Regulatory Update, Spring 2014

Articles provided by Bette Rinehart, NPSTC Editorial Task Group Chair

 Regulatory News

  • Three Industry Associations Provide FCC with 900 MHz Broadband Proposal
  • Workshops on Environmental Compliance and Historic Preservation Review Training for the Construction of Communications Towers To Be Held
  • Workshop on Technology Transitions and Public Safety
  • New Application Processing Fees
  • County of Juneau, WI, Granted Waiver to Use an I/B Pool Frequency
  • H Block Auction Closes
  • Comment Sought on Mobile Relay Associates Waiver Request to Use UHF Spectrum Located Between Part 90 and Part 74
  • Consumer Signal Booster Equipment Compliance Deadline Extended
  • Text to 9-1-1

 Narrowbanding News

  • Part 90 VHF/UHF Licensees Will No Longer Be Able to Renew Licenses with 25 kHz Emission Designators
  • School District Issued Notice of Violation for Failing to Narrowband all Radio Equipment

800 MHz News

  • Township of West Orange, NJ, and NYC DOITT Resolve Licensing Dispute
  • Waivers of Mexican Border Rebanding Deadlines Granted
  • Comment Sought on Sprint’s Waiver Request to Deploy Wideband Operations in 866-869 MHz Prior to Completion of Band Reconfiguration in Two NPSPAC Regions
  • Regions 19 and 21 Plan Modifications Granted
  • City of Spartanburg, SC Request to Waive Timely Construction Notification Deadline Denied

Regulatory News

Three Industry Associations Provide FCC with 900 MHz Broadband Proposal. Three private enterprise industry organizations – American Petroleum Institute (API), Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) and Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) – have filed a proposal to reconfigure the existing 900 MHz band allocation to create a “900 MHz Private Land Mobile Broadband” initiative.

Recognizing that private enterprise licensees – critical infrastructure, transportation, business and other industrial entities – have not been able to obtain a spectrum allocation from the FCC, the three industry organizations are discussing technical, administrative and funding options to reconfigure the 900 MHz band. A working group of organizations and licensees is being formed to develop a band plan that would accommodate both a 3/3 MHz broadband block on which an LTE-based private land mobile (PLM BB) network could be deployed while retaining a 2/2 MHz block that would continue to support narrowband voice and data systems in operation today.

In order to preserve the 900 MHz spectrum landscape while the idea is being further developed, API, EWA and UTC have asked the FCC to impose a six-month licensing freeze on new applications in the band. The proposed freeze would not impact existing 900 MHz licensees who could continue to modify their licenses to add sites and/or frequencies. To date, no such application freeze has been implemented by the Commission. The text of the 900 MHz PLM BB proposal is available at:

 Workshops on Environmental Compliance and Historic Preservation Review Training for the Construction of Communications Towers To Be Held. The FCC will be hosting two workshops to provide training on Environmental Compliance and the Historic Preservation Review process required for the construction of communications towers. The first workshop will be held from 9 am to 4 pm on Tuesday, June 24, and will explain the environmental notification process for Antenna Structure Registrations and provide information on compliance with:

  • the Endangered Species Act
  • National Environmental Policy Act
  • National Historic Preservation Act
  • Tribal Nations
  • State Historic Preservation Offices
  • The FCC’s Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) system

The second workshop will be focused on the submission and review process for Positive Train Control infrastructure with emphasis on the Section 106 process. It will be held on Wednesday, June 25, from 9 am to 4 pm. Both workshops will be held at the FCC’s headquarters at 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC but will also be webcast. Those planning to attend the webcast must pre-register. The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Workshop on Technology Transitions and Public Safety. A one-and-a-half day workshop focusing on the impact of an all-IP environment on public safety, national security, and emergency response functions was held April 17 and 18 at the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The goal was to attempt to identify the conditions, relevant factors, and rebuttable presumptions needed to ensure that core public safety values are supported in a transition to an all IP-based infrastructure.

