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Road to InfoComm: Josh Srago on Government Regulations and AV

Show 152, Part 2

SVC Podcast – Show Notes – Show 152-2

In this special Infocomm edition of the SVC Podcast, SVC Contributing Editor Bennett Liles talks with Josh Srago, CTS about the course he will be teaching at InfoComm 2016. Josh takes on Government Regulations and the AV Industry (Course IS36) with a close look at the wireless spectrum auctions, Net Neutrality, copyright issues, privacy matters and more. Josh lives by the philosophy that the best way to help people is to help educate them about their curiosities. He works as a design engineer for TEECOM consulting group in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also serves as Editor-in-Chief at, is the founder of, and writes for industry publications like Commercial Integrator magazine. His publications often focus on the effects of tech policy on the AV industry. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter (@JSrago).

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From Sound & Video Contractor Magazine, this is the SVC Podcast with Josh Srago of Teecom and AV Nation. Show notes for the podcast are on the web site of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at

Net Neutrality and the wireless spectrum auctions aren’t the only thing government is doing that affects the AV industry. There are copyright and privacy issues. The landscape is changing. Get on top of where we are right now what may be just around the corner. Josh Srago will be at InfoComm with his course, Government Regulation and the AV Industry and he’s here to tell us about it on the SVC Podcast.

Josh, thanks for taking the time to be with us on the SVC Podcast from out there in Oakland, California. Nice to have you here.

Thanks for having me.

Yeah, with Teecom and you’re fame extends to other areas as well.

Yes. I also serve at the editor in chief at AV Nation and I’ve written for a couple of other publications like InfoComm and my web site,

Well, great. All that keeps you busy.

I do my best.

This course that you’re teaching at InfoComm is on Wednesday June 8th from 2:30 to 4:30. And this is not the first thing that usually comes to mind when you’re thinking about tech courses at the show. Usually it’s straight tech stuff. This is Government Regulations and the AV Industry. It’s something that’s always over your shoulder and having, let’s just say, quite an impact but only jumping into the headlines every now and then. One of those big headlines in recent years has been the wireless mic spectrum auction.


And yeah, a lot of people had wireless gear that’s now illegal or obsolete. That’s going to eventually happen anyway, but this time it’s directly from government action. So where are we right now with the pending auction and the spectrum that affects AV?

We’re recording this on the first week of April. It’s about April 4th. On March 29th the first voluntary spectrum auction took place with the FCC. Basically what that meant was TV stations or other broadcast stations that had spectrum that they felt like putting up for auction were capable of doing so. Anybody could put a bid on them that registered with the FCC and what’s going to happen is now the FCC is going to go back and evaluate all those bids, reconsolidate mostly in the 600 MHz spectrum, and then they’re going to push out, towards the end of the year, a public notice. I say towards the end of the year, but that’s not necessarily true being as there is a pending lawsuit from certain television stations that felt that they were excluded. That case will be heard in court in May of 2016, so another month from now. That could push things out even farther. So while we’ve already had the auction, there’s a court case pending that says that auction could be null and void and could be forced to be redone in order to allow other stations to participate that were left out originally. If things go through as planned, though, what will end up happening is the FCC will look at the auction, reallocate frequencies in the 600 MHz band as they stand based on the auction that has taken place, and move things around accordingly. But we won’t know how they move them around until they post this public notice at which point there’s a 39 month grace period between when that public notice comes out and when everything takes affect so that people can get themselves situated in where they need to be. We at AV Nation, myself and George Tucker, put together a white paper that sort of addressed this as well as all the other frequencies that came out of the hearing with the FCC and wireless microphone manufacturers last August and talked about some of the other frequencies that the FCC is trying to open up for wireless microphones and wireless transmission, which is specifically for the microphone manufacturers in the AV space. So the FCC is working with our wireless microphone manufacturers, Shure and Sennheiser and Electrosonics were all there last August, and it’s great to have that kind of representation pushing for us and trying to get as much as they can for us so that way we don’t lose all this wireless spectrum and we can continue to broadcast. But that’s kind of where we stand right now, so it’s sort of in flux. We don’t really know what’s going to happen yet. Shure has done a great job of putting together guesses as to what’s most likely to happen, but again it’s regionalized based on who wanted to put a station up for auction and we just don’t know, really, what’s going to happen yet. So we’re just sort of in a holding pattern at the moment. [Timestamp: 4:38]

So the best advice is probably just to stay on top of it but, don’t go into a panic and start throwing out all your wireless gear.

