NTIA Releases Alternative FirstNet Plan NOFO

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration today released a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the State Alternative Plan Program (SAPP). States and territories could seek funds if they decide to opt out of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system and build their own radio access networks (RANs).

“If a state wants to assume responsibility for the construction, operation, maintenance, and improvement of its Radio Access Network (RAN) to interoperate with Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), and has received approval of its alternative plan from the FCC, the state must apply to NTIA for the authority to enter into a spectrum manager lease from FirstNet. The state may also apply for RAN construction grant funding,” NTIA noted.

“The SAPP NOFO lays out the application requirements necessary to meet five key statutory demonstrations focused on ongoing interoperability, financial stability, technical compliance, and comparable security, coverage, quality of service, and timelines. Taken together, the demonstrations will establish whether a state is prepared to provide public safety with interoperable and reliable broadband service over time consistent with the rest of the NPSBN,” NTIA added.

“Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov and must be received by the www.grants.gov online system no later than 90 calendar days after a state receives formal approval of its alternative state plan from the FCC,” NTIA said. “NTIA will accept grant applications on an ongoing basis after the FCC’s approval date and continue to monitor submissions in grants.gov to ensure adherence to this 90-calendar day application window.” Continue reading

APCO Stresses Importance of NG-911 Deployment

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International today stressed the importance of implementing next-generation 911 (NG-911) services. In a blog posting noting that Feb. 16, 2018, will mark the 50th anniversary of the first 911 call, APCO President Martha Carter said “that the 50th anniversary should also be a call to action.  We need to modernize our 9-1-1 systems, and prepare 9-1-1 professionals to meet the challenges of these new technologies.  The gulf between the current status of 9-1-1, and today’s state-of-the art commercially available communications, is so vast that it requires action by Congress to provide the funding needed to close this gap.”

Courtesy TRDaily

FirstNet FoIA Plaintiffs Ask Court to Reject Government Motion

Plaintiffs in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) documents asked a U.S. District Court judge in Vermont today to reject a request by the Justice Department on behalf of the Commerce Department that the court dismiss six counts in the FoIA lawsuit and grant summary judgment on 12 other counts (TR Daily, Nov. 15).

The suit (“Stephen Whitaker and David Gram v. Department of Commerce,” case 5:17-cv-192) was filed in the U.S. District Court in Vermont last month by Stephen Whitaker, a Vermont resident and government accountability advocate, and David Gram, a former Associated Press reporter who now works for “VTDigger,” a non-profit web-based publication that is a project of the Vermont Journalism Trust (TR Daily, Oct. 6). It seeks status as a class action on behalf of everyone who has filed a FoIA request since 2012 but saw it rejected on the grounds that FirstNet is not subject to FoIA.

In a filing today, the plaintiffs said they “sought expedited summary judgment of two counts — Counts 16 and 17 — so that the Court could quickly and efficiently dispense with the most significant arguments in this case in light of the rapidly approaching deadlines facing Plaintiffs for which the requested information is needed. Instead of confining its brief to those two discrete issues, however, DOC seeks to muddy the waters by seeking dismissal or summary disposition of all of the eighteen counts. … Notwithstanding DOC’s attempt to burden this Court with a significant amount of labor in a transparent attempt to delay its resolution of the questions of greatest importance, Plaintiffs nonetheless remain confident that the law and the facts support resolution of both motions in their favor.” Continue reading

USF Rural Health Care, Cable Notice Items Round Out Tentative Agenda

In addition to the draft Internet freedom order, draft “twilight” towers public notice, and draft notice of proposed rulemaking on the national TV ownership cap previewed last week (TR Daily, Nov. 21) and other items of particular interest to wireless entities (see separate story), FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is also planning to ask his fellow Commissioners to vote on a draft notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and order to address increased demand for the Rural Health Care (RHC) portion of the Universal Service Fund and a draft notice of proposed rulemaking to allow cable system operators to make certain communications with subscribers by e-mail rather than on paper.

The draft RHC NPRM in Wireline Competition docket 17-310 would propose raising the RHC program’s $400 million annual cap and creating a prioritization mechanism in the event that demand exceeds the cap, according to a fact sheet issued by the FCC.

“For the second funding year (FY) in a row, demand for RHC Program support is anticipated to exceed available program funding, leaving healthcare providers to potentially pay more for service than expected.  Unfortunately, part of that growth is due to an increase in waste, fraud, and abuse in the RHC Program,” the text of the draft item says. Continue reading

NBC News Reports: Drones are Fighting Wildfires in Surprising Ways

Wildfires in the U.S. were brutal last summer, scorching more than 8.8 million acres and cloaking the Pacific Northwest in smoke and ash. In California alone, more than 40 people died and 8,400 buildings were destroyed in the deadliest wildfires in the state’s history.

