Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Round Up, June 23, 2016

On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, the U. S. Senate had its chance to call on FirstNet and others to provide updates on progress being made. This was a subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet hearing chaired by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss). The hearing was titled “FirstNet, an Oversight update on the Status of the Public Safety Broadband Network.” This type of oversight hearing is required in the law and the House recently held its own hearing. The idea of a Senate hearing or any congressional hearing, for that matter, is to provide information to those on the committee holding the hearing and of course to any others who have an interest.

Those who are lined up as witnesses must write their remarks and pre-submit them to the committee so they can be read and questions formulated. At the actual hearing, the testimony is word-for-word what has already been presented, and only during question and answer sessions are there an opportunities for additional or follow-up remarks or information. Also during the hearing the committee members usually send a staffer or two to take notes and the actual committee members come in and out of the hearing so they can be counted as being present and so they can ask questions that, for the most part, their staffers have framed for them. While it is not a perfect system it is what we have and FirstNet is treated no differently from any other organization reporting its progress to the committee that has oversight. There were four witnesses at this hearing: Mike Poth, CEO of FirstNet; Jeffrey McLeod, Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety Division, National Governors Association; Major General Arthur Logan, the Single point of contact for FirstNet for the State of Hawaii, and the Adjutant General for Hawaii; and Andrew Katsaros, Assistant Inspector General for Audit, U.S. Department of Commerce (which is the organization within the federal government that has direct responsibility for FirstNet.)

The FirstNet CEO updated the committee on FirstNet’s progress and told the committee that barring unforeseen complications, FirstNet intends to award a partner contract by November 1 of this year. He then discussed the state, tribal, territory, and federal consultations that have been occurring in phases 1 and 2 of the state consultations. He also discussed the network as a catalyst for innovation and the Internet of Things (IoT), and ended by asking the committee to continue to support FirstNet’s efforts. The speaker from the National Governors Association (NGA) made a few statements worth repeating. First was the fact that the NGA believes the states’ choice to opt out is a “false choice” because of the unknown financial risks inherent with building out and managing the Radio Access Portion (RAN) in a state. He then turned to his concerns about rural coverage for the network, when it will be offered, and cost estimates for the service. These are all good questions but answers will have to wait until FirstNet and its partner sit down across from each other and have the types of discussions that should result in answers to these questions. The testimony from the gentleman from Hawaii was, for the most part, a positive report on the FirstNet and state consultation and data gathering process while the Assistant Inspector General’s comments were you would expect: FirstNet is doing better but is still not perfect and we are working with FirstNet to ensure it adheres to all of the Federal Rules and Regulations, nothing earth shattering, which is a good thing! Continue reading

FirstNet Weekly Update to the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) – June 20, 201

FirstNet News  

FirstNet CEO Mike Poth will be testifying tomorrow at the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet hearing titled, “FirstNet Oversight: An Update on the Status of the Public Safety Broadband Network.”  The hearing will start at 9:30 AM EST.  Other witnesses at the hearing include Mr. Jeffrey McLeod, Director of Homeland Security and Public Safety Division, National Governors Association; Major General Arthur J. Logan, Single Point of Contact (SPOC), State of Hawaii and Hawaii Adjutant General; and Mr. Andrew Katsaros, Assistant Inspector General for Audit, U.S. Department of Commerce.  To watch the webcast, please visit this page for more information:

FirstNet has now completed 23 State Governance Body Consultation Meetings with meetings in Kansas, Missouri, and Wyoming last week. Discussions at these engagements focused on the request for proposal (RFP) process, State Plans, the opt-in/opt-out decision and timeline, sustainability and coverage of the FirstNet network, the deployment process, subscription and device costs, and voice capabilities. Continue reading

CIA Chief Argues for Encryption Solution to Help Counter ISIL Threat

June 16, 2016–Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan today called on lawmakers—in the aftermath of the June 12 murder of 49 people in Orlando, Fla.—to continue to work toward some type of solution that would allow U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access the content of encrypted communications and devices in pursuit of terrorists and major criminals. The CIA director made his plea at an open hearing held by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which most often conducts its hearings with intelligence agency heads in closed session. 

While Mr. Brennan did not claim that the perpetrator of the Orlando murders—Omar Mateen, who at the time of his criminal actions professed his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—used encrypted communications technologies in connection with those actions, he discussed at length the use of such technologies by ISIL and other terrorist organizations and underscored the need for intelligence and law enforcement agencies to be able to access the content of encrypted communications. 

Obama administration law enforcement and intelligence agency officials have been calling for a path forward to access such encrypted communications for more than a year, and have taken Apple, Inc., to court in unsuccessful bids to force the company to unlock Apple devices that may have held encrypted content and may have been used in the commission of crimes, including the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

Speaking at today’s hearing, Mr. Brennan said that ISIL members are often young, comfortable with using social media and other online communications technologies, and “are very aware of what mediums provide them with the greatest security and protection . . . They recognize that a lot of apps have end-to-end encryption.”