Certainly. We went through this earlier in, I believe, it was 2009-2010, in that range. One of the things that came up, I was working for a manufacturer at that time that made wireless microphones. We kept telling people if you have few enough channels, some of our receivers and transmitters will be just fine, you can just only use them in certain frequency ranges. And we could end up with that same thing of while a 30 MHz spectrum may be available for that receiver and transmitter, only a few MHz may still be available. So if you’re not using a lot of frequencies you may still be okay with whatever gear you currently have, but it won’t impact you for another four and a half years at least. [Timestamp: 5:25]

And in the meantime, the symptoms that can be encountered with some of the old wireless stuff being used illegally after the spectrum reallocation would probably be that your radio mics may suddenly seem to have far less range and more dropouts.

Exactly. So you want to make sure that you’re not interfering with any TV stations because the TV station will win.

Yeah, with only a few milliwatts, no contest there. It’s also interesting on who the players are in this thing. You mentioned the wireless mic manufacturers, but you’ve also got some of the more famous venues like the Grand Old Opry being pitted against AT&T and Verizon. That’s really sort of a strange mix.

Sure. It really is, and that’s kind of the debate that keeps coming up is your one-off and two-off aren’t going to be hit nearly as hard as your large performance venues. I mean, you look at Broadway and just the sheer number of wireless microphones that are operating there on a given performance night, and trying to do all that allocation, and that’s part of what the FCC was trying to work with wireless microphone manufacturers to do last August was establish this; other spaces that we can go into, other spaces that are going to be made available for us. And some of that technology still needs to be designed and built to be able to be put into practice. And a lot of the options we’re being given for the future involve an outside third party being there in order to calculate where frequencies are going to be available and what you’re going to be able to use. So it’s not just going to be the person working at the venue that dictates “I’m using these frequencies” for these larger venues, somebody’s going to have to do the frequency coordination. [Timestamp: 7:02]

That contest always jumps right to the front but there are other issues going on. Which government departments have the most influence on the security of AV networks?

The two that jump straight out are the FCC and the FTC. There’s been a lot of publications lately stating that the FTC doesn’t quite have the might or the enforcement power in regards to network security and that it’s going to end up being and FCC issue. And the FCC is pushing for security issues right now and that’s all getting ironed out in the halls of the FCC at the moment. But we’re still kind of waiting to see how that’s going to evolve as to what their standards are going to be. But they’re really making a big push right now on their agenda for security and transparency to make sure that people are protected. So that’s something that’s really starting to move forward is how are you securing your networks? But with the AV industry it gets a little bit more nuanced because a lot of our devices aren’t necessarily connecting to the internet. So we might just be isolated unto ourselves onto an AV network that may not be accessing the internet or an outside network from a building on a daily basis. It might connect every once in a while through a VPN in order to be maintained from remote locations or in order to provide analytics data to know how the system is operating, but for the most part our systems are pretty isolated on the networks inside the buildings because the IT managers tend to want to keep us off of their main networks because it’s just another way into the network. There’s already been hacking scandals talked about this year as to the vulnerabilities of an AV network, how that’s a way in for people to get onto your network and then get access to private information. So we tend to sort of live in our own little niche either on a virtual LAN within somebody’s network or on an isolated air-gapped network that’s within the buildings. So we’re not really touching the outside world and that kind of prevents us from being a security flaw from accessing all the important data that people are using on a daily basis, like email and access to other stored files. So we sort of have that little cushion around us for the time being, but it depends on how the system is deployed and it depends on what the client wants to see. So it is a security thing that we need to pay attention to and that’s something that manufacturers have started to recognize and started to step up and realize that if your AV devices are on an IT network, you have to treat them like IT devices. That means security patches for vulnerabilities. You have to go out and maintain them on a regular basis. It’s not just plug it in and leave it alone and then five years later replace it. If it’s on the IT network it’s something that has to be maintained on a more regular basis. This is the next evolution we have in network devices. [Timestamp: 9:56]

And of course, actually using passwords on AV devices.

