FCC may ban some wireless mikes

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a ban on certain types of wireless microphones and has begun an investigation into how the industry markets its products.

Consumer groups alleged in a complaint last month that users of the ubiquitous microphones – including Broadway actors, megachurch pastors and karaoke DJs – are unwittingly violating FCC rules that require licenses for the devices.

The Public Interest Spectrum Coalition accused manufacturers of deceptive advertising in how they market and sell the microphones, which largely operate in the same radio spectrum as broadcast television stations.

The agency, in a notice released Thursday, said its enforcement bureau had opened an investigation. The FCC also is proposing that the sale and manufacture of some of the devices be banned.

“These actions would ensure that low power auxiliary operations do not cause harmful interference to new public safety and commercial wireless services in the band,” the agency said Thursday.

Most owners of the microphones are unaware that FCC rules require them to obtain a license.

The FCC rarely enforces the licensing requirements on the microphones because there have been so few complaints. The microphones are programmed to avoid television channels.

But the looming transition to digital broadcasting, which takes place Feb. 17, has forced the FCC to act.

Channels 52 through 69 in the UHF television band, currently used by broadcasters, will be vacated as they convert to digital broadcasting. The government sold that section of airwaves for $19 billion in the FCC's most successful auction in history.

Other parts of that spectrum will be used by paramedics, police and firefighters.