In light of the use of such technologies by ISIL and other groups, Mr. Brennan said he would “hearken back” to plead with committee members “to continue to have the discussion” about the “appropriate role of the government in an area where the private sector owns and operates the worldwide Internet.” Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, June 17, 2016

We now know who at least two of the FirstNet bidders are. In addition to the announcement by Rivada and its partners, Pacific Data Vision (PDV), now pdvWireless, which is already in the process of building out a nationwide near-mission-critical PTT network on spectrum in the 900-MHz band acquired from Sprint, has issued a public statement that it, too, has responded to the FirstNet RFP. PdvWireless did not announce any partners but it does not take much to piece together at least some of them. Morgan O’Brien and his friends from the Nextel network days are behind pdvWireless and where Morgan goes, Motorola and Sprint are usually right next to him.

Just for fun I went back to my weekly Public Safety Advocate blog dated September 25, 2014, and here is what I wrote about pdvWireless and Mr. O’Brien: “Dusting Off My Crystal Ball Just for Fun! By now most of you know that Morgan O’Brien, best known as a co-founder of Nextel and more, most recently involved with the Public Safety Spectrum Trust with his company Cyren Call, is back in the wireless arena once again. This time his company Pacific Data Vision (PDV) purchased 6 MHz of 900-MHz spectrum from Sprint. PDV intends to turn this spectrum into a nationwide, not quite mission-critical push-to-talk network for customers who truly value the push-to-talk services they enjoy using LMR, had when using Nextel, or are using Sprint, AT&T, or Verizon’s PTT service as well as any number of other PTT applications available today.

Morgan and his company are being pretty realistic when it comes to the number of potential customers and has plans to petition the FCC to permit LTE in what is really a 3X3 MHz spectrum holding, not a lot of spectrum for an LTE system. However, according to my crystal ball there is another shoe or even two or three that could be dropped. So let’s say PDV can quickly build out a nationwide PTT voice system in this spectrum while petitioning the FCC for LTE use. Now let’s suppose that over that same two years FirstNet makes some but not a lot of progress in its network deployment. By this time the presidential election is drawing near, everyone in Congress is looking for something to grab onto to show their success, and FirstNet is not a shining example of how things get done. So Morgan and his group, now with a quick and successful nationwide build under their belt, turn to the Public Safety community, and to Congress (he has been there before), and pitches taking over FirstNet. PDV will build, manage, and run the network, providing nationwide data services for Public Safety. PDV’s now nationwide PTT voice network can be the platform for mission-critical PTT over LTE and the 700-MHz band can remain reserved for data only.

Now we have a combination that is hard to beat: a proven track record, both data and mission-critical voice, and a company that can do everything that needs to be done quickly, including finding partners to strengthen its position with both secondary users and perhaps financial partnerships. Could it happen? Maybe, and from my vantage point the only group that could make it happen is one in which Morgan plays a role and, I am sure, involves others who want to see the network built and operational.”

So I got most of it wrong! First, pdvWireless has only a few cities up and running: Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Dallas/Houston, New York/New Jersey, and Philadelphia. However, according to the news releases, it is about to launch thirteen more metro areas. Next, Congress appears to be satisfied with the progress FirstNet is making. The last thing I was wrong about, and I am frankly glad I was wrong, is that during this past two years FirstNet has made a huge amount of progress, the RFP was issued, and responses received at the end of May. Further, FirstNet is really trying to keep on track to make an award by the end of November of this year. Continue reading

Public Interest Groups Call for Privacy, Openness in Internet Policy Platform

June 13, 2016–Free speech, universal access, competitive provider choice, privacy, transparency, and openness, or net neutrality, are the planks of the 2016 Internet policy platform released today by the American Civil Liberties Union, Free Press, New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, and 13 other public interest organizations. “The internet has extraordinary potential to help drive social change and improve the lives of so many so quickly. But the internet’s benefits haven’t been evenly distributed. To ensure that the internet serves all of our communities—and doesn’t further inequality or discrimination—communications policies must be rooted in the principles of free speech, access, choice, privacy, transparency and openness,” the platform says.

The platform includes an appeal for “all candidates to support the policy goals outlined below, and to appoint people who will advance these principles and stand up for internet users and those still struggling to get online.”  The groups sent the platform “to the chairs of both parties and to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.”  They noted that the Democratic and Republican parties are currently in the process of drafting their own policy priorities. Continue reading

FCC Technological Advisory Council (TAC) Investigating Changes to Radio Spectrum Noise Floor

The FCC Technological Advisory Council (TAC) is investigating changes to the radio spectrum noise floor.  The FCC has issued a Public Notice requesting input to various questions surrounding this topic.  Comments are due August 11.


FTC, Florida Target Robocalling Operation

The Federal Trade Commission and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R.) have brought a complaint against an illegal robocalling operation, and convinced a federal district court to stop the operation – Life Management Services of Orange County LLC – from making illegal robocalls and selling its services pending an upcoming hearing. The FTC and Florida AG allege that company and its affiliates have been utilizing illegal robocalls and other deceptive practices in an effort to sell consumers bogus credit-card interest rate reduction and debt relief services. Calls were made to hundreds of thousands of consumers in the United States, including consumers whose names are on the federal do-not call list. The complaint alleges that the illegal scheme tricked consumers out of more than $15.6 million since at least January 2013.

“This is the latest effort by the FTC and our international, state, and federal law enforcement partners to stop illegal robocalling operations that harass consumers day and night with unwanted calls,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. According to the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the agencies charge Life Management and its various affiliates with violating the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.  The agencies are seeking a permanent injunction to ban the companies from operating, as well as refunds for the affected consumers. – Carrie DeLeon,

Courtesy TRDaily