This is true. When you’re accessing these devices, setting up multiple levels of security based on passwords and administrative accounts and what do certain people have access to. Setting up that level is a requirement and that’s a fundamental access point for AV solutions on a network these days. [Timestamp: 10:16]

I don’t think we’re as afraid of the IT people as we used to be, but we’ve replaced a lot of that apprehension with knowledge about how each works. There are privacy issues and one place where I see that is in the higher ed classrooms with putting cameras in to provide a look at what the display is actually showing to help diagnose trouble. Some don’t want the cameras even without audio.

And thankfully with technology we’re starting to move away from having to put a camera in a classroom to see what is the projector doing? We’re able to now be more diagnostic about it in the same way that an IT company is because we have a device that’s communicating with it. Is it on the right input? Is it on – did the shutter get closed? So we can sort of monitor it through our control systems a little bit easier so we don’t have to put that camera in there to provide that view any more. There are other ways to go about it, which add to the security and then you’re not dealing with the privacy of somebody in the classroom any more. So that’s a nice advancement with all of this IT evolution, but it creates that other privacy aspect of how much data are we putting on a network and who has access to that network? Do they access to monitor how we’re doing, all of this information. That’s a privacy issue that comes up for some corporations as to they don’t want to be monitored. They want to be isolated and they want to be able to control that information. [Timestamp: 11:38]

The IT network managers are the ones ultimately responsible for their networks and AV, despite its usefulness and its essential existence now just brings home the fact that we have to learn to work together.

And that’s the big thing. For the longest time there was an outstanding debate in the AV world of it’s AV versus IT. And there are people out there that make the comment it’s a true statement of fact from some individuals in the industry that the only AV guys left are the guys that don’t know they’re working in IT yet because we have so many network devices. It’s a partnership. It isn’t a “versus.” It isn’t an “and/or.” It’s a partnership. We’re there working together to make a sophisticated solution. We bring a set of knowledge to the table that the IT doesn’t have, and the IT guy brings a set of knowledge to the table that the AV guys don’t have. And we’re responsible for things intermingling together in order to have an effective communication solution regardless of application. And that’s where we are is AV people are becoming more IT savvy; IT people are recognizing the need to become more AV savvy. And that’s been a big push at the show over the last few years when it’s attending InfoComm. You see a lot more technology managers than you used to. That’s been one of the biggest upticks in population at InfoComm for the last several years. [Timestamp: 13:02]

Government regulation is going to affect both so we need to be able to look at that from both perspectives. With the control code that is written for AV devices you also get into copyright issues.

You do have copyright issues that come along and that gets into the long-standing debate in the AV industry of who owns the code. We have all these control programmers out there that are programming a solution for a customized touch panel for an application. Who owns the code when they’re done? Is it the integrator? Is it the manufacturer? Is it the customer? And you get into the actual contract law of how that works and it can become very convoluted depending on how the language of the scope was written and depending on how the contract for hire was written. It gets very, very convoluted in there as to if your designing a custom solution, who’s really the owner of that and how it applies, and if there’s a change at some point in time and who owns it? What happens if the customer moves on from that integrator and brings something in-house or moves onto a different integrator? How all the code ownership takes place is a big, big question mark for a lot of people and there’s a long-standing debate about that. So it’s trying to figure all that out, and I hope to be able to at least open up a few eyes with this course in ironing out that information as to making that a little more clear. Additionally there’s also the possibility of two programmers on either side of the country designing the exact same thing and then what do you get into? I mean it’s a very minute possibility that two people could do the exact same thing at the exact same time across the country from each other without influence of one another, but the possibility exists. And would that create a dual copyright issue if that were to occur? It’s a much more minor problem that we have in this industry and really I can’t think of a single instance where it would ever be a problem unless it was two independent programming houses that decided they wanted to duke it out. I don’t know that that would ever happen, but it is something just to be cognizant of, especially as we move into such an IT sphere where everything is becoming more code-based. [Timestamp: 15:16]

