Bill Would Replace T-Band Auction with 4.9 GHz Band Sale

A discussion draft circulated to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee would authorize the FCC to hold an incentive auction of the 4.9 gigahertz band and rescind the requirement that the FCC auction T-band frequencies. The measure has been circulated by staffers for committee Chairman Greg Walden (R., Ore.).

Under the draft Freeing Incumbents to Reuse Spectrum and To Regain Essential Spectrum for Public-safety Operators Needed to Deploy Equipment Reliably Act of 2018, or the FIRST RESPONDER Act of 2018, the FCC would have to commence the reverse incentive auction by Sept. 30, 2023, and the agency would have to complete it by Sept. 30, 2026. The auction would be canceled if the forward auction proceeds are not enough to pay reverse auction bidders and cover the costs of holding the auction.

In March, Republican FCC Commissioners emphasized the potential benefit of repurposing the 4940-4990 megahertz 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.

In February, Rep. Elliot Engel (D., N.Y.) introduced legislation (HR 5085) that would repeal a provision included in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that would require the T-band to be reauctioned by the FCC for commercial use (TR Daily, Feb. 27). The bill has 16 cosponsors. Advocates of the bill are looking for Senate sponsors of a companion bill.  Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) may agree to be a Democratic sponsor.

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. The T-band encompasses TV channels 14-20 (470-512 megahertz). Public safety agencies use the spectrum in 11 major markets.

A public safety official panned the discussion draft today, saying the measure “could solve one problem and create another problem for PS. Walden is saying that they cannot just repeal the T-Band as it has auction value but it was never scored by CBO as having value.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

O’Rielly Criticizes States on Net Neutrality Laws, 911 Fee Use

In a speech today before the Philadelphia Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society, FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly once again took states to task on 911 fee diversion and efforts to enact net neutrality protection.

 The FCC’s restoring Internet freedom order (TR Daily, Dec. 14, 2017), which took effect yesterday (TR Daily, June 11) “acknowledged an extremely limited state role in enforcing traditional police powers, any requirements akin to common carrier regulation are barred. Moreover, states may not adopt their own transparency requirements, whether labeled as such or under the guise of ‘consumer protection.’ In short, because the FCC order restored a light-touch approach through deregulation, any action by states to increase regulatory burdens on broadband providers would run directly counter to our efforts,” Commissioner O’Rielly said in the text of his remarks.

“Nonetheless, some states have been pursuing a range of net neutrality laws. And, the manner in which they are choosing to address the issue varies greatly across borders. Some are attempting to embed net neutrality into procurement law, which might only impact certain companies, while others are pursuing laws applicable to all broadband providers operating in the state. Furthermore, the scope of these efforts differs substantially. Some focus on the old ‘bright line’ rules of no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. Others throw in the general conduct standard as a catch all for policing conduct that someone in the state might find objectionable. Another goes so far as to address the interconnection of broadband networks,” he continued.

The Commissioner criticized these efforts as violating “the Commerce Clause, the Communications Act, and clear FCC preemption” as well as creating different rules in different states and thus imposing “even greater compliance costs and liability risk for providers, which will be passed onto consumers in one form or another.” Continue reading

CSRIC to Meet June 29

The FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council will meet June 29 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the FCC’s Washington headquarters.  Seating for the public will be limited, but the FCC will provide audio and/or video streaming.

House Panel to Mark Up SMART IoT Act

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s digital commerce and consumer protection subcommittee plans to mark up the SMART IoT Act (HR 6032) on Wednesday.  The bill, which was introduced by subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R., Ohio) and Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.), would direct the Commerce Department to produce a study on the state of the Internet of things (IoT) industry in the U.S. (TR Daily, May 22).  The markup is slated to begin at 11 a.m., or 15 minutes after the conclusion of the communications and technology subcommittee markup announced today (see separate note), in Room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Courtesy TRDaily

FCC Approves EAS-WEA Test in Missouri

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released an order today in PS dockets 15-91 and 15-94 granting a limited waiver to permit an Emergency Alert System (EAS)-wireless emergency alert (WEA) test to be conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol on July 17, with a backup date of July 19.

From FCC Daily Digest, June 6, 2018: Enforcement Advisory Issued on Selling Unauthorized Drones

The FCC issued an Enforcement Advisory dated June 5 noting the Bureau has observed a surge in websites advertising and selling drone Audio/Visual transmitters that are intentional radiators and are not authorized in accordance with the Commission’s rules.  Access the Enforcement Advisory at:  https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-581A1.pdf    The FCC also issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL)dated June 7 for a $2.8 million fine to Hobby King for marketing 65 models of non-compliant drone transmitters that operated in unauthorized frequency bands. See https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-351279A1.pdf

DRONE AUDIO/VIDEO TRANSMITTER ACCESSORIES MUST COMPLY WITH THE COMMISSION’S RULES TO BE MARKETED TO U.S. CUSTOMERS .

