Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, February 23, 2017

Five-Plus Years of FirstNet!  FirstNet celebrates its five-year anniversary this month. The law that created FirstNet was signed by the President of the United States on February 22, 2017. However, the work really began when President Bush signed a law in 2006 requiring TV stations to vacate channels 52-69 no later than February 2008. Also in 2006, there was a series of discussions regarding the creation of a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) and in 2007, the FCC carved out 10 MHz (5X5) of the 700-MHz spectrum being vacated by TV stations, and then designated another 10 MHz of spectrum, known as the D-block to be bid on during auctions. The winner would work with Public Safety to create a private/public partnership to build out a nationwide broadband network.

Those driving this series of events included Morgan O’Brien, co-founder of Nextel, and Chief Harlin McEwen (Ret), who quickly became the champion of the Public Safety broadband network. In 2007, the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), a non-profit corporation, was chosen by the FCC to hold the Public Safety broadband license. Chief McEwen was Chairman of the PSST and the board of directors was made up of representatives from fifteen national Public Safety organizations. When the D-block failed to be won at auction, the Public Safety community and the PSST worked with Congress to add the D-block to the 10 MHz of existing Public Safety spectrum to create a 10X10-MHz nationwide system.

This idea was opposed by several commercial network operators that had missed out on the 700-MHz spectrum and wanted the D-block to be re-auctioned without Public Safety restrictions. They were very vocal in their opposition, created several websites, and filed reams of documents with the FCC trying to prove Public Safety did not need more than 10 MHz of spectrum to meet its broadband needs. This opposition led to the creation of the Public Safety Alliance (PSA), which represented every form of the Public Safety community and included organizations such as the national association of governors and of mayors and had the support of many vendors within the wireless community as well as the two largest network operators.

It took the PSST, the PSA, APCO, NPSTC, and many other organizations until 2011 to gain traction with members of Congress and to convince some within the FCC that Public Safety would need access to more than the 10 MHz of spectrum already allocated. Tests were run simulating real-world capacity requirements using a variety of scenarios on a three-cell Public Safety LTE network that had been deployed by Motorola in Alameda County, CA. Those opposing the addition of the D-block were using the standard method of calculating commercial network capacity, using nineteen sites, each with three sectors. They assumed interference was common across all cell sectors, and then calculated the amount of traffic that could be handled over the network.

The issue came down to the fact that most local incidents occur within a rather small geographic area but require a large number of Public Safety personnel usually including law, fire, and EMS. This means capacity of the network needs to be calculated on a cell-sector basis as opposed to a set of wide-area network calculations. Remember too that LTE broadband provides faster data rates from the cell site down to field devices than in the upward direction. During an incident, the need for data and video services will be in both directions, to and from the incident, therefore capacity and speed of both the up and down portions of the network need to be put into perspective. These tests and the subsequent report provided to the FCC and members of Congress showed the Public Safety community needed access to a full 20 MHz (10X10 MHz) of spectrum, not only the 10 MHz already assigned. Continue reading

Carrier Seeks Review of Order Denying Longer M-LMS Extension

February 22, 2017–PCS Partners L.P. has filed an application for review asking the FCC to review bureau orders rejecting the company’s request for a longer extension to complete construction of its M-LMS (multilateration location and monitoring service) licenses.

“In this matter, the agency followed an unprecedented, and ultimately arbitrary and unreasonable course: It proposed new service rules in recognition of the fact existing rules did not offer a viable path forward for any M-LMS licensees; extended all licensees’ deadlines to comply with the original rules, based on regulatory uncertainty and lack of equipment; abandoned its proposals to change the rules, without following its notice-and-comment procedures; and then informed PCS Partners, L.P. (‘PCSP’) that – because another M-LMS licensee had obtained waivers of the original rules in order to implement a proprietary technology not available to PCSP – regulatory uncertainty no longer existed, and PCSP would have just two additional years to satisfy its construction obligations,” said the application for review filed Feb. 17 in WT docket 12-202.  Continue reading

Public Safety Groups Concerned with Dispatchable Location Standard

February 22, 2017–Four public safety groups told the FCC today that they are concerned with an industry standard for dispatchable location (DL). In an ex parte filing in PS docket 07-114, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials, and the National Sheriff’s Association noted that the fourth report and order adopted by the FCC in 2015 in its 911 indoor location accuracy proceeding (TRDaily, Jan. 29, 2015) “defines DL as being ‘the verified or corroborated street address of the calling party plus additional information such as floor, suite, apartment, or similar information that may be needed to adequately identify the location of the calling party.’ We agree.”

The groups said that at a September 2016 quarterly meeting of the CTIA 911 Location Accuracy Advisory Group, attendees discussed DL standards development being overseen by the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS). Continue reading

Localities Seek Swift End to FirstNet Litigation

February 22, 2017–The Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications Systems (BayRICS) Authority and the city of Boston submitted an amicus brief today seeking a swift resolution to litigation that has postponed an award by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to a partner to build and maintain a nationwide public safety broadband network.