And back to one of those occasional headline issues and that is Net Neutrality. How does that affect AV? What general areas on that issue will you cover in the course?

I’ve been writing about Net Neutrality for two and a half years now and the impact that it’s going to have on the AV industry. What it comes down to is how are we transporting signal outside of a building? So if your signals are all staying within the building, Net Neutrality doesn’t apply. But as soon as it leaves that building, we are working with an ISP. A lot of the larger corporations out there will have negotiations with their ISP specifically in order to determine how much data they have and how it can be transported from point to point, and how that data is going to be handled. But smaller companies that don’t necessarily have that clout or don’t have that ability, because they’re not using that much data, well, they have to worry about their video conferencing solutions. They have to worry about their ability to transmit data to their customers. That’s what video conferencing is. It’s data. And how that data is handled based on the Net Neutrality order that currently exists is not necessarily what people think it is. I’ve been trying to open up eyes about that for a while in terms of the limitations to it and some of the other issues that can come up because there are certain things that are protected under Net Neutrality rules and certain things that are unprotected under Net Neutrality rules. And when I say protected or unprotected, protected would mean that they cannot be blocked, throttled or forced for paid prioritization, meaning you have to pay more money to the ISP to make that data move through their network. That’s what the FCC did. Now of course at the same time, there’s still a pending lawsuit that was heard in December in the DC appellate court, and we’re waiting for the ruling from the judges on that, where several different cases were brought before them saying what the FCC did was illegal. They didn’t have the right to make it a common carrier service or a Title II service. And we’re going to discuss that and what a Title II service is and how that applies. So we’re going to dig into Net Neutrality a bit and basically give cautionary tales to be aware of in terms of the fact that this is going to have an effect on AV technology because AV technology and IT technology are getting so close together that the IT concerns need to become AV concerns as well. And if we’re not cognizant of that, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble. [Timestamp: 17:50]

I’m sure this is going to be a valuable course to attend because one thing that ties all of this together is that it’s fluid. These things are changing all the time and you can’t just say I heard about this or I read something about this. You have to stay on top of it. So it’s great that you’re providing this opportunity to do just that. It’s course number IS36 Government Regulations and the AV Industry. And they’re going to come away more up to date on these things.

I would say that the best thing that they’re going to walk away with is an understanding as to what all these secondary concerns for the AV industry are. The AV industry has a habit of being very, very focused on today and how can I help my customers today, and what technology do I have available today in order to provide the services that my clients need? They’re very, very focused on the present and that’s not a bad thing. But these regulations are going to have an impact on the future as to how our technology is going to evolve, how our technology is going to operate, and how our customers are going to have to work with that technology. And so we just need to be aware of it. It’s not an everyday thing, but it’s something to just have knowledge of in the back of your mind that there are things beyond our silo that are going to start having a drastic effect on the way that we’re able to do things and the way that we relate to our customers. I hope to be able to bring that information as government regulations apply to the AV sphere to anyone that chooses to attend. [Timestamp: 19:17]

And they’re guaranteed to learn something new. It’s Josh Srago with the regulatory angle on AV and what everybody in the industry should know about it so be there. Thanks, Josh.

Thank you.

Thank you for being here with us for the SVC Podcast with Josh Srago. Show notes are on the website of Sound & Video Contractor Magazine at Be back with us for Part 2 next week when we’ll have Max Kopsho with all the details on the courses he will have on IP audio and video at InfoComm. That’s on the next SVC Podcast.

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