Things may only get worse in years to come. Climate change is lengthening fire seasons and triggering more and larger blazes.

But aerial drones may help save the day.

From tiny quadcopters to big fixed-wing aircraft, drones are showing that they can detect, contain and even extinguish fires faster and with greater safety. They give firefighters a bird’s-eye view of the terrain and help them determine where a fire will spread — so they can make swift decisions about where fire crews should go and which residents need to be evacuated.

Safer and more versatile

Drones have key advantages over conventional aircraft.

For one thing, the airplanes and helicopters used to survey wildfires and drop retardant can’t fly in poor conditions — and they’re often in short supply. “The sheer cost of operating, maintaining, and training is huge, so we run out of aircraft real quick,” says Chad Runyan, acting manager of the U.S. Forest Service’s unmanned aircraft systems program.

And flying over raging fires puts pilots and crew at risk. Plane and helicopter crashes accounted for 24 percent of wildland firefighter deaths between 2006 and 2016, according to the Forest Service.

Drones can be equipped with infrared cameras that peer through smoke, as well as sensors for wind direction and other weather variables that affect how wildfires spread. They can whiz through canyons and other cramped spaces where helicopters can’t fly and glide low enough to capture high-resolution footage.

And if a fire starts to close in on a crew, drones can identify a quick escape route. “If we have a group of firefighters trapped we can easily send three or four drones up there,” Runyan says.

Read complete story here:


Mission Critical Reports: NPSTC Says FirstNet Should Move Up First Responder Location to 2019

By Sandra Wendelken, Editor, Friday, November 17, 2017 | Comments

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) said in a position paper the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) should step up its timeline for implementing location-based services to track first responders. NPSTC said first responder tracking should be implemented by June 2019, but FirstNet officials said they would provide enhanced location

FirstNet’s request for proposals (RFP) documents required enhanced location four years after contract award, which would be March 2021. Initial state plans noted that enhanced location would be available five years after contract award or March 2022, NPSTC said.

“During recent Congressional testimony, both FirstNet and AT&T stated their intention to provide enhanced location at some point in 2020,” the paper said. “FirstNet’s board has also indicated a preference for enhanced location services to be implemented by 2019.”

FirstNet board members declined to comment.

“We want to get this technology out in the field ahead of schedule but only after it has been tested and proven to work as promised for public safety,” said a FirstNet spokesperson. “As an advocate for public safety and administrator of the network contract, FirstNet’s role is to ensure that location-based technology is available to public safety as soon as possible, but first we have to make sure these solutions meet public safety’s needs and expectations for location-based services.”

The FCC does not require carriers to locate first responders, only the locations of 9-1-1 callers to public-safety answering points (PSAPs).

“The ability of FirstNet to incorporate location technology to field responders into its network is of critical importance to first responder safety,” NPSTC said. “This includes the ability to locate first responders in both outdoor and indoor environments.”

NPSTC said it would to assist FirstNet, including through its Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), in its efforts to develop responder-tracking technologies.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) expressed support NPSTC’s position statement. “Tracking the precise location of emergency responders in both outdoor and indoor environments through FirstNet is of critical importance to first responder safety,” said Gary McCarraher, fire chief in Franklin, Massachusetts, and chair of the IAFC’s Communications Committee. “While we recognize the difficulty facing carriers to develop effective location technology — especially inside multistory buildings — the IAFC strongly agrees with FirstNet and NPSTC that enhanced location services are critically important to the safety of firefighters, EMS personnel and police officers and calls on FirstNet and AT&T to meet the June 2019 timeline.”


Emergency Physicians Monthly Reports: How One Las Vegas ED Saved Hundreds of Lives After the Worst Mass Shooting in U.S. History


The night that Stephen Paddock opened fire on thousands of people at a Las Vegas country music concert, nearby Sunrise Hospital received more than 200 penetrating gunshot wound victims. Dr. Kevin Menes was the attending in charge of the ED that night, and thanks to his experience supporting a local SWAT team, he’d thought ahead about how he might mobilize his department in the event of a mass casualty incident.

