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FCC votes to silence 700MHz lurkers

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The Federal Communication Commission has voted unanimously to ban the use of low-power transmitters operating in the 700MHz band from February next year, but wireless microphone users aren't going to go down without a fight.

The order (pdf) will particularly affect the 30 licensees who don't have anywhere else to go. The FCC reckons that the other 126 users currently hanging around 700MHz have access to other bands they can migrate to. But the order will also silence a lot of those using unlicensed wireless microphones, who might have a harder time finding space to play in.

The FCC also wants to ban the import, sale or shipment of devices that operate in 700MHz. This makes sense if you're going to make using the kit illegal, but won't do much to help those who've already paid for their wireless mics.

It's these who have prompted the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition (PISC) to lodge a complaint with the FCC, on which the commission is now seeking comment. The complaint accuses the companies that sold wireless microphones operating within 700MHz of "engaging in deceptive advertising practices designed to persuade ineligible users... that they could legally purchase and operate wireless microphones operating on vacant broadcast UHF Channels".

PISC wants those companies to help users transition to another frequency, and reckons the FCC should hold off criminalising users until that happens. It also wants some spectrum reserved for them to transition to, once they're forced out of 700MHz.

The increased efficiency licensed users are exploiting spectrum with is squeezing secondary users all over the world, though particularly in the USA, where geography has helped the toleration of unlicensed secondary users, at least until now. But having sold off 700MHz to the highest bidders last year, the FCC now has a responsibility to clear the area before the new tenants move in. ®

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