FCC Opposes En Banc Rehearing of EAS Ruling

The FCC said it opposed a motion seeking an en banc rehearing of a 2017 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit  that affirmed a 2016 FCC order that rejected a request by groups that petitioned the agency to mandate multilingual Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages (TR Daily, Oct. 17, 2017). “MMTC’s petition should be denied,” the FCC said in its brief in “Multicultural Media, Telecom, and Internet Council and the League of United Latin American Citizens v. FCC” (case 16-1222). “The panel correctly rejected an arbitrary and capricious challenge to an FCC decision to seek further information regarding state and local efforts to provide emergency alerts in languages other than English. Its decision raises no issues of exceptional importance, and does not conflict with any decision of this Court or the Supreme Court. Rehearing en banc is therefore unwarranted.”

Courtesy TRDaily


Parties Cite Successes, Challenges of 2017 Hurricane Season

A variety of parties have weighed in on the resiliency of communications infrastructure, the effectiveness of emergency communications, and the responses of the government and industry during the 2017 hurricane season. While some cited actions that helped response to the massive storms, they also suggested improvements, including changes to the FCC’s Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS) and closer coordination between industry and government stakeholders.

Comments were filed in PS docket 17-344 by yesterday’s deadline in response to a public notice released last month by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau soliciting views in the wake of the destruction inflicted by four hurricanes last year, including three Category 4 hurricanes – Harvey, Irma, and Maria – the first time in history that three Category 4 storms have hit the U.S. in the same season (TR Daily, Dec. 7, 2017).

Wireless services were hit hard, especially by Hurricane Maria. After Harvey, nearly 5% of cell sites were out service across the impacted area in Texas and elsewhere at the peak, and after Irma more than 27% of cell sites were knocked out in Florida and nearly 56% in Puerto Rico. Maria wreaked the worst destruction, with more than 95% of cell sites out in Puerto Rico and more than 76% offline in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But in its comments, CTIA said that Americans were able to rely on wireless services during the hurricanes. “The availability of mobile wireless networks was due, in large part, to the wireless industry’s application of lessons learned from past storms – most notably Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. Wireless providers have invested to strengthen networks, and with the storms approaching, they pre-positioned resources and put into operation the key elements of the 2016 Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework (‘Cooperative Framework’ or ‘Framework’),” CTIA said. “It proved effective in enhancing service continuity and information sharing during and immediately after these historic storms. And when cell sites went down, the Cooperative Framework helped wireless providers and their representatives on the ground restore service as quickly as possible and support the greater rebuilding efforts in impacted communities. In Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where extreme weather conditions and the near total destruction of the electric grid posed significant challenges across the board, the coordination and flexibility provided for in the Cooperative Framework helped wireless providers collaborate and develop innovative solutions to maintain and restore service.” Continue reading

AT&T Unveils FirstNet Logo

AT&T, Inc., today unveiled a brand logo for the network it is building for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). The logo includes three horizontal lines and says “FIRSTNET” and “Built with AT&T.”

“We’ll begin rolling out this new brand today. Whenever first responders see it, they can be confident that they are getting something just for them,” Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president-FirstNet, said in a blog posting. The logo will be used to market the FirstNet network, services, devices, and other products, AT&T said.

“Having a specialized brand and logo will help public safety identify the FirstNet solution and lifesaving technologies the network offers first responders across our nation,” FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth said in a separate blog posting. “We will continue to use our [current FirstNet] logo to represent the organization – our mission, our people, and our programs.” Continue reading

Need for Cyber Vulnerability Guidance in NIST Framework Debated

Commenters on the latest iteration of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity framework disagree on the extent to which the framework should encourage users to develop programs to receive or solicit information about cyber vulnerabilities. In comments filed Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggested that NIST was premature to include guidance on cybersecurity vulnerability disclosures (CVDs) in the framework draft issued in December.

The framework “conveys the sense that organizations should have programs to ‘receive, analyze, and respond to vulnerabilities disclosed to the organization from internal and external sources,’” the chamber noted. “However, there are multiple uncertainties (e.g., liability) and complications (e.g., expenses) tied to the structure and utility of CVD processes, and not all companies should be expected to have them,” the chamber said. Continue reading

Group Calls on All States to Ban Texting While Driving

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety called on nine states today to pass primary laws banning text messaging by all drivers. The group said in a report that four states (Arizona, Missouri, Montana, and Texas) have not yet adopted text messaging restrictions on all drivers, while five states (Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota) have adopted laws subject to secondary enforcement, which means drivers must be stopped for another offense. “In order to get people to pay attention while operating a vehicle and to adopt safer behaviors, education must be combined with strong laws and appropriate enforcement,” the organization said in an annual report on state highway safety laws. “This is the tried and true method to change behavior and improve safety.”

Courtesy TRDaily


Report Details Progress in NG-911 Implementation

A new report details progress that states are making in deploying next-generation 911 (NG-911) services. The report released by the National 911 Program shows that 22 states reported being in the installation and testing phase for NG-911 components for the 2017 National 911 Progress Report, compared with 18 states in the 2016 report and 11 states in the 2015 report. Also, 20 of 45 states said they had adopted a statewide NG-911 plan (the same as in the 2016 report), 20 said they had released a request for proposals (RFP) (one more than in the 2016 report), and 19 said they had awarded a contract (the same as the 2016 report).

In addition, among 25 states, there was an aggregate 623% increase in text-to-911 messages from the 2016 report to the 2017 report. The latest report also said that about 80% of consumers are using cellphones to make 911 calls. The 2017 report, which was prepared with support from the National Association of State 911 Administrators, reflects 2016 data.

Courtesy TRDaily





FCC to Remain Open If Congress Doesn’t Pass Funding CR

Because it has “available funding,” the FCC “plans to remain open and pay staff at least through the close of business on Friday, January 26” in the event that Congress fails to pass legislation to continue funding the government between now and then, Office of Media Relations Director Brian Hart said in a statement today.  The current continuing resolution (CR) under which federal government operations are being funded expires at the end of today.

The House passed a measure last night that would extend government funding through Feb. 16 and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, as well as authorizing Defense Department funding of “Missile Defeat and Defense Enhancements activities and extending certain health-care related tax provisions.  Negotiations were on-going in the Senate this afternoon, where the Republican majority needs support from Democrats, who want to see the issue of undocumented immigrant child-arrival “dreamers” resolved as part of the CR.

Courtesy TRDAily

Commerce Asks Judge to Dismiss Remaining FirstNet Suit Count

The Commerce Department today asked a federal district judge in Vermont to dismiss the remaining count in a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) lawsuit seeking First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) records. “For the above reasons, this Court should dismiss Count 18 for lack of jurisdiction because Plaintiffs do not have standing,” Commerce said in a supplemental brief filed in “Stephen Whitaker and David Gram v. Department of Commerce,” (case 5:17-cv-192). “In the alternative, if this Court finds that Plaintiffs have standing, this Court should grant summary judgment to DOC on the grounds that FirstNet’s collection of names of the Portal users (together with the name of their employing agency, their title, the email issued them by their employing agency and mobile phone number) for the purpose of creating their accounts for the Portal did not violate Section 208 of the E-Government Act.” Continue reading

Northern Mariana Islands Opt-in Gives FirstNet Sweep

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T, Inc., its network partner, celebrated an opt-in sweep today, with an announcement that the Northern Mariana Islands is the last state or territory to decide to have AT&T build its FirstNet radio access network (RAN). In all, 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia have opted in. “Today, Governor [Ralph Deleon Guerrero] Torres [R.] made history. With his decision to join FirstNet, we are proud to have every U.S. state and territory on the nationwide public safety broadband network,” said FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth. “Governor Torres’s decision will help enhance emergency communications across the territory’s rural and remote areas by bringing coverage and capacity to the islands. We look forward to continuing to work with public safety in the Northern Mariana Islands to help ensure that emergency first responders will have access to the most modern and innovative tools available today.”

“Opting in to FirstNet is a clear sign of Governor Torres’s commitment to public safety in the Northern Mariana Islands,” said Stephanie Tyler, president of AT&T Pacific Northwest. “First responders deserve the best possible communications platform and we’re honored to help deliver it for them.”

States and non-Pacific territories and D.C. opted into FirstNet by a Dec. 28 deadline (TR Daily, Jan. 2).

American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands had until March 12 to decide to opt in or not. On Jan. 4, Guam announced that it would opt in (TR Daily, Jan. 4), and American Samoa announced its opt in on Jan. 10 (TR Daily, Jan. 10).- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily


Drone Prize Challenge Offered by PSCR; Apply by Jan 29

PSCR’s Open Innovation team launched a new Prize Challenge for the Unmanned Aerial Systems or drones solver community.  The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Program of the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST) is conducting The Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight and Payload Challenge.  This design and engineering challenge is open to academia, solvers and developers across the country and will award cash prizes up to $320,000 to the Top challenge participants who build a cost-effective, hardware prototype of a UAS (unmanned aerial systems) that increases flight time and payload for public safety operations.

One of the barriers for UAS used in a public safety realm is payload versus flight time. Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAS provide many different mission capabilities, but their flight time is limited. The payload capacity, energy source and flight time are linked through design trade-offs that can be optimized for efficiency and flexibility. This challenge is designed to keep the UAS and its payload airborne for the longest time possible to support first responders’ communication technology on the ground while they conduct their search. The advancement of UAS research will help search and rescue operations support payloads for wireless communications or other life-saving goods to save lives.

Join this exciting UAS competition using your ingenuity and hardware design expertise to help America’s first responders! You’ll showcase your UAS and flight skills with paid travel to the NIST Robotics Lab and the 2018 PSCR Stakeholder conference, where you will demonstrate your prototype and network with 500+ attendees! NO entry fee! Go to  challenge.gov for details about “The Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight and Payload Challenge” and ENTER TODAY or by January 29, 2018.