Industry, Public Safety Entities Propose NG-9-1-1 Principles

Seven industry and public safety entities have proposed to the FCC principles to help address governance and accountability issues related to the deployment of next-generation 911 (NG-911) systems. They say they are continuing to work on “a more specific statement of needs and objectives, considerations, and proposed actions, including timeframes related to those proposals” and expect to have it ready in September. “The principles are designed to aid the FCC’s efforts to address the complex governance, accountability, and reliability issues presented by today’s evolving 911 systems and services, and to respond directly to the FCC’s challenge to industry and public safety to collaborate on best practices,” according to a news release.

The following entities submitted an ex parte filing yesterday in PS dockets 14-193 and 13-75 outlining their work and including the principles and items under consideration for the follow-up recommendations: the National Emergency Number Association, the National Association of State 9-1-1 Administrators, the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, the U.S. Telecom Association, the Texas Commission on State Emergency Communications, and the Texas 9-1-1 Alliance.

The entities’ filing came in a proceeding in which the FCC has proposed requiring 911 communications carriers to provide public notice of major service outages and requiring potential new providers to certify their technical and operational qualifications. The Commission also adopted a policy statement along with its notice of proposed rulemaking. Continue reading

FCC Seeks Comment on License Transfer

The FCC solicited comments on an application to transfer six lower 700 megahertz C-block licenses and two lower 700 MHz B-block licenses covering parts of Michigan from Agri-Valley Communications, Inc., to AT&T, Inc. “Our preliminary review indicates that AT&T would be assigned 12 to 24 megahertz of Lower 700 MHz spectrum in 37 counties covering seven Cellular Market Areas (‘CMAs’) in parts of Michigan,” the bureau said in a public notice. “Post-transaction, AT&T would hold 120 to 175 megahertz of spectrum in total, and 30 to 55 megahertz of below-1-GHz spectrum, in these seven CMAs.”

As a result, the transaction will be subject to the agency’s “enhanced factor” review, which is used when a deal would result in a carrier having more than one-third of sub-1 gigahertz band spectrum in a market. The bureau sought additional information on the transaction. Petitions to deny are due Sept. 11, oppositions Sept. 21, and replies Sept. 28 in WT docket 15-181.

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 14, 2015

Highlights of the news this week: Washington State, Ohio, and Colorado take FirstNet to task in their comments to the FirstNet Draft RFP. It is interesting to read these comments since some that I filed are along the same lines. I took issue with FirstNet’s rural coverage, with its data rate and capacity requirements as too low, and of course, I really balk at making this network into a commercial network with telephony, texting, MMS, plus data and video from the start. What Public Safety needs, I believe, is to have a data and video ONLY network, using the commercial networks for telephony and texting at least until they get their feet wet with the capabilities and learn their way around the network.

It is obvious to me, and I am sure to many others, that the RFP was written in sections by different people with differing views of what FirstNet is and how it should function. The various appendices and requirements documents are not clearly and concisely written, and nowhere did I find what I would call an overview of the objective of what the FirstNet network will be and where it will be operational.

So of course I will provide my own overview below: The purpose of the FirstNet network is to provide data and video services (to start) to both the Public Safety community and to the customers of one or more partners that respond to the RFP. In rural areas it will be built out to provide coverage that matches and exceeds the coverage provided by the two largest commercial operators. This expanded coverage may be provided by the best possible means including LTE RAN with satellite backhaul, boomer sites where appropriate, with the use of high-power mobile modems and vehicular repeaters capable of operating on highly encrypted Wi-Fi in-vehicle devices. Within the major metro areas the network will be built to provide data capacity to provide for multiple personnel responses to incidents within confined areas that are covered by one to two cell sectors.

The network is to be highly encrypted to meet the latest standards available at the time of RFP award and both the basic network and the applications will be encrypted using different encryption methods. It will be up to the RFP respondent(s) to design the network, identify the number of cell sites required, and provide FirstNet, the states, and the Public Safety community with an overview of the coverage that will be provided at the onset and at the 3 and 5-year build-out dates.

I am sure this could be rewritten a hundred different ways but the idea is to provide a concise overview of what the overall coverage and capacity should be. I would also include a section on states and vendors being able to add cell sites, both outdoors and inbuilding at their own discretion and cost as long as they can be integrated into the overall network. I hope FirstNet takes heed of the comments made by the three states and others since the states can choose to opt out. The more potential there is for states opting out the more difficult it will be to find a few partners (bidders) willing to get this network up and running.

