Music Died

What do the Oscars, the Superbowl, American Idol, NASCAR, the recording industry, the NFL, Broadway, the PGA, the NFL, megachurches, the NBA, Major League Baseball and just about every live television show have in common?

They all use wireless microphones to deliver sound to their disparate audiences.

And, they've all been lobbying the FCC and Congress to prevent changes in the communications spectrum that could, so to speak, stop the music.

These days, wireless microphones are everywhere. They allow you to hear players on the field, or racers in their cars. They free singers to move around and dance. They allow reporters to go where the action is. They allow lavish productions of live shows. They allow ministers to preach to their flock. (They even allow lawyers to advocate to their juries.)

These microphones, of course, are transmitting radio signals to a receiver. Like all radio signals, they are subject to interference--someone else using the same frequency. It so happens that the frequency these microphones use is in the "white space" between television frequencies. But now, a coalition of consumer electronics manufacturers, such as Dell, Microsoft and HP, wants the FCC to let them use those white spaces--being made available as television goes all digital--to provide new wireless options for all those electronic gadgets in your pockets and on your belts.

Mrs. Curmudgeon is a telecommunications attorney and one of her clients just so happens to be a high end wireless microphone manufacturer. They, and their customers, are concerned about the potential for interference. Will some yahoo using his PDA to check his stocks wirelessly during the Superbowl shut down the sound system? Will some teeny bopper following the latest news on Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan white out American Idol?

These, of course, are all powerful interests, and this is why telecommunications law is so much "fun." Spectrum, which is owned by the government and licensed out to private enterprise in the "public interest," is big business. Really big.

Which is why, every few weeks, Mrs. Curmudgeon has chaperoned representatives of Hollywood, Broadway, Nashville, major league sports and other major entertainment players up to Capitol Hill and over to the FCC to lobby their cause. (Generally, she gets to deal with their technical people, not their stars. A kind of "brush with fame.")

Let's hope she succeeds. Otherwise, there won't be much content worth receiving on those fancy new wireless electronic gadgets.

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