In a filing in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in “Rivada Mercury LLC v. United States of America” no. 16-1559C, the localities said, “It has been almost thirteen years since the release of the 9/11 Commission Report and five years since the passage of the Act authorizing the build out of the FirstNet network. While respecting the importance of the public contracting process and the complex issues that arise with significant procurements, amici seek to iterate the important public safety considerations entwined with an expeditious resolution of the case before the Court. “With the build out of a dedicated public safety communications system, FirstNet will put an end to vulnerabilities from inoperability and communications challenges that jeopardize being able to keep our communities and emergency responders safe when responding to emergencies – both small and large,” the brief said. Continue reading

Carr Defends FCC Action on Inmate Calling Case to Rush, Other Dems

February 22, 2017–FCC acting General Counsel Brendan Carr has told four Democratic members of the House that “there are a number of cases where the FCC has decided not to defend an order in court,” as it recently did with several aspects of the Commission’s 2015 inmate calling service (ICS) order.

Mr. Carr was responding to a recent letter from Reps. Bobby Rush (D., Ill.), Elijah Cummings (D., Md.), and G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.), in which they expressed concern about “recent press reports that Chairman Ajit Pai has decided not to defend, in whole, the prison phone rate order previously issued by the Federal Communication Commission” and request information related to that decision, including any “previous cases in which the FCC has declined to defend one of its own orders in whole or in part” (TRDaily, Feb. 8).

In his response to the lawmakers, Mr. Carr said that new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai “made clear his belief” when the agency adopted its first ICS order in 2013 over the dissent of then Commissioner Pai that “the agency ‘must take action to meet our duties under the law, not to mention our obligations of conscience.’”  Continue reading

UTC Asks Full Commission to Review Higher Ground Order

February 21, 2017–The Utilities Technology Council has asked the full FCC to review an order and authorization granted to Higher Ground LLC last month.The order by the International and Wireless Telecommunications bureaus and Office of Engineering and Technology authorizes Higher Ground to deploy up to 50,000 mobile satellite earth stations in the 5925-6425 megahertz band. The Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition has asked the FCC to stay the order and authorization pending action on its application for review (TRDaily, Feb. 10). The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance also have submitted applications for review (TRDaily, Feb. 17).

“The Order is contrary to the record in the proceeding, which overwhelmingly opposed the application and the waiver,” UTC said in its application. “As the record shows, Higher Ground’s mobile operations threaten to cause massive and widespread interference to thousands of fixed service microwave systems that are used by utilities across the country to support mission critical voice and data communications. These systems are used to direct personnel working in the field and for substation SCADA, protective relaying, corporate data network traffic, voice tie trunks, and utility land mobile radio traffic that ensures the safe, reliable and secure delivery of essential electric, gas and water services to millions of Americans, including military installations, federal buildings, bridges, tunnels, railways, traffic control systems, airports, hospitals, police departments, fire departments, emergency medical services and offices of emergency management. Continue reading

NIST Issues 2017 Public Safety Enhanced User Interface R&D Roadmap

The public safety community is in a period of great transition. Over the next 20 years, technology advancements will enable data, video, and eventually voice communications to migrate from disparate Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks to a nationwide Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network, the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). Emerging technologies within this new infrastructure present opportunities and challenges for public safety, and the process of modernizing responder communications requires significant coordination and planning. To facilitate the transition from LMR to LTE, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program initiated a research and development (R&D) planning process to determine what technology investments are of highest priority to the public safety community.

The 2017 Public Safety Enhanced User Interface R&D Roadmap summarizes the results of PSCR’s Public Safety Enhanced User Interface R&D Roadmap. This report is the third of several technology roadmaps that PSCR has developed over the past several years to better inform the investment decisions of R&D organizations supporting the public safety community. This report intends to outline the current state of user interface technologies, forecast the evolution of user interface capabilities and gaps, and identify potential R&D opportunities that would improve public safety’s use of enhanced user interface technologies within operational settings. Upon completion of this roadmap, PSCR intends to identify R&D project ideas that pose the greatest operational benefit to public safety. These opportunities may be considered for inclusion in PSCR’s Innovation Accelerator program, drives R&D through prize challenges, grants, and/or cooperative agreements. Given the scope of technology under consideration and level of effort required to deliver enhanced user interface technologies to public safety, PSCR hopes that these findings and recommendations will educate stakeholders across all levels of government, industry, and academia.

The roadmap was drafted by soliciting input from technology experts, end-users, and researchers across government, public safety, industry, and academia. This cross-disciplinary approach enabled PSCR to evaluate existing R&D efforts, potential partnerships, and future projects against public safety’s unique set of priorities, requirements, and long-term goals.

Roadmap Design Principles: The following principles have guided the process as PSCR created the User Interface Roadmap and past roadmap reports:

  • Build a vision of where the public safety community wants to go, determine what technologies are needed to get there, and provide a route for achieving the vision.
  • Make R&D decisions based on capability requirements and priorities set by the public safety community.
  • Assume that public safety may have to adjust operations to fully realize the benefits of new technologies.
  • Leverage ongoing efforts by other partners to develop and implement the roadmap. This approach will allow PSCR to focus resources to complement and not duplicate ongoing efforts.
  • Get far enough ahead of the technology development curve to influence commercial R&D and leverage economies of scale.
  • Enable public safety to meet generational and public expectations.
  • Employ a cross-disciplinary approach to gather input and develop R&D plans for PSCR initiatives.
  • Identify R&D project opportunities in light of the evolution of technology capabilities and gaps forecasted by working group participants.