In all fairness to FirstNet, a network this ambitious and with such little funding has never been tried before, but the RFP should be cleaner and free of much of the clutter it contains. Let’s focus on the outcome. I think what is lost here is that a typical government RFP is for services or widgets and every single detail needs to be nailed down because the feds are paying the vendor. In this case FirstNet is NOT paying the vendor, the vendor is essentially partnering and spending $billions of its own funds in order to share in the unknown amount of spectrum FirstNet will not be using for Public Safety. The RFP should be more friendly and it should be the starting point for across the table discussions with those vendors that have expressed an interest in this project. Continue reading

Experts Tout Benefits of Text-to-9-1-1

Experts today stressed the benefits of text-to-911 services in Indiana, including enabling a number of lives to be saved. Text-to-911 was launched in the state in May 2014, and public safety answering points (PSAPs) have seen a variety of people use the service, including people who are deaf or speech impaired, people with medical conditions, domestic abuse victims, or others who don’t want people to know they are contacting 911, Mark Grady, president of INdigital Telecom, which installed the state’s Emergency Service IP Network, said during a webinar organized by the National 911 Program. “We’ve had every possible use case, and many others that we never expected,” Mr. Grady said. Continue reading

EAS NPRM Pleading Cycle Set

Comments are due Sept. 9 and replies Sept. 24 on a notice of proposed rulemaking released last month proposing to add three new Emergency Alert System (EAS) event codes that cover extreme wind and storm surges and
revise the territorial boundaries of the geographic location codes for two offshore areas. The NPRM in PS docket 15-94 was adopted at the request of the National Weather Service.

Comment Sought on NC Application

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau sought comments today on the North Carolina State Highway Patrol’s application to modify a private land mobile radio license to add three new 800 megahertz band channels. The agency also filed a request for a waiver of the eligibility requirements of section 90.617 of the FCC’s rules. Comments are due Sept. 9 and replies Sept. 24 in file no. 0006736772.

DHS Aims to Enhance Cybersecurity Focus with Structural Changes

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced that he was elevating the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) within the Department of Homeland Security’s structure.  In addition, he directed the National Protection and Programs Directorate to develop a reorganization plan to ensure that NCCIC is “focused on strengthening our operational capabilities for mitigating and responding to cyber incidents.” Continue reading

FCC Approves Vehicular Repeater Use on Six Channels

The FCC released a report and order amending its part 90 rules to permit the licensing and operation of vehicular repeater systems (VRS) and other mobile repeaters on six VHF band remote control and telemetry channels. The order adopts several provisions to protect incumbent critical infrastructure industry (CII) entities from interference to their existing telemetry operations and to allow those systems to expand.

“Public safety entities have increasingly turned to VRS as a cost-effective way to enhance the overall effectiveness of a public safety communication system at a fraction of the cost of achieving the same result using infrastructure improvements,” the FCC said in the order, which was adopted in PS docket 13-229. “However, as we will detail below, there are technical and fiscal considerations that limit the choice of discrete frequencies that are available for VRS use in any given system. Today, we provide public safety entities with six additional frequencies for VRS use, which will allow greater use of this valuable public safety technology while providing protection for incumbent telemetry users who rely on these frequencies for control of critical infrastructure systems.” Continue reading

Incoming APCO President Defends Narrow “Public Safety” Definition

The incoming president of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International today defended the group’s insistence that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) adopt a narrow definition of “public safety entity” that includes only traditional first responders. “That legislation was for public safety – police, fire and EMS,” said APCO First Vice President Brent Lee, who will take over as president at the organization at its annual conference in Washington next week, referring to the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. “We believe that that’s what Congress wanted for the Act, for the legislation.”

Many public safety organizations and agencies support a broader definition of public safety entity, noting the variety of responders that might be necessary during an emergency and the benefits a broader definition could have in helping fund the network. FirstNet has suggested that public safety entities could include utilities, airport operations, transportation departments, and hospitals. Continue reading

FCC Sets Backup Power Notice Requirements

The FCC voted unanimously to require providers of a facilities-based, fixed, voice residential service that is not line-powered the way that copper twisted-pair service is to offer consumers at the point of sale an eight-hour backup power solution.  Providers would also have to notify customers once a year about the limitations on their service during a home power outage and again offer them the opportunity to purchase a backup power solution.  Within three years, providers would have to offer a more robust 24-hour backup power option as well.

The report and order adopted today in Public Safety docket 14-174 at the FCC’s monthly meeting gives providers “significant flexibility” on how to deliver annual consumer notifications, according to Linda Pintro, an attorney adviser in the Cybersecurity and Communications Reliability Division of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.  Continue reading