FCC Reports Improved Performance with Nationwide EAS Test

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau said that the performance during a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) in September appeared improved from a nationwide test last year. “Initial test data indicate that the majority of EAS Participants successfully received and retransmitted the National Periodic Test (NPT) code used for the test,” the bureau said in a public notice released yesterday in PS docket 15-94.

It said that “95.8% of test participants successfully received the test alert (95.4% successfully received in 2016)” and that “91.9% of test participants successfully retransmitted the test alert (85.8% successfully retransmitted in 2016).”

The bureau also said that “89.0% of test participants that filed Form Three [in November] reported no complications in receiving the test alert (81.5% reported no complications receiving the alert in 2016)” and that “88.3% of test participants that filed Form Three reported no complications in retransmitting the test alert (80.2% reported no complications retransmitting the alert in 2016).” Continue reading

Verizon Decides Not to Bid on Calif. FirstNet RFP

Verizon Communications, Inc., has decided not to bid in response to California’s request for proposals (RFP) seeking an alternative to the plan it received from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) (TR Daily, Nov.20).

“Verizon remains committed to supporting public safety customers and agencies in California and across the country. Unfortunately, after carefully and extensively reviewing the state’s RFP requirements, we have chosen not to bid on the state of California’s RFP,” Verizon said in a statement. “Technical and financial requirements dictated by the draft Spectrum Management Lease Agreement (SMLA) saddled the state of California’s RFP – through no fault of its own – with onerous and vaguely-defined mandates that impacted our ability to create an RFP response we believe best served public safety and Verizon. Vigorous competition that allows the industry and the marketplace to continue to grow and innovate is in the best interest of public safety and should be everyone’s shared goal. Instead, we believe FirstNet and its corporate partner are rigging the game in order to stifle true open competition. Our decision not to submit an RFP response in no way impacts our work with public safety customers in California. We continue to support them every day, including actively working with public safety officials during the ongoing southern California wildfires.”

To compete with AT&T, Inc., FirstNet’s network partner, Verizon is building a public safety core and offering priority access and preemption to public safety agencies.

State and local officials in California have been critical of aspects of the FirstNet state plan and the potential $15 billion termination fee included in the draft SMLA that it received. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

AT&T Attorney Complains About Release of Vermont FirstNet Report

An attorney for AT&T, Inc., is complaining about the release of an unredacted version of a report prepared by a consulting firm for the state of Vermont before it decided to opt into the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system last week (TR Daily, Nov. 29). The report concluded, as did another report by an outside party, that the state should opt into the network rather than seeking to build its own radio access network (RAN). AT&T is FirstNet’s network partner and will build the RANs for all opt-in states.

Stephen Whitaker, a Vermont resident and open government advocate who is a party in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking FirstNet records, has argued that the FirstNet process has been too secretive and that opting in would not be a good deal for the state or its residents. Last week, he released an unredacted version of a FirstNet report prepared by the Coeur Business Group through a contract with the Vermont Agency of Digital Services. He also released a report done for the state by Televate LLC, a public safety consulting firm, which also recommended the state opt into FirstNet.

In a letter dated Wednesday to Mr. Whitaker, William Dodge, a Vermont-based attorney for AT&T at the law firm of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, said that AT&T “has learned that you may have come into possession of confidential and proprietary information, including company trade secrets. Based on public reports of a November 29 meeting of the Vermont House Energy and Technology Committee, we have learned you are in possession of an unredacted report commissioned by the Vermont Agency of Digital Services (and prepared by the Coeur Business Group) regarding FirstNet. Continue reading

OEC/NCSWIC Publish White Paper on T-Band Giveback and Implications for Public Safety

From the White Paper:  The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-961) requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to recover and auction T-Band spectrum, currently in use by public safety agencies, for commercial use by February 2021. Additionally, the Act requires the FCC to clear public safety operations from this portion of the band within two years of auction close (i.e., early 2023). The ultra-high frequency (UHF) spectrum between 470–512 megahertz (MHz)—also known as the “T-Band”—supplies a significant complement of channels to support public safety operations and regional interoperability in 11 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Specific channels in this portion of T-Band spectrum are not contiguous and vary by metropolitan area and TV channels within that area. While a licensing freeze was not required by the law, the FCC placed a freeze on all new and expanded T-Band operations for public safety and industrial and business licensees.