The workshop consisted of four sessions focusing on current public safety, national security and emergency response dependencies on legacy switched telecommunications and challenges in four categories:

  • Day-to-day public safety operations in an all-IP world
  • Disaster preparation and responses in an all-IP world
  • Additional risk factors from cyber exploits on commercial, public and government networks and
  • The impact of technology transitions on national security and federal government systems

The text of the Public Notice is available at:

New Application Processing Fees. As part of a biennial review required by the Communications Act, the FCC has announced an increase in the application processing fees. The Communications Act requires the FCC to review its application processing fees every 2 years and make adjustments based on any increases in the Consumer Price Index. The revised fees will go into effect 30 days after the Order is published in the Federal Register. As of March 31, publication had not occurred.  The new application fees are:

  • Part 101: $290 for new, renewal or modification applications, $65 for STAs, and $195 per rule section for waiver requests
  • Part 90: $65 for new, renewal or modification applications, STAs, and $195 per rule section for waiver requests

Applications for new authorizations or renewals of existing authorizations must also pay a regulatory fee in addition to the application fee. The regulatory fees are available at:

Public safety licensees are exempt from both application and regulatory fees. The text of the Order is available at:

County of Juneau, WI, Granted Waiver to Use an I/B Pool Frequency. In August of 2013, the County of Juneau, WI had filed an application requesting a waiver of 90.35 (business pool eligibility) to operate on a VHF I/B pool frequency. Juneau explained that there were no remaining VHF PS pool frequencies available for its use but it had identified a suitable VHF I/B pool frequency. The County argued that a grant of its waiver request would be in the public interest because the I/B pool frequency would be part of a new radio system that would serve all counties agencies as well as neighboring and statewide agencies, improving interoperability within the state.

The FCC conducted its own review of available VHF frequencies in both eligibility pools and concurred with Juneau’s analysis that no PS pool frequencies were available. It determined that there were 19 I/B frequencies available for licensing in the County; allowing Juneau to license one of those frequencies would not create a spectrum shortage for future I/B applicants. In addition, no I/B pool frequency coordinator opposed Juneau’s request.   The FCC also agreed that Juneau’s proposed use of the frequency was in the public interest. The text of the Order is available at:

H Block Auction Closes: On February 27, the FCC closed Auction 96, the H Block auction. The auction raised a total of $1,564,000,000 with one bidder winning all 176 licenses offered. The monies raised in this auction will go towards funding the Public Safety Broadband Network.The text of the Public Notice is available at:

The list of winning bids is available at:

The text of the statements of Wheeler, Clyburn and Pai are available at:

Comment Sought on Mobile Relay Associates Waiver Request to Use Spectrum Located Between Part 90 and Part 74: Mobile Relay Associates (MRA) is seeking a waiver to operate on three UHF frequency pairs located between Part 90 and Part 74 (Broadcast Auxiliary Radio Service) at several locations in California, Nevada and Florida. The three frequency pairs identified by MRA are designated for land mobile operations but are not listed for primary use in Part 90 or any other radio service. MRA seeks to operate on these frequencies with a 4 kHz bandwidth which it contends will pose no risk for harmful interference since it will not overlap any designated frequencies on either side. MRA states that the UHF spectrum bands are increasingly congested in LA and Miami. That congestion has been exacerbated by the freeze imposed on licensing T-band spectrum (470-512 MHz). The company is attempting to also license the frequencies in Las Vegas because many of its LA customers also operate in Las Vegas.

The FCC sought comment on MRA’s request, particularly from those incumbent licensees who would be impacted. Comments were due March 28; Reply comments were due April 14. The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Consumer Signal Booster Equipment Compliance Deadline Extended: The FCC has extended until April 30, 2014, the deadline by which Consumer Signal Boosters marketed, distributed or sold in the United States must meet technical requirements of the new rules adopted in February 2013. The action was taken because of unforeseen delays in the development of testing procedures for consumer signal boosters. The slight delay will give the FCC more time to certify Consumer Signal Boosters under the new rules. Consumers may operate legacy signal boosters only under the following conditions:

  • With the consent of the cellular provider
  • The signal booster is registered with the provider
  • The provider can shut down any signal booster causing harmful interference

The extension applies only to Consumer Signal Boosters governed under Part 20. It does not apply to Part 90 Signal Boosters. Any signal boosters currently in operation under Part 90 must be registered on the FCC’s Signal Booster database by November 1, 2014. After November 1, any Part 90 signal booster must be registered prior to operation. Failure to register could result in fines or other FCC compliance action. The text of the Order is available at:

Text to 9-1-1: The FCC has adopted a policy statement outlining objectives for text-to-9-1-1 services. In the policy statement, the Commission recognized the leadership of the four major wireless carriers who have voluntarily committed to making text-to-9-1-1 available to their subscribers by May 15, 2014 in those areas where PSAPs are prepared to receive texts. The FCC stated that action is needed to ensure that text-to-9-1-1 capability is uniformly available and encouraged all wireless carriers as well as interconnected text providers to work with public safety to develop commitments to support the technology. Stakeholders should develop a proposal for the FCC to consider; adopting a solution for text-to-9-1-1 capability applicable to all carriers would provide clarity to the PS community and to new entrants to the marketplace.

