DALLAS, May 24, 2016– The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) will have a tight timeline to meet its goal to deliver state plans next year after awarding a contract to a partner in November, a FirstNet official acknowledged today. The official also observed that it would not be possible for the nationwide public safety broadband network to cover all of the U.S.’s land mass 24 hours a day. During a session this afternoon at the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Wireless Infrastructure Show (PCIA was dropped from the group’s name today), Ed Parkinson, FirstNet’s director-government affairs, noted that it is spending time preparing states to receive state plans next year. He observed that FirstNet plans to award a contract in November, adding then it has “a very aggressive timeline” for working w ith its partner to deliver state plans by the end of the second quarter of 2017.
Mr. Parkinson said that if states decide to allow FirstNet to build the radio access networks (RANs) in their states, task orders can be issued and deployment can begin “immediately thereafter.” For those states that want to build their own RANs, “it’s complicated,” Mr. Parkinson said. He noted that states would have 180 days to issue a request for proposals (RFP) and must get approvals from the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and FirstNet. That process could delay deployment by months or years, he said. But he also stressed that FirstNet is committed to making “a success of” states that opt out. Continue reading
May 23, 2016–A group of governors sent a letter today to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urging the FCC to take action and give states authority to address issues regarding contraband cellphones in prisons. “We write today to encourage you and your fellow Commissioners to reevaluate the FCC’s regulations regarding contraband cellphones,” the group of Republican governors wrote in the letter. “States must have the flexibility and authority to eradicate this real and serious threat to the public safety in our states.” Continue reading
May 23, 2016–The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee have asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to explain how the agency’s proposal for requiring video programming distributors to give third-party set-top box (STB) device and app makers access to consumer content and related information will affect cybersecurity.
“As more and more devices become directly connected to the Internet, it is imperative that they be developed with adequate levels of security in mind. Vulnerabilities in software and hardware can allow malicious actors to infect consumers’ devices and carry out cyberattacks,” Sens. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) and Tom Carper (D., Del.) and Reps. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) and Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) wrote to Chairman Wheeler in a letter dated today.
“These attacks could allow criminals from across the globe to access networks and steal sensitive data. Further, without the right cybersecurity protections across networks, a vulnerable device could allow cybercriminals entry,” they said.
They raised a number of specific questions, including whether the FCC had considered the risk management approach in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework for critical infrastructure industries when it developed its STB proposals. “Does the proposed rulemaking address potential economic harm to content creators or businesses that may be impacted from the potential for cyberattacks or potential harm to infrastructure?” the lawmakers asked. —Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Opting Out of FirstNet Each state has the right to opt out of the plan FirstNet and the selected partner vendor presents to it. However, it the state does opt out, it is then required to jump through a number of hoops in order to be able to build out its portion of the network. First it must submit a plan to the FCC for approval, then both the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and FirstNet become involved in the process. The state has to negotiate a lease for the spectrum with FirstNet and then the NTIA has to approve a grant to help fund the state’s build. Opting out is a complex process with a lot of room for delays and problems. There is nothing I can find in the law that says a state can simply sit back and do nothing. In fact, it appears as though FirstNet will have the right to build in a state that either does not meet the opt-out criteria or merely decides not to be part of the network. All of this seems like a convoluted way to basically punish a state for not being part of FirstNet.
Let’s be clear here, this is not FirstNet’s set of rules, it is not even NTIA’s set of rules. Rather, this is how Congress crafted Title VI of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that was signed into law. It is odd to me that members of Congress who are elected by the people in their states included this type of wording. Perhaps they understood that the network would better serve the Public Safety community if it were all one network, operated by a single entity, with the funds flowing to the RFP partner and to FirstNet to provide both profit for the RFP partner and funding to expand the network or add more coverage over time. The principal issues I see that could derail the opt-out process start with the FCC having to approve each and every state’s plan and to ensure the Radio Access Network or RAN (the cell sites, basically) is fully compatible with the FirstNet network for true interoperability. It is not clear how long the FCC will take to review each of the state’s requests.
To begin with, the FCC is long on attorneys and short on technical expertise. If it elects to fully use its powers under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), it could choose to have a separate Public Notice and comment period for each state’s plan that is presented, the process could take months to complete. And FCC approval is only the first of three steps a state must go through. What if the FCC and FirstNet’s opinions differ on a state’s RAN architecture and the FCC approves it but FirstNet has an issue with it? Or the other way around? There is nothing in the legislation to address a possible stalemate, which could add more time. FirstNet holds the license for the spectrum, which is issued by the FCC, and the NTIA has no jurisdiction over the FirstNet spectrum. The NTIA only has control over federal government spectrum, not FirstNet spectrum even though FirstNet is technically an “independent authority” under the auspices of the NTIA and the Department of Commerce. So the first set of delays for a state to move forward in opt-out mode could be with the FCC’s approval. Next are the negotiations with FirstNet for a spectrum lease. Continue reading
Oppositions are due 15 days after “Federal Register” publication and replies are due 10 days after that in ET docket 13-49 in response to petitions for reconsideration filed by two major automaker groups and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA). The parties want the FCC to reconsider portions of an order it released in March that relaxed the out-of-band emissions (OOBE) limits for U-NII-3 devices in the 5.725-5.85 gigahertz band but declined to increase the permitted OOBE emissions limits for the 5.15-5.25 GHz U-NII-1 band (TRDaily, March 2).
The FCC’s Communications, Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) plans to hold its next meeting June 22 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Commission’s meeting room.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has scheduled a June 15 meeting of the multistakeholder process to develop a privacy code of conduct on the commercial use of facial recognition technology, according to a notice in today’s “Federal Register.” The meeting is scheduled to run from 1 to 5 p.m. at the American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Avenue, NW. It will be open to the public and will be webcast.