FCC Rejects IMSA Part 90 Waiver Request

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, and Office of Engineering and Technology have denied a request filed by the International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA) for a waiver of the agency’s section 90.203(j)(4)-(5) mandate that requires applications for type acceptance of part 90 land mobile radio equipment using the 150-174 megahertz and 450-512 MHz bands to have 6.25 kilohertz or equivalent capability (TR Daily Sep. 26, 2016).

The requirement took effect on Jan. 1, 2015. IMSA had asked that the mandate be delayed until at least Jan. 1, 2020.

“The Commission has stated repeatedly that the migration to 12.5 kilohertz operation was only a transitional step in the eventual migration to 6.25 kilohertz technology, and that it intends, if necessary, to establish a deadline for mandatory migration to 6.25 kilohertz technology,” said the order released today in PS docket 99-87. “We find that resuming the certification of PLMR equipment that is not capable of operating on 6.25 kilohertz channels or with equivalent efficiency would not serve the public interest. Such an action would increase the embedded base of equipment that is not 6.25 kilohertz-capable, and such equipment would eventually have to be replaced as part of the migration to 6.25 kilohertz technology, thus delaying the transition. We conclude, therefore, that delaying the 6.25 kilohertz capability requirement again would be contrary to the intent of the Commission in establishing the narrowbanding rules and would frustrate the purpose of the underlying rule.”

The order continued, “Moreover, we are not persuaded by IMSA’s specific arguments. That mandatory standards for 6.25 kilohertz technology still are not in place does not preclude continued implementation of the 6.25 kilohertz certification requirement. As the 2013 Order [denying a request to delay indefinitely the ban on approving PLMR equipment that isn’t capable of 6.25 kilohertz operation] explained, the Commission never suggested that it foresaw or would require adoption of a single mandatory 6.25 kilohertz standard.  Contrary to IMSA’s contention, the Commission’s elimination of the 6.25 kilohertz capability requirement for the 700 MHz band Public Safety band is not a predicate for eliminating or delaying the transition to 6.25 kilohertz technology in the bands below 512 MHz. The Commission decided that the transition to 6.25 kilohertz technology for the 700 MHz Public Safety channels was best placed in the hands of the RPCs [regional planning committees], which have superior knowledge of local spectrum requirements.

“No such consideration exists in the bands below 512 MHz, which, rather than being used by one class of users and administered regionally by a single RPC, are shared by multiple classes of users and coordinated by multiple entities. Similarly, anticipating the possible future conversion of the 700 MHz Public Safety band to broadband, the Commission elected not to impede such a conversion by mandating 6.25 kilohertz technology in the band. Here, too, IMSA has not convinced us that there is a parallel between the 700 MHz Public Safety channels, where the Commission expressly sought to leave RPCs with the option of considering broadband use, and channels in the bands below 512 MHz, where the Commission contemplates further narrowbanding,” the order added.

“Finally, we conclude that the record does not substantiate IMSA’s assertion that continued implementation of the 6.25 kilohertz capability requirement for PLMR equipment will significantly raise prices and reduce deployment,” it said. “In its waiver request IMSA did not quantify the requirement’s effect on equipment costs or deployment. It also did not demonstrate that continued implementation of the 6.25 kilohertz capability requirement would be inequitable, unduly burdensome, or contrary to the public interest in view of the unique or unusual factual circumstances of the instant case. The Public Notice specifically sought comment on the cost and other issues. The record includes some conflicting assertions, but there is no clear evidence supporting IMSA’s assertions. … Moreover, a waiver request generally is not the appropriate vehicle for seeking a substantial change in the rules applicable to all licensees in a particular service; this sort of fundamental change is the province of rulemaking.”

In response to the order released today, IMSA Executive Director Doug Aiken told TR Daily that “IMSA is disappointed that the Commission declined to grant the relief it sought, which would have kept the prices of radios used by some segments of the public safety community in check.  Our members and constituents — many of whom pay for their radio equipment out of their own pocket — may now need to pay more for narrowband radios, with no corresponding public benefit.  While IMSA remains committed to the Commission’s efforts to promote spectrum efficiency in general and narrowbanding in particular, our limited waiver request would not have slowed that process.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily