Tri-City Herald Reports: Three Firefighters Die in Wildfire after Vehicle Crashes

— Three U.S. Forest Service firefighters died after their vehicle crashed and was likely caught by flames as they battled a blaze Wednesday in Washington state, authorities said. Four other firefighters were injured.

The casualties came as firefighters on several fronts fought against raging wildfires advancing on towns in the north-central part of the state. The accident occurred near the town of Twisp, the National Forest Service said, relaying information from Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers.  “The firefighters were engaged in initial attack operations and were involved in a vehicle accident when it is believed that the fire overtook the vehicle,” Rogers reported, according to the statement from Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

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Texas Official Stresses Spectrum Needs of Oil and Gas Companies

The chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas has written FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to ask the agency to reconsider its conclusion that the use of spectrum by oil and gas companies for SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems “primarily serve the business needs” of the companies rather than protect public safety.

Yesterday’s letter from David Porter referred to an order that the FCC released in September 2014 in which it addressed requests to approve the assignment of AMTS (automated maritime telecommunications system) licenses that are part of a pending hearing before an administrative law judge concerning the character qualifications of licensee Maritime Communications/Land Mobile LLC (MCLM) (TRDaily, Sept. 11, 2014). Continue reading

FirstNet Clarifies President’s Position Must Be Posted

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) clarified that the new position of president must be posted under federal hiring rules to allow other candidates to apply for it. FirstNet announced that Michael Poth has been hired to the newly created position of chief executive officer and that TJ Kennedy, who had been acting executive director, would be “functioning in the role of President” (TRDaily, Aug. 17). The announcement led many stakeholders to refer to Mr. Kennedy as president in their statements on the personnel moves.

FirstNet used that language because the president’s position must be posted – a fact that FirstNet did not include in the press release, creating confusion. Mr. Kennedy was hired at FirstNet as a three-year term employee. The president’s post is a permanent career position, and all permanent jobs must be competed – even if someone is currently serving in the role, said FirstNet spokesman Ryan Oremland. FirstNet plans to post the Senior Executive Service president’s position soon, he said. Continue reading

FirstNet May Alter Final RFP after Feedback

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) may alter its final request for proposals (RFP) after getting feedback from parties after it is released at the end of this year, a FirstNet official said today during a session at the APCO 2015 show. James Mitchell, senior program manager-operations for FirstNet, unveiled a planned timeline leading up to the submission of offeror proposals in response to the final RFP. An industry day is scheduled for Aug. 27.

Sections of the RFP are scheduled to be finalized in September and the board will be briefed on the document in October. In November, FirstNet plans to hold a pre-solicitation conference. “We’re going to be very open and transparent about the contents of the RFP prior to the release,” Mr. Mitchell said of the event. Internal review of the final RFP package will also take place that month. Continue reading

Early Builders Expect to Meet September 30 BTOP Grant Deadline

Representatives of the four early builder public safety projects that received BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) funds said today they will meet the Sept. 30 deadline for spending to be completed.  The project that has faced the most difficult road is the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS).

LA-RICS Executive Director Pat Mallon said during a session this afternoon at the APCO 2015 show that he expects it to meet the Sept. 30 deadline, while acknowledging it has work still yet to do. Of the 78 sites now planned, Mr. Mallon said that 34 sites have been completed, 21 are in construction, five are awaiting construction, and three still need the completion of permitting. The 78 sites include 15 cells on wheels (COWS).

LA-RICS construction was suspended in April after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council voted to halt LA-RICS construction of cell sites on government-owned land in their jurisdictions, including at fire and police stations (TRDaily, April 3). Continue reading

Commerce Department Announces Members of FirstNet Board

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today named four leading experts on public safety, wireless broadband communications, and state and local government to serve three-year terms on the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board. FirstNet is an independent authority within Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) mandated by Congress to develop, build and operate the first nationwide wireless public safety broadband network. The network will enable better communication among local, state, regional, tribal, and national emergency services personnel, improving response time and saving lives.

“I appreciate the willingness of these individuals to serve our nation by lending their expertise to the task of building this historic nationwide public safety broadband network,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The Board will continue the important work of ensuring our firefighters, police, and emergency responders have the most advanced technology to communicate effectively and save lives.”

