The first 800 megahertz band region along the U.S.-Mexico border has been rebanded, David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, told the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council today during a meeting via teleconference.
“That’s a good sign,” Mr. Furth said of Arizona. “We are making progress with respect to rebanding in California and Texas and New Mexico as well.”
He said that actions to clear channels in Mexico are expected to allow a number of California licensees to complete rebanding next month.
Mr. Furth also stressed the importance of the 4.9 gigahertz band being widely utilized, which he said that it hasn’t been so far. In March, Republican FCC Commissioners emphasized the potential benefit of repurposing the band for commercial purposes, or at least opening it up to additional usage, citing the fact that the spectrum has not been heavily used since the Commission made it available for public safety agencies in 2002 (TR Daily, March 22).
Their comments came as Commissioners unanimously adopted a sixth further notice of proposed rulemaking in WP docket 07-100 seeking views on ways to promote more intensive use of the 4940-4990 MHz band.
Mr. Furth noted that the FCC is exploring a number of options, including extending the band to non-public safety entities, including by redesignating it for commercial use.
“The reason that all these options are on the table is that the one option the Commission is not willing to consider is allowing underutilization of the band to continue,” he said.
Mr. Furth also said the FCC is likely to take action “in the next few months” to launch a proceeding that Congress has given it until September 2019 to complete regarding the consideration of rules to ensure that a dispatchable location is conveyed with 911 calls, including calls from multi-line telephone systems.
Also at today’s meeting, NPSTC approved a report on the use of drones for communications support.
Meanwhile, Kevin McGinnis, a member of the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) board, noted that AT&T, Inc., is signing up new subscribers for the network. “Be patient. Don’t sign up where’s there’s no coverage at this point,” he advised. “The coverage will come soon.”
Paul Patrick, interim chairman of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), said that in its first in-person meeting of the year next week in San Diego, the PSAC plans to discuss, among other things, the fact that Verizon Communications, Inc., continues to market its public safety broadband offering. Mr. Patrick also said that Todd Early, who represents the National Council of Statewide Interoperability Coordinators, and Brian Howard, who represents the National Congress of American Indians, have joined the PSAC executive committee.
Meanwhile, Jim Goldstein of the International Association of Fire Chiefs said efforts continue to get a Senate companion bill to House T-band legislation. Legislation (HR 5085) introduced by Rep. Elliot Engel (D., N.Y.) in February would repeal the provision (TR Daily, Feb. 27). The bill now has 15 cosponsors – 10 Democrats and five Republicans, Mr. Goldstein noted.
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 business/industrial entities in the spectrum. The T-band encompasses TV channels 14–20 (470–512 megahertz).
Mr. Goldstein noted that a Democratic senator on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has expressed interest in sponsoring a bill, but efforts are underway to find a Republican cosponsor. Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) is a possible Democratic sponsor, according to sources.
Mr. Goldstein also said that T-band legislation is of immense interest to non-public safety users of the spectrum, such as petroleum companies, universities, and hospitals. “This is an important issue for them because the law is silent on where do they go, who pays for them to move, and what happens if, in fact, an auction moves forward,” he noted. “So we’re moving forward. There’s a lot of discussion with Hill staff.”
Meanwhile, Don Root, chairman of NPSTC’s Spectrum Management Committee, welcomed fines levied by the FCC over energy-efficient lighting, which has caused interference to public safety operations. “We are just glad to see that the FCC is taking action,” he said.- Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org