Immediately following the law’s enactment, public safety communications experts concluded that solutions to challenges of spectrum relocation remain complex and costly for affected local and State public safety entities. Read complete OEC/NCSWIC White Paper.

THE REPORT. In March 2013, NPSTC convened a T-Band working group to study the giveback and its implications for public safety communications, including the potential cost of relocation efforts. The full report is available on the NPSTC website, and cites costs, spectrum alternatives, and limited spectrum gains as potential limitations:

  • Cost: Despite being a requirement of the Act, auction relocation, which is estimated to exceed $5.9 billion (estimate from 2013). Additionally, auction proceeds do not consider private sector relocation costs, which may decrease the percentage of auction funding used specifically for public safety spectrum reallocation.
  • Spectrum Alternatives: The law requires licensees to migrate from the T-Band to other, unspecified spectrum; however, insufficient alternatives leave few options for identifying replacement spectrum. The very high frequency (VHF), UHF, and 700/800 MHz bands have few available channels. Also, the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) is not yet available to support existing mission critical voice operations displaced by T-Band relocation.
  • Gaining Public Broadband Spectrum: Despite its initial intentions for repurposing, the relocation of public safety operations from the T-Band is unlikely to produce significant additional broadband spectrum for public use.

THE UPDATE REPORT. In May 2016, NPSTC released an Update Report5 to identify any significant changes in the public safety demand for T-Band spectrum or the viability of potential relocation options. The update study confirmed the conclusions from the 2013 NPSTC T-Band Report remain valid. The report indicated only minimal numbers of public safety T-Band licenses have been cancelled or allowed to expire without renewal since the previous NPSTC study. Also, various jurisdictions indicated their T-Band systems and spectrum are still essential to effective communications and interoperability. Although the FCC released 24 reserve channels from the 700 MHz band earmarked for T-Band relocation, the number of additional channels is significantly less than the T-Band channels in use, especially in the top five T-Band areas. While related standards progressed, much work remains to provide a viable mission critical voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) solution with coverage, guaranteed voice capacity, and local control equivalent to that of current T-Band systems.

Despite FirstNet’s upcoming buildout of broadband data and imaging capabilities not supported on current land mobile networks, it is still premature to determine whether equivalent broadband coverage would be in place and mission critical VoLTE could be proven reliable in the public safety stressed environment. While most of Public Law 112-96 is positive for public safety, Section 6103 of that law, which requires auction of the T-Band spectrum, still imposes a negative impact on public safety communications and interoperability. In turn, this also could negatively impact the operations of public safety agencies and critical industrial and business systems that provide emergency response and infrastructure support to a population of more than 90 million people in the 11 T-Band areas.

1 See Public Law 112-96 enacted on February 22, 2012: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-112publ96/pdf/PLAW-112publ96.pdf

2 Electromagnetic spectrum, commonly referred to as spectrum, is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. Radio spectrum or wireless spectrum refers to the part of the electromagnetic spectrum corresponding to radio frequencies in the range from 3 kHz to 300 GHz that may be may be used for wireless communication.

3 The 11 affected T-Band markets include Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

4 See the NPSTC T-Band Report: http://www.npstc.org/download.jsp?tableId=37&column=217&id=2678&file=T_Band_Report_20130315.pdf

5 See the NPSTC T-Band Update Report: http://www.npstc.org/download.jsp?tableId=37&column=217&id=3696&file=T_Band_Update_Report_Final.pdf

 

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, December 7, 2017

Public Safety Networks LMR and FirstNet Working Together

There is still a lot of confusion out in Public Safety and elected official land about the future of Land Mobile Radio (LMR) as FirstNet is deployed, and there is still the issue of the eleven major metro areas slated to lose the T-Band and their LMR systems if we cannot convince Congress to make some changes to the law. I was happy to see that during the recent webinar held by Mission Critical Magazine, Chester County, PA speakers were questioned as to whether LMR will be replaced by FirstNet, they responded with a resounding NO! (Chester County was the first countywide fire dispatch system I designed and installed in the early 1970s.) However, it seems there is still an issue of spreading the word, not so much to the public safety community but to IT departments and elected and appointed officials responsible for the budgets, both capex and opex, that fund LMR systems.