The FCC is considering a proposal that would require text-to-9-1-1 be made available by all text providers by the end of the year. The text of the New Release is available at:

The text of the NPRM is available at:

Narrowbanding News

Part 90 VHF/UHF Licensees No Longer Be Able to Renew Licenses with 25 kHz Emission Designators. The FCC has released a Public Notice to inform licensees that it will no longer renew Part 90 VHF/UHF licenses with wideband (20K or 16K) emission designators except under the following conditions:

  • The system meets the 12.5k efficiency standard (meets/exceeds one voice path per 12.5 kHz or a data rate of 4800 kbps per 6.25 kHz of bandwidth).
    • Applicants must provide an attachment certifying compliance with the narrowband efficiency standard and providing the FCC ID number of the equipment.
  • The system is a paging system operating on one of the 14 frequencies designated as paging-only.
  • The renewal application is also modifying the license to replace the wideband emission with a narrowband emission.
  • The system is operating under a valid waiver of the narrowband deadline.
    • Applicants must provide an attachment to show that they have a valid waiver and must give the waiver’s expiration date.

As of April 1, 2014 if an application to renew a wideband-only license does not meet one of the criteria listed above, the renewal application will be dismissed.

Applications to renew licenses that have migrated to narrowband but currently have both a wideband and a narrowband emission designator may be returned if the renewal application does not also modify the license to remove the wideband emission designator.

The FCC is urging licensees to use the “Narrowband Modification Tool” on the Universal Licensing System to convert from wideband to narrowband emissions prior to license renewal. When logging into under this tool, the system will retrieve only those wideband licenses that do not require Quiet Zone notification or IRAC coordination and that are not associated with any other pending application.

To remove a wideband emission from a license, the licensee must file a Form 601. The FCC hopes to release a “remove wideband emission” tool at some point in the future.

Frequency coordination is not required to change from wideband to narrowband emission or to delete an emission designator. However, if the conversion from wideband to narrowband also includes a change from analog to digital modulation, or any other changes are made to the license, frequency coordination is required.

The Public Notice reiterated that licensees operating in wideband mode without a waiver are in violation of the Commission’s rules and have been since January 1 of last year. Licensees operating in violation of the Commission’s rules are subject to enforcement action which can include license revocation, and/or fines of up to $16,000 per day. The text of the Public Notice is available at:

School District Issued Notice of Violation for Failure to Narrowband Equipment: In February, the Houston Office of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau issued a Notice of Violation to Beaumont Independent School District for failure to narrowband. At the end of January, an agent from the Houston Field Office inspected several transmitters licensed to the school district and observed that “some of the transmitters have not been updated to comply with the new 12.5 kHz bandwidth limitations.”

The school district had 20 days to respond to the Notice by explaining each violation with relevant facts and circumstances, specific actions taken to correct each violation and prevent it from happening again and a timeline for completing any corrective action. The text of the Notice is available at:

800 MHz News

Township of West Orange, NJ, and NYC DOITT Resolve Licensing Dispute. The FCC has granted a waiver request filed by Township of West Orange, NJ (West Orange) to allow it to assign an 800 MHz frequency licensed to but not constructed by West Orange at the location being assigned to NYC DOITT.

In 2009, West Orange was granted two 800 MHz frequencies. That grant was opposed by DOITT and NJ Transit who filed oppositions shortly thereafter. In 2013, the FCC found merit in the oppositions and notified West Orange of its intention to modify its license by removing those two frequencies. West Orange opposed the proposed modification stating that it had reached a short-spacing agreement with NJ Transit, thereby resolving the licensing issue. West Orange then reached an agreement with DOITT to assign the contested frequency to that agency.

To guard against spectrum warehousing, FCC rules require licensees to construct systems prior to assigning them to other entities. In its joint waiver request, West Orange & DOITT, sought authority to assign 854.3125 without first constructing it at DOITT’s location.

The Commission found that grant of the waiver was in the public interest in that it would resolve a long-standing dispute between the two parties, would conserve the resources of both the FCC and the Parties, and allow DOITT to put the frequency into operation at a site where additional capacity is needed. DOITT must construct the frequency on or before January 28, 2015. The text of the Order is available at:

Waivers of Mexican Border Rebanding Deadlines Granted. The FCC has released another Order addressing requests to extend the November 20, 2013 deadline to submit cost estimates to Sprint. The Order also ruled on extensions of the deadline to negotiate Frequency Relocation Agreements (FRA).

