Telecom Timeout

Jan 16 2010   1:36AM GMT

FCC brings down curtain on wireless mics, evicts Broadway from 700 Mhz block

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

Did you try doing a Google News search on net neutrality today? Like me, you probably ran into thousands of stories hemming and hawing over Google, telecom operators’ comments and net neutrality.

But then there was this from Bloomberg News:

Broadway theaters, churches and other users of wireless microphones were given five months to vacate U.S. airwaves that regulators say are needed for high- speed Web services planned by companies including AT&T Inc.

The Federal Communications Commission in a statement today set a June 12 deadline for wireless microphone users to switch to different signals. AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the two largest U.S. mobile-phone companies, won a 2008 auction for rights to the airwaves, which had been occupied by broadcast television and unlicensed microphone transmissions.

Those airwaves would be the coveted C block on the 700 Mhz spectrum band that Verizon Wireless and AT&T won in an FCC auction in 2008. Both operators have said they’ll use their prime real estate for LTE in their 4G networks.

On a day with a lot of nail biting over possible net neutrality regulations swinging against telcos’ favor, Verizon saw the silver lining and seized it:

“Verizon appreciates the Commission’s resolve to clear the 700 MHz spectrum,” said Kathleen Grillo, senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs, in a statement. “That spectrum is vitally important to the development of new broadband services that will bring tremendous benefits to the public including advanced communications services for first responders.”

New York’s theater trade group, Broadway League, told Bloomberg News it wasn’t thrilled but would comply — even though it may cost $100,000 for a theater to replace its wireless mics so they operate on another spectrum. The show must go on…

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