It is no wonder some people are confused since we keep seeing comments, press releases, and experts talking about how soon Mission Critical Push-To-Talk (MCPTT) is coming to FirstNet, and how some still believe the off-network 3GPP standard known as ProSe will be a factor. However, even the developers of the public safety system in the United Kingdom have realized they won’t be able to provide reliable off-network PTT over LTE. For that reason, they are planning to use Tetra radios with simplex or talk-around. The more the experts talk about the technology issues with Mission Critical PTT, the more they seem to be losing sight of the fact that the technology over the network is only part of the issue. If the network itself is not mission-critical, PTT over the network cannot be mission-critical, even if it is called “Mission Critical PTT” (MCPPT).

It is, I believe, vitally important that those in government who make decisions about funding LMR radio systems, upgrading them, keeping them running and operational understand the dilemma the standards body, labs, and pro-MCPTT folks have created for the public safety community. There have been instances where public safety officials are presenting their next year’s budget and they are questioned by the budget committee about why public safety still needs to invest in LMR technology. The public safety officials usually make a good case for why, but one or more of the budget committee members have heard from technology experts that MCPTT will be real and will be rolled out in 2018. They simply do not understand that every day public safety bets their lives on their communications systems. Read the Entire Blog Here Continue reading

FCC Seeks Comment on Hurricane Response

On December 7, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau issued a Public Notice inviting comment on the government and communications industry’s preparation and response to the 2017 hurricane season.

“The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeks comment on the resiliency of the communications infrastructure, the effectiveness of emergency communications, and government and industry responses to the 2017 hurricane season. Of particular note, the 2017 season included four hurricanes which made landfall in the United States and its territories.[1]  Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate led to Presidential emergency or major disaster declarations for seven states and two territories.[2]  These storms devastated communities and the communications networks that service them.  As emphasized by Chairman Pai, “Access to reliable communications services during times of emergency is critical to enabling Americans in danger to request help and our heroic first responders to do their jobs.”[3]  The purpose of this Public Notice is to seek information to better understand how well such access was provided during these hurricanes in order to assess what lessons may be learned for the future.”

In addition, Bureau Chief Lisa Fowlkes issued a blog on our ongoing hurricane response and recovery efforts:  https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/blog/2017/12/07/hurricane-seasons-over-our-work-continues

[1] These hurricanes were Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. See, e.g., Jonathan Erdman, 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Among Top 10 Most Active in History (Oct. 2, 2017), https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/2017-atlantic-hurricane-season-one-of-busiest-september#/!.

[2] The states and territories for which emergency or disaster declarations were made were Texas, Florida, Louisiana Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. See, e.g., FEMA, Disasters, https://www.fema.gov/disasters/.

[3] See Chairman Ajit Pai, September 2017 Open FCC Meeting, Presentation on FCC Response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, Statement (Sept. 26, 2017), https://www.fcc.gov/document/presentation-fcc-response-hurricanes-harvey-irma-and-maria/pai-statement-0.

PERF Presents its latest report in the Critical Issues in Policing series: The Revolution in Emergency Communications

PERF states, “… the United States is on the cusp of the biggest revolution in emergency communications since the first 911 call was made nearly 50 years ago.  Next Generation 911 and FirstNet technologies are poised to fundamentally change how the public communicates with the police and other emergency services; how agencies communicate with their officers and with one another; and how agencies communicate back to the public. Once fully implemented, these technologies will speed up emergency response times and improve public safety and officer safety.

The Revolution in Emergency Communications summarizes a day-long meeting PERF held on June 16, 2017, in Washington, DC, to explore the future of emergency communications. Beyond the NG911 and FirstNet technologies themselves, the 150 participants spent much of the day examining the issues that police chiefs and other public safety officials will need to address if they are to be successful in this new environment—issues such as policies, procedures, and workflows; staffing, training, and other workforce issues; governance structures; and funding.”