August 12, 2016-Ligado Networks LLC has responded to the many concerns expressed about its petition for rulemaking asking the FCC to allocate and auction the 1675-1680 megahertz band for shared commercial use with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, saying that with the conditions sought by Ligado, NOAA activities will not be disrupted. The company also complained about mixed signals from NOAA about whether it would support sharing the spectrum. Ligado filed reply comments yesterday in Rulemaking 11681 in response to initial comments filed in June (TRDaily, June 22).
The petition drew opposition from public and private entities that rely on NOAA satellites to provide weather and other environmental data. Some parties said they oppose the allocation outright, while others said the FCC should not adopt it unless all users of NOAA data are protected or more study is conducted.
“Contrary to the clear statement in the President’s Budget over the past four years that the 1675-1680 MHz band should be shared with commercial uses, and the bipartisan support of Congress, the wireless industry, and public interest groups for the same policy goal, many comments submitted from those in the weather enterprise saw only problems with moving to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (‘NPRM’) to reallocate and auction the 1675-1680 MHz band,” Ligado said in its filing late yesterday. “The weather enterprise commenters urged the Commission to proceed with caution—ostensibly to allow time to study the issues presented by the possibility of sharing the spectrum—and to ensure that the operations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (‘NOAA’) are protected. They did not suggest that it could not or should not be done; they merely urged the Commission to engage in a deliberate process. Ligado, too, supports such a process and urges issuance of an NPRM as the next and appropriate step in that process.”
Ligado added that it “fully appreciates the importance of the vital weather information that NOAA provides to the Nation, and also acknowledges the weather enterprise, educational and research institutions, and other entities that depend on this necessary information to carry out their own important missions and to support others who similarly rely on weather-related data. Many of those who submitted comments expressed concerns that shared commercial use of the 1675-1680 MHz band could disrupt the 27,000 hydrology, seismic, and environmental sensors monitored by federal and state governmental agencies, could impair research and educational institutions that depend on NOAA data. Many also expressed concerns that an alternative distribution model for those non-NOAA users and the numerous organizations that derive information and services from those users is insufficiently reliable, robust, or cost-effective.
“What Ligado has learned and explains in detail below is that the four dozen or so commenters somehow have developed a fundamental misunderstanding of how NOAA collects and distributes weather data,” the filing added. “It is true that NOAA uses both uplink and downlink spectrum to collect and distribute data. But only very limited transmission of weather data occurs in the spectrum that is at issue in this proceeding, and these limited transmissions can be preserved through substantial protection zones and other license conditions.
“Because NOAA’s operations can be protected, Vice Admiral Manson Brown, deputy administrator for NOAA, told Doug Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Ligado, in a meeting in April 2016 that NOAA would be able to support moving forward with the auction of this spectrum as set forth in the President’s Budget, provided NOAA has enough time to be sure that the necessary steps are taken to protect NOAA’s mission,” Ligado said. “One of those steps is to explore whether those parties that use the data NOAA provides will still be able to access that data. That particular issue would be addressed by the creation and continued operation (by NOAA, the license winner, or an alternative suitable entity) of an alternative content delivery network (‘CDN’) to distribute the data.”
But the filing also said that “it was troubling that at an American Meteorological Service (‘AMS’) meeting in July 2016, Beau Backus, a representative of the Aerospace Corporation, appeared to speak for NOAA and told the assembled group that ‘NOAA does not recommend sharing of 1675-1680 MHz.’ It was equally troubling that NOAA staff earlier this year handed out a presentation, on NOAA letterhead, to Senate staff deliberately and explicitly arguing against any sharing of 1675-1680 MHz. Moreover, despite the clear commitment conveyed by Vice Admiral Brown to try to resolve any concerns with the President’s budgetary directive, NOAA staff has refused Ligado’s repeated attempts to discuss NOAA’s spectrum and engineering concerns and how the proposal described below can be improved to meet NOAA’s legitimate needs. While it has been difficult to identify and understand NOAA’s concerns without their cooperation, Ligado has nonetheless made progress due to open and frank dialogue with the American Meteorological Society and others in the weather enterprise.”
Ligado said it “has learned that a small number of real concerns exist—and practical, implementable solutions can resolve each concern if the Commission carefully crafts license conditions to impose on the licensee that protect NOAA’s mission and operations.”
Ligado said “that the NPRM should contain two proposed conditions on the license: First, NOAA’s earth stations should be protected as described in detail below. Second, NOAA’s data that is currently transmitted over this and adjacent bands to a very limited number of non-NOAA users should be made accessible to any and all users through the creation of a CDN. That CDN could be wholly paid for by the license winner or could remain fully within NOAA’s jurisdiction. … With these conditions, all of NOAA’s activity, whether related to data acquisition or data distribution, will continue without disruption—either because it is already wholly unaffected by activity in this channel, or because it will be fully protected by the licensee, or because it will be transitioned over time to a fully functioning alternative.” —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org