ArtsWatch: Shure Backs Wireless Mic Legislation
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On Jan. 5 Shure announced its support for legislation introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) on Dec. 16 — H.R. 4353, the Wireless Microphone Users Interference Protection Act. (link) Shure President/CEO Sandy LaMantia said, "Shure thanks and applauds Congressman Rush for his very thoughtful and balanced approach to the white spaces issue. New white space devices and wireless microphone users can certainly coexist in the white spaces if the new [Federal Communications Commission] policy reflects an appreciation for the different classes of wireless microphone users who deserve protection from interference." The FCC announced its white spaces policy in November 2008, (link) potentially opening up frequencies in between licensed frequencies for exploitation by new types of electronic devices. This policy initially relies on a geolocation database to identify incumbent spectrum users, and Rush's bill helps assure that wireless microphone users are adequately represented in the database. H.R. 4353 is now pending before the House Commerce Committee of which Rush is a member. In separate news, Google submitted a proposal to the FCC to help administer the white spaces database. (link) The Recording Academy has been part of the coalition to ensure new white spaces devices do not interfere with live music events and the use of wireless microphones and monitors.
Surprising pressure was brought to bear last week on the FCC regarding the use of desirable radio frequency spectrum as the agency completes its National Broadband Plan, required to be presented to Congress on Feb. 17, one year after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 — the economic stimulus — was signed into law containing billion-dollar grants for broadband build-out. Coordinated filings were submitted on Jan. 4 by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division (link) and the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (link) Claiming to express the Obama administration's views on promoting competition, the NTIA filing expressed distrust of incumbent Internet service providers' market motives. Addressing white spaces technology in passing, the filing said, "The commission and NTIA also should explore ways to create incentives for more efficient use of limited spectrum resources, such as dynamic or opportunistic frequency sharing arrangements in both licensed and unlicensed uses." The following day an editorial by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) appeared in The Hill demanding boldness from the National Broadband Plan and said, "Finding additional spectrum for future needs must be a focus of the federal government..." (link) On Jan. 7 FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski requested a one-month extension of the plan's deadline from the leadership of the House and Senate Commerce Committees. Hutchison is ranking member of the latter. (link) Previously the agency expressed confidence it would meet its deadline. The need for more time could be a complete coincidence, but the pressure to revolutionize U.S. broadband provisioning is unmistakable.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project released year-end Internet usage statistics on Jan. 5 revealing high, but somewhat stagnant, levels of adoption. (link) The report found that about three-quarters of Americans went online, 60 percent used broadband at home, and more than half used wireless Internet. Breakouts for the youngest, highest-educated, and highest-income groups equal or exceed 93 percent for Internet use, 76 percent for home broadband, and 69 percent for wireless Internet use. Separately, online video statistics released by comScore on Jan. 5 present a contrasting picture of increasing use, showing that online video viewing surpassed 30 billion unique U.S. views during November, a record monthly total. (link)
Napster launched a developer portal on Jan. 6 (at developer.napster.com) with open application programming interfaces to make the service more readily available on Web sites, Internet-capable consumer electronics and mobile devices. (link) General Manager Christopher Allen — in charge of the Best Buy-owned company after recent management restructuring (link) — said, "Now our consumer electronic partners, music bloggers, music fan sites and other businesses, regardless of size, can easily create and offer our on-demand music service and sell MP3s directly from their site or product."
On Jan. 4 the multi-industry Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem coalition announced 21 new company members, specification of a common file format, compatibility with multiple DRM security technologies, and selection of an authentication provider. (link) Neustar (at www.neustar.biz) will provide cloud-based account management and rights authentication, and DECE is standardizing application programming interfaces to give the widest range of Web and device developers access to Neustar's digital rights locker. DECE President Mitch Singer said, "The digital entertainment marketplace is on the cusp of a new era of rapid growth. The key to unlocking this potential is giving consumers the 'Buy Once, Play Anywhere' experience they want."