Churches affected by FCC changes on wireless-microphone frequencies

DESOTO, Texas (ABP) -- While the digitization of television signals June 12 garnered wide publicity, many churches were left unaware their wireless microphone systems also were affected.

The Federal Communications Commission auctioned off the lower half of the 700-megahertz band to several telecommunications companies and reserved the upper half of that spectrum for law enforcement, fire and safety operation and municipalities. Many of the sound systems in churches operate in that 700-megehertz frequency.

So, what has the impact been on churches?

“That’s going to vary widely on where the church is located,” said Rex Campbell, media-services manager for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Churches in rural areas may not notice any problem, he noted.

“In the more urban areas, it’s a little different. The more crowded the airwaves are, the more likely there will be interference,” he explained.

Even churches in cities may not see an immediate difference, Campbell said, because it will take a while for the telecommunications companies to make use of the bandwidth they have purchased.

But beyond the question of efficiency, churches also have wrestled with issues of legality. Some experts, such as Tim Hendrix, a senior accounts manager of Ford Audio Video in Dallas, insist it technically became illegal June 12 to use a sound system that falls into the 700-megahertz range.

But finding a definitive answer from the FCC -- either by wading through regulations on the agency’s website or by phoning to ask -- can be problematic.

Hendrix noted it technically has been illegal for several years to operate any wireless-microphone system without a license from the FCC, but the market exploded so quickly that it exceeded the government’s ability to enforce its regulations.

“I don’t know how the FCC would ever enforce it, but eventually if someone continues to use a wireless mic in that 700-megahertz range, they will get nothing but static,” Hendrix said. But he added no one knows when that interference may begin.

He also agreed that churches in urban areas may feel the effects first.

Wireless-microphone manufacturers no longer sell systems in the affected range, Hendrix said. Most are offering rebates to churches that want to trade their old systems in for new ones in a different range. Those rebates, however, are prorated based on the age of the existing system.

At Hampton Road Baptist Church in DeSoto, Texas, where Hendrix operates the audio system, the rebate was so small he said it would be almost consumed by the cost of shipping the old system back to the manufacturer.

So, Pastor Jerry Raines and a team of missionaries, while on a mission trip to Brazil later in July, will take the church’s old system to donate for use by churches there.

“These mics are still good anywhere else in the world,” Raines explained. He said the microphones would be given to a local missionary who will then dispense them to churches that have the capacity to use them.

By George Henson
from the Associated Baptist Press, used by permission

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