I’m a night shift doc. My work week is Friday to Monday, 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Most people don’t want to work those shifts. But that’s when most of the action comes in, so that’s when I work. It was a Sunday night when the EMS telemetry call came in to alert Sunrise Hospital of a mass casualty incident. All hospitals in Las Vegas are notified in a MCI to prepare for incoming patients.

As I listened to the tele, there happened to be a police officer who was there for an unrelated incident. I saw him looking at his radio. I asked him, “Hey. Is this real?” and he said, “Yeah, man.” I ran down to my car and grabbed my police radio. The first thing that I heard when I turned it on to the area command was officers yelling, “Automatic fire…country music concert.” Ten o’clock at night at an open air concert, automatic fire into 10-20 thousand people or more in an open field—that’s a lot of people who could get hurt.

At that point, I put into action a plan that I had thought of beforehand. It might sound odd, but I had thought about these problems well ahead of time because of the way I always approached resuscitations:

  1. Preplan ahead
  2. Ask hard questions
  3. Figure out solutions
  4. Mentally rehearse plans so that when the problem arrives, you don’t have to jump over a mental hurdle since the solution is already worked out.

Read complete amazing article here: http://epmonthly.com/article/not-heroes-wear-capes-one-las-vegas-ed-saved-hundreds-lives-worst-mass-shooting-u-s-history

Microsoft Touts Use of TVWS in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

Microsoft Corp. today touted the benefits of TV white spaces technology it has deployed to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help their residents stay connected. In a blog posting today, Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s general manager-technology and corporate responsibility, said, “In partnership with NetHope, government agencies, local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and local TV broadcasters, we have deployed TV White Space (TVWS) technology from our Airband initiative to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

TVWS are unused blocks of broadcast spectrum located between the frequencies assigned to television stations. It creates wireless broadband connections over great distances and in rugged terrain, with no line of sight. In Utuado, TVWS has been used to reestablish internet connectivity to a food distribution site, a health clinic and the University of Puerto Rico. These sites also serve as internet hotspots where people in the community can come and connect with their family and friends. … In addition to Utuado, we have TVWS sites up and running in Humacao, Puerto Rico; and in the U.S. Virgin Islands in St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. And, TVWS will soon be working in Barranquitas and San Lorenzo in Puerto Rico.”

Courtesy TRDaily

Sprint, Indiana Reach 800 MHz Band Settlement

Sprint Corp. and the state of Indiana have reached a settlement in an 800 megahertz rebanding dispute that had been referred to an FCC administrative law judge, the parties told FCC Chief ALJ Richard Sippel in a Friday filing in WT docket 02-55 (TR Daily, Oct. 19). “The parties currently are in the process of documenting this comprehensive settlement and anticipate as soon as Indiana has made the specified settlement payment to Sprint by no later than the end of the calendar year, if not before, that the parties will ask the Commission to dismiss the Hearing Designation Order with prejudice,” the filing said. “The comprehensive settlement will include mutual releases by the parties and will eliminate the need for any Commission hearing or other further review of any aspect of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s May 24, 2017 Order in this matter.”

Sprint and Indiana asked the judge to postpone commencement of pre-hearing procedures. “The parties request a reasonable amount of time, of not more than a month, to document their agreed upon settlement and to file for dismissal of the matter with prejudice,” the filed added.

Courtesy TRDaily


FCC Hears Conflicting Views About Rules for MLTS’ 911 Obligations

The FCC is receiving conflicting advice about whether it should require enterprise communications systems (ECS) to handle 911 calls the same way as most other telecom systems by routing emergency call to the nearest public safety answering point and including information about where the call originated. Public safety organizations are urging the Commission to take steps to ensure that ECS, which are used by businesses, hotels, universities, and other entities, provide all of the functions callers expect when dialing 911.

Carriers, business groups, and equipment makers, on the other hand, cautioned that the FCC should proceed carefully given the complexity of ECS and its various configurations, the expense involved for ECS operators to activate emergency calling functions, and the Commission’s uncertain jurisdiction over the issue.

“Put simply, the Commission does not have authority to regulate ECS operators nor does it have subject matter expertise in workplace safety issues to adopt specific 911 transmission requirements for enterprise systems,” the Ad Hoc Telecommunications Users Committee, which represents large enterprises, said in PS docket 17-239.

The FCC issued a notice of inquiry (NOI) in the docket in late September to explore the issue of ECS emergency calling (TR Daily, Sept. 26).  The Commission has moved in recent years to extend 911 obligations to new types of wireless and wireline telecom systems, and ECS, users of which sometimes must dial extra digits for an outside line, remains an area of concern. Continue reading