LAS VEGAS –March 25, 2016. Several public safety-related items are expected to be circulated to FCC Commissioners in the second quarter of this year, David Furth, deputy chief of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, told the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) during a quarterly meeting today that was held in conjunction with the IWCE show here.
An order would address a First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) request that the Commission condition licenses or other authorizations to use Band 14 “upon the requirement that no operation on Band 14 be permitted without the express consent of FirstNet after July 31, 2017” (TRDaily, Oct. 22, 2015), Mr. Furth said. Also, a further notice would address how the FCC exercises its statutory responsibility to address state opt-out requests, he said.
Also in the second quarter, circulation of the FCC’s “long-awaited” 4.9 gigahertz band further notice is expected, Mr. Furth said. He stressed that the Commission’s goal is “maximizing the benefits of this band for public safety.”
The third item expected for circulation in the second quarter involves the use of interoperability channels by railroad police, Mr. Furth said.
He also said the FCC hopes to move forward in its 800 megahertz band interstitial channel proceeding and said his bureau is monitoring for impact on public safety a proceeding in which the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is considering changes to cellular power rules.
Mr. Furth also noted that two public safety items are currently being considered by Commissioners.
A draft order was circulated to Commissioners in January dealing with emission mask requirements for digital technologies on 800 MHz band NPSPAC channels (TRDaily, Jan. 8). A draft order on reconsideration that was circulated to Commissioners in February would grant a petition filed by the Telecommunications Industry Association asking the Commission to reconsider a provision in a report and order released in 2014 concerning the agency’s 700 MHz band rules, an agency source has told TRDaily (TRDaily, Feb. 26). The petition concerns the Project 25 Compliance Assessment Program (P25 CAP) certification.
A short companion further notice deals with questions that have come up recently about new elements incorporated into the CAP certification process, Mr. Furth noted. The further notice asks whether those additional elements should be incorporated into the FCC’s rules.
Also at today’s meeting, David Buchanan, chairman of NPSTC’s Spectrum Management Committee, said NPSTC plans to submit comments replying to a recent submission in the FCC’ 4.9 GHz band docket. The NPSTC board approved the submission of those comments. Presidential Partners Consulting said in its recent filing that a 4.9 GHz band proposal submitted by NPSTC “is flawed in that the process to create regional plans is slow and at many times ineffective in maximizing use and it drives to carve up the spectrum among the NPSTC participants” (TRDaily, March 14).
“Our vision is that the 4.9 GHz public safety spectrum could be deployed for public use much in the same way home WIFI works today and that designs in the chip set could allow for shared spectrum use with public safety,” the company said.
“I don’t think that’s in our interest,” Mr. Buchanan said. He said there is public safety interest in using the band if the rules are structured right. In his remarks, Mr. Furth stressed the value of the NPSTC proposal.
Stu Overby, vice chairman of the Spectrum Management Committee, said that an update on a report that NPSTC released in 2013 on public safety T-band spectrum would be sent to the NPSTC board soon.That report concluded that Congress should reconsider its mandate that requires the FCC to reallocate the spectrum by 2021 and said that the cost of relocating public safety T-band operations to other spectrum would total more than $5.9 billion (TRDaily, March 15, 2013). Mr. Overby said the update has found that demand for the T-band has not decreased in the past three years. He said the report analyzes the impact on interoperability in the 11 markets where the T-band is used if the spectrum is reallocated. In addition, TV station deployments in the T-band would greatly impact a nationwide auction of the spectrum, Mr. Overby said.
Mr. Overby also noted that the T-band issue has been mentioned in recent congressional hearings.
In other developments, a Video Technology Advisory Group plans to publish in the next month a document on policy considerations for the use of video in public safety, including privacy, security, and transparency, said John Contestabile of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory during a presentation by the Technology and Broadband Committee.
Also, the Interoperability Committee noted the interest into whether encryption should be used on interoperability channels, a practice that NPSTC opposes. There is a difference of opinion on the issue. A recent discussion on encryption on NPSTC’s participants’ listserv generated 118 responses, the federation noted.
Earlier today, FirstNet President TJ Kennedy outlined the busy schedule that the organization is expected to have in the next 18 months, including the selection of a partner and the delivery of state plans.
He also acknowledged that there could be some anxiety ahead among stakeholders as changes occur. “Everybody likes change as long as it’s happening to somebody else,” he joked.
Harlin McEwen, chair of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), discussed current PSAC initiatives and reiterated that FirstNet has made considerable use of the PSAC in the past couple of years. “The PSAC has been integrated into the everyday discussions at FirstNet. We’re being consulted on a regular basis,” he said. “It really is different than the first couple of years of FirstNet, when really the PSAC was just kind of tolerated.”
Chris Essid, deputy director of the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) at the Department of Homeland Security, observed that the National Governors Association has decided to launch a “policy academy” this year to focus on enhancing emergency communications interoperability.
NGA has selected five states to participate, he said. He noted that a 2006 NGA policy academy lead to the creation of OEC, the National Emergency Communications Plan, and an interoperability funding grant program, which has been defunded for years.
One of the OEC activities planned for 2016 and beyond is strengthening relationships between statewide interoperability coordinators and FirstNet single points of contact (SPOCs), he said. Mr. Essid also said that OEC plans to launch a pilot this summer to measure response-level communications in urban areas. And he said OEC is discussing with DHS leaders the feasibility of providing interoperability grants again. “I don’t have anything to report right now,” he said.
Dereck Orr, chief of the Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, noted that $100 million has been received of $300 million that is being made available for public safety research from AWS (advanced wireless services)-3 auction proceeds. The five research areas are bringing land mobile radio and LTE together, bringing LMR mission-critical voice onto LTE, enhanced location-based services, enhanced analytics, and enhanced user interfaces, he said.
Mr. Orr said that half of the funding will be used by NIST and other federal agencies while the rest will go toward grants, cooperative agreements, and prize competitions.
Also today, the NPSTC board approved the appointment of Don Root as chairman of the Spectrum Management Committee, replacing Mr. Buchanan, and Jason Matthews of the Lake County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department as vice chairman of the Interoperability Committee, replacing Mr. Root. The board also approved the addition of the Project 25 Technology Interest Group as an affiliate member.
The board also established a new award named for Mr. McEwen and presented lifetime awards to Messrs. McEwen and Buchanan. – Paul Kirby, email@example.com