Public Safety Groups Concerned about U.S.-Mexico 800 MHz Process

Five public safety groups expressed concern about what they said is slow progress in Mexican implementation of a protocol to enable 800 megahertz rebanding along the U.S. border.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Daniel Sepulveda, U.S. coordinator-international communications & information policy at the State Department filed at the Commission in WT docket 02-55, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of State EMS Officials, and the National Sheriffs’ Association said that “800 MHz band reconfiguration is essentially complete across the nation – except for Washington State and eighty-two counties in California (including Los Angeles and San Diego), Arizona (including Phoenix and Tucson), and major portions of Nevada (Las Vegas), New Mexico (Las Cruces), and West and South Texas (including El Paso and Brownsville/McAllen).

 “Progress on 800 MHz band reconfiguration along the Mexican border has lagged behind the rest of the United States due to the complexities involved in revising the international agreements between the two countries governing shared use of the 800 MHz band in the border area,” the groups added. “After significant effort by the Department of State and the FCC, the United States and Mexico adopted a revised 800 MHz Protocol in 2012 that will enable U.S. border area public safety agencies to retune their systems and increase the availability of 800 MHz spectrum on both sides of the border.

“While the FCC and U.S. stakeholders have moved forward in implementing the Protocol on the U.S. side of the border, their progress is currently stalled because the Mexican government has not yet directed Mexican 800 MHz operators in the border area to retune to their new channels, in accordance with the Revised Protocol,” the groups complained. “This blocks U.S. public safety licensees throughout the border area from retuning to their new U.S. channels. As a result of this delay, public safety communications systems along the U.S. – Mexico Border still face the risk of harmful interference from nearby commercial operations.”

The letter added, “Virtually every state and local public safety agency in the border area has secured funding to improve and modernize their 800 MHz systems as part of the rebanding process. However, they cannot take full advantage of these funds until 800 MHz licensees on the Mexican side of the border have first been retuned to make U.S. public safety replacement spectrum available consistent with the Revised Protocol. It is therefore absolutely critical that the Mexican transition occur without any further delay so that U.S. public safety agencies in the border area can retune and obtain the same interference protection as their counterparts throughout the U.S. We therefore urge the Department of State and the FCC to escalate this matter with your respective counterparts in Mexico and make this a top U.S. priority.”- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com