In this month’s Order, the FCC granted those extension requests that sought a new deadline of June 1, 2014 or sooner. The Commission found that those applicants (listed in Appendix A of the Order) had demonstrated diligence, good faith and made substantial progress towards completing their cost estimates. The extensions were granted with the understanding that once the cost proposals were submitted, the licensees would diligently pursue the negotiation process with Sprint and complete a Frequency Relocation Agreement in a timely manner.

Those seeking extensions later than June 1, 2014 were given until that date to complete their cost estimates or to file a waiver request seeking additional time. Any requests for a further extension must include details of the licensee’s progress thus far and milestones for finishing each uncompleted cost estimate step. A list of the licensees receiving partial waivers is provided in Appendix B of the Order.

Sprint filed joint requests with several licensees requesting additional time to negotiate or mediate costs and terms for reaching an FRA. Upon review of these requests, the FCC found that the parties had demonstrated good faith and diligence and they were granted (details in Appendix C of the Order).

The Transition Administrator (TA) mediator had submitted several requests for waiver and recommended resolutions in connection with disputes between incumbent licensees and Sprint related to FRAs. These parties have not yet submitted an FRA to the TA but have resolved all disputed issues, have submitted a schedule for execution of the FRA and are in pre-contract agreement. These waivers were granted (Appendix D of the Order) with the requirement that the TA provide a bi-weekly status report to the FCC. The parties listed in Appendix D must provide the TA with a status report every two weeks. The text of the Order is available at:

Comment Sought on Sprint’s Waiver Request to Deploy Wideband Operations in 866-869 MHz Band Prior to Completion of Band Reconfiguration in Two NPSPAC Regions: Sprint is seeking a waiver to allow it to deploy wideband technologies in the “old NPSPAC” band – 866-869 MHz – in two NPSPAC Regions that have not achieved 100% band reconfiguration. Rule Section 90.207(b)(7) allows EA-based SMRs to exceed the bandwidth and channel spacing limitations of 90.207 only in NPSPAC Regions which have completed 800 MHz rebanding. Sprint proposes to deploy wideband technologies in 46 of the 48 counties that comprise Region 6 (Northern California) and 16 of the 17 counties that comprise Region 27 (Nevada). Comments were due March 21, 2014; Reply Comments were due April 7, 2014. The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Region 19 (New England) Plan Modification Granted: The FCC has granted a plan modification filed by Region 19 in September of last year. The plan modification was to assign frequencies to two agencies – The City of Providence (Rhode Island) and Hampden County Sheriff’s Department (Massachusetts). Region 19 obtained concurrence from adjacent Regions 30 (eastern New York State) and 8 (New York City/Northern New Jersey). No comments were received when the Plan revision was placed on Public Notice and the revision was granted on January 31, 2014.

The text of the Public Notice is available at:

Region 21 (Michigan) Plan Amendment Granted: Michigan had proposed an administrative amendment its 800 MHz plan by adding language to a section which lists the documents that must be included with an application submitted to the Region seeking a spectrum allocation. The language related to applications that would be subject to review by adjacent NPSPAC regions. The amendment was granted.The text of the Public Notice is available at:

City of Spartanburg, SC, Waiver of Timely Construction Notification Denied: In 2011, the City of Spartanburg, SC was granted a modification to its existing license to add several frequencies on its mobile units. The construction deadline for those frequencies was October 25, 2012. As is its practice, the FCC sent Spartanburg a construction reminder three months prior to the construction deadline.

Spartanburg filed a construction notification but inadvertently omitted one of the frequencies on the paperwork. The FCC then notified Spartanburg that it had initiated the Termination Pending process for that one frequency and that Spartanburg had 30 days to file a Petition for Reconsideration. Spartanburg did not file a Petition For Reconsideration within the time allowed but shortly thereafter filed a waiver request indicating that it had constructed the frequency prior to the deadline and had failed to file a Petition for Reconsideration due to an administrative oversight.

The FCC dismissed the waiver request indicating that the City had failed to meet the waiver standard. While an administrative oversight might explain why the frequency was omitted from the construction notification, it did not constitute a unique circumstance that made the underlying rule overly burdensome, inequitable, or contrary to the public interest. Nor is Spartanburg left without a reasonable alternative.

The FCC reasoned that its existing processes provide ample opportunity for licensees to provide timely construction notification. The “auto term” process also gives licensees who have timely constructed a mechanism to provide “late-filed” notification.

Spartanburg was advised to file an application to modify its license to add the omitted frequency if it wished to continue to operate on that frequency. If it wished to operate on the frequency while that application was in process, it should file an STA request. The text of the Order is available at: