LMCC Seeks Modification of T-Band Freeze

The Land Mobile Communications Council has asked the FCC to modify its freeze on the acceptance and processing of T-band applications (TR Daily, April 26, 2012).

“Specifically, the LMCC requests that existing licensees be permitted to relocate or add sites on already licensed frequencies, even if the new or additional locations expand the existing contour of the frequency(s) in question, provided that both the existing and proposed site(s) are within the 80 km/50-mile radius of the defined T-band market,” the organization said in a filing with the Commission.

“It also asks that licensees be permitted to exchange frequencies on a 1:1 basis and add frequencies through assignment or the coordination process, without being limited to any existing contour(s). Finally, the LMCC urges the Commission to grant T-band license modification applications that were pending when the freeze was established,” the filing added.

LMCC said that it “does not believe that the modifications proposed will destabilize the spectrum environment pending Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) action implementing Section 6103 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. They will have the public interest benefit of allowing incumbent Public Safety and Industrial/Business (I/B) licensees to effect certain currently prohibited modifications of their radio systems to better serve their public safety and business requirements, while also reducing the number of waiver requests that the bureaus must consider.”

LMCC said the T-band freeze was “highly restrictive, imposing unnecessary burdens on both incumbent licensees and on the FCC. In some cases, licensees are prevented from moving stations or frequencies to sites needed to address coverage requirements, because doing so would expand an existing contour. In other instances, licensees request waivers of the freeze that the bureaus need to process. The LMCC appreciates that both bureaus have been responsive to waiver requests that are consistent with Rule Section 1.925 and that could not reasonably be viewed as altering the spectrum landscape, but the waiver process is an inefficient, sometimes slow, and always costly way to address these issues.

“For example, FCC and licensee resources should not be expended on a waiver needed to correct a ground elevation by 6 meters, which correction results in a very minor expansion of the licensed contour, although not of the actual operating contour, since the licensed information was always erroneous,” LMCC said. “And waivers do not address the fundamental fact that T-band systems, like other PLMR systems, occasionally require changes in their parameters that do not conform to the very restrictive T-band freeze limitations.”

In a news release issued today, LMCC President David Smith said, “Incumbent licensees within the T-band market area have been prohibited from making even the most modest adjustments to their licenses for six years, unless through a costly and uncertain waiver process. The LMCC calls upon the Commission to modify the freeze on license modification to allow these licensees an opportunity to effectuate business growth by having the ability to increase or better their coverage and capacity requirements.”

In the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, Congress required the FCC to reallocate and auction public safety spectrum in the T-band by 2021 and relocate incumbents by 2023. Proceeds from the auction can be used to cover the relocation costs of public safety licensees, but not the costs of business/industrial entities in the spectrum. The T-band encompasses TV channels 14–20 (470–512 megahertz).

The Government Wireless Technology & Communications Association expressed support for the LMCC’s request.

“In five weeks, the FCC’s freeze will have been in effect for six (6) years. GWTCA appreciates the FCC’s original intent in implementing the freeze, which was to enable the Commission to determine how to proceed under the provisions of Section 6103 of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. However, in the six years since implementation of the freeze, the Commission has taken no action whatsoever to resolve the issue, or provide a path for T-band licensees,” GWTCA said. “While T-band licensees (and perhaps the Commission) hope that Section 6103 of the act is repealed, the reality is that the law exists today, and consideration of its impact on T-band licensees, and public safety in particular, should not be delayed while parallel action to repeal the law is taking place in Congress.”

GWTCA added that it “agrees with the statements of LMCC with regard to the impact of the freeze. Further, LMCC’s position that the partial lifting of the freeze will have no impact on the FCC’s relocation task is spot on. Six years of limbo has hamstrung T-band licensees who have been unable to upgrade their systems to current technology nor adapt to changed areas of service necessitated by population changes. The impact on T-band licensees (particularly in Southern California, which continues to suffer from the interminable 800 MHz rebanding freeze) is immeasurable.  However, it is perfectly within the Commission’s power to take this limited step, which will serve to alleviate at least a portion of the suffering imposed by ill-conceived legislation.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com