Commission approves 'Wi-Fi on steroids'

The Broadway League is regrouping after a Tuesday vote by the FCC that approved rules for the use of “spectrum-sensing” devices, which will broadcast on frequency bands shared with the wireless communications systems of Broadway shows.

The league, the trade association of legit producers and presenters, had joined with other live entertainment advocates in arguing that such devices are likely to disrupt live performances if sufficient testing is not conducted.

Legiters fear that interference from new, improperly regulated devices could not only foul up microphone amplification but also endanger actors and stage crew by impeding backstage communications.

New FCC rules govern gadgets that would sense unused frequencies, also known as “white spaces,” in order to use them to offer pumped-up broadband Internet access often referred to as “Wi-Fi on steroids.”

Specific rules have not yet been made public. The league expects it could be 30 days before the org is able to examine them.

According to the FCC, spectrum-sensing devices won’t be made available to consumers before definitive testing.

“Prior to going to market, any white space device will undergo a rigorous certification process,” said FCC chairman Kevin Martin in a statement.

“We’re hoping that means we’ll be protected, but we don’t know that,” said league exec director Charlotte St. Martin. “It’s a very scary thing.”

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