The FirstNet Board represents the interests of a wide range of stakeholders, including public safety; states, territories, tribes and localities; and urban and rural residents. The Commerce Department works with the FirstNet Board’s Governance Committee to select members who bring considerable public safety, network, technology, and/or finance expertise to the group.

Secretary Pritzker reappointed two current Board members to another term:

  • Kevin McGinnis, emergency medical services executive, Maine
  • Annise Parker, Mayor, City of Houston, Texas

In addition, the Secretary appointed two new members to the Board:

  • Neil Cox, technology executive, Illinois
  • Edward Horowitz, venture capitalist, New York

Continue reading

FCC Plans to Launch Public Safety Center Soon

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau plans to launch soon a beta version of a Public Safety Support Center, which will allow public safety answering points (PSAPs) and other public safety entities to request support or information from the bureau and notify it of problems in the delivery of emergency services, officials said this afternoon at a session at the APCO 2015 show.

Timothy May, NG-911 projects manager in the bureau, said public safety entities will be able to register interference complaints via the online system. He said the bureau is “close to putting the finishing touches” on the center.

Bureau Chief David Simpson said the new center will use the same architecture as the FCC’s consumer complaint system but permit more direct interaction on public safety concerns. He added that “a beta version” of the initiative “will be ready in a couple of weeks.”

During today’s session, Mr. May also said that the FCC’s Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture (TFOPA) doesn’t plan to vote on a unified report until early December. Continue reading

GPS Alliance Takes Shot at LightSquared Testing

The GPS Innovation Alliance has submitted an ex parte filing to the FCC taking a shot at testing plans by LightSquared LLC consultants for assessing the compatibility between terrestrial broadband and GPS operations.

In an Aug. 14 filing in IB docket 12-340 that was posted online yesterday, the alliance referred to a July 15 filing by LightSquared that submitted a revised test plan prepared by its consultants, Roberson and Associates LLC (TRDaily, July 16).

“LightSquared’s letter asserts that it previously sought input on its test plan from interested parties, but that it was nonetheless renewing its request so that it could ‘receive feedback within the next week, since testing is anticipated to begin by the end of this month.’ While LightSquared is free to submit any technical information to the Commission, the GPS Innovation Alliance (‘GPSIA’) does not support duplicative testing and wishes to make clear that it will focus its technical efforts on the government assessment of adjacent-band compatibility issues that is currently being conducted by the Department of Transportation (‘DoT’),” the filing said. “If and when LightSquared submits technical analyses for the record, GPSIA will comment at that time.” Continue reading

FirstNet Picks Former HP VP as CEO; Kennedy to Be President

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board announced today that it has hired a former Hewlett-Packard Company vice president for the newly created position of chief executive officer, while TJ Kennedy, who has been acting executive director of FirstNet for the past 16 months, will serve in the newly created post of president.

The CEO will be Michael Poth, who most recently was a VP in HP’s Enterprise Services business unit. He served in that position from 2012-2014. Before that, he was a senior director at HP.  Prior to joining HP, Mr. Poth worked from 1996 to 2011 for Northrop Grumman Corp., first as program manager and director-public safety solutions and then as director-enterprise solutions.

Mr. Poth also has a background in public safety. From 1982 to 1996, he served in the Corvallis, Ore., and Tempe, Ariz., police departments. He began as an officer and worked his way up to captain. Mr. Poth received a bachelor’s of science degree and a master’s of public administration from Arizona State University.

FirstNet said in a news release that the creation of the CEO and president positions “more closely align with its mission and operating model.” FirstNet is an independent entity housed in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, but its board members and staff often refer to it as a start-up not unlike any new tech company. Continue reading

FCC Approves Part 15 Waiver for Robotic Lawn Mower

The FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology released an order today approving a waiver to permit the marketing of a robotic lawn mower by iRobot Corp.

“Specifically, we are waiving the prohibition on the use of fixed outdoor infrastructure to allow iRobot to obtain equipment certification for and market a robotic lawn mower (‘RLM’) that operates in the 6240-6740 MHz frequency range,” OET said in an order released in ET docket 15-30. “We find that granting this waiver is in the public interest because it will enable iRobot to market its robotic lawn mower without posing a significant risk of harmful interference to authorized users of the radio spectrum.”

The order noted that the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) expressed concern that the waiver could lead to interference to radio astronomy operations (TRDaily, March 10), but it said that the concerns were overblown. Continue reading