Advises retailers that because AV transmitters are intentional radiators, retailers may not advertise or sell them, and no one may use them, unless the FCC has approved such transmitters under its equipment authorization process. by Advisory. (DA No. 18-581). News Media Contact: .Will Wiquist at (202) 418-0509, email: Will.Wiquist@fcc.gov. EB. Contact: Jonathan Garvin at (202) 418-1130, email: Jonathan.Garvin@fcc.gov.. DA-18-581A1.doc DA-18-581A1.pdf DA-18-581A1.txt

FCC PROPOSES $2.8 MILLION FINE AGAINST HOBBYKING. by News Release. News Media Contact: Will Wiquist at (202) 418-0509, email: Will.Wiquist@fcc.gov. EB. DOC-351279A1.docx DOC-351279A1.pdf DOC-351279A1.txt

ABC FULFULLMENT SERVICES LLC D/B/A HOBBYKING USA LLC AND HOBBYKING.COM, AND INDUBITABLY, INC. D/B/A/ HOBBYKING CORP., HOBBYKING USA LLC, HOBBYKING AND HOBBYKING.COM .

Proposes a $2.8 million fine against HobbyKing for marketing noncompliant transmitters used to relay video from drones to amateur drone operators. The transmitters could apparently operate on unauthorized radio frequencies and power levels.. Action by: the Commission. Adopted: 2018-06-04 by NAL. (FCC No. 18-71). EB. Contact: Jonathan Garvin. FCC-18-71A1.doc FCC-18-71A1.pdf FCC-18-71A1.txt

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, June 7, 2018

Public Safety Advocate: PSCR, PSTA, and More

This year there was much discussion about Mission-Critical Push-To-Talk (MCPPT), direct-mode, and other types of mission-critical technologies. These sessions were well presented and many of the organizations being funding to work on MCPTT and direct-mode are universities that historically have been conducting great federal grant sponsored research on many different technologies. There were two things I wanted to hear about but did not hear: First, a realization that Mission-Critical PTT cannot qualify as mission-critical until it is running on a public safety-grade RF mission-critical network (which will take time for AT&T to complete). The second point is that none of the grants focus on using LMR for direct-mode instead of LTE.

The issue here is how you make direct-mode viable using LTE when the power level of the LTE devices is ¼ watt and the antennas (with few exceptions) are inside the case and sub-optimal. How can LTE devices be expected to provide the same level of direct PTT that is used daily by public safety with 5-watt LMR radios with external antennas? (While these antennas are external, most are still not equal to a unity gain antenna but they work well.) It bothers me that the PSCR and other entities are so focused on LTE being the be-all, end-all technology that they lose sight of the fact that public safety communications is about FirstNet AND LMR working together for many years to come.

I learned a long time ago to never say something could not be done, but I am a skeptic for sure when it comes to direct-mode over LTE. I would prefer to see more effort put into radios such as the Harris (not a client) XL series that includes LMR and FirstNet or Sonim’s (not a client) new expansion connector for use for LMR direct-mode. The technology is available and there are engineers who know how to make dual-mode radios. The issues are battery life, form factor, and functionality. The 4-band XL-200 from Harris I am carrying is really impressive and the user interface is the best I have seen on a portable product. Colors are used to be able to instantly see what talk group or band you are on, and the device is still only the size of a standard handheld. I am sure there will be more products such as these two coming to market and I have to wonder when the first LMR/LTE tablet for Incident Commanders will make its appearance in the marketplace.

I was pleased that PSCR is spending time on other important issues such as location services inside buildings, ways to map entire cities, and other technologies that will help both the public safety community in responding to incidents and the victims of the incidents. The Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining a lot of attention as well. I had an opportunity to talk with a number of the smart engineers who work at PSCR and discovered that more and more, PSCR is involving the vendor community working on similar technology advances. PSCR can learn from the vendors and the vendors can learn from PSCR folks.

My last comment about PSCR is that I wish it would not be so bullish on the timeframe for Mission-Critical PTT. It is excited about what it is doing but every month I receive calls from public safety agencies (as do others involved with FirstNet) asking if I can help them re-convince the mayor, city council, or board of supervisors that LMR will not go away anytime soon. Elected officials pick up ideas that LTE will soon replace LMR and that makes the public safety community’s job of keeping funding in place for their LMR systems that much tougher.

There is one state that conducted an internal audit on the need for both LMR and LTE before they committed to FirstNet and while they were wrestling with the costs of both systems. This was an internal report with no vendor or other input. The results clearly show that both LMR and LTE will need to co-exist for many years to come. The entire report can be found here. The public safety community needs to be more proactive in producing and distributing materials aimed at non-public safety elected officials explaining the reasons LMR and LTE will co-exist for many years to come. Once they understand this, and if the marketing and research organizations will tone down their rhetoric on LTE as the be-all, end-all for public safety, we can get back to the job at hand:

  • See that FirstNet is fully deployed
  • Convince more public safety agencies to sign up
  • Work on providing connectivity between LMR systems and FirstNet
  • Take PTT over FirstNet to a point where the different flavors of PTT being deployed are all compatible with each other

PSTA

This is a segue way into an important announcement made during PSCR. TJ Kennedy and a host of others have been working for months on forming a new alliance that is now known as the Public Safety Technology Alliance (PSTA). TJ and a panel of some of the participants in this new organization explained that this non-profit organization was carefully put together with vendor and public safety participation and will be advocating for public safety identifying testing and adopting open-standards equipment and applications. FirstNet the Authority has always maintained the stance that only open standard products and services would be permitted on FirstNet (built by AT&T).

The PSTA will not be a standards body but it will work with the standards once they are completed or as they are being developed. The goal of the PSTA is to assist the public safety community with making sure the solutions provided that meet the standards are open-source, and that they are common so they do not introduce any operability issues into FirstNet (built by AT&T). FirstNet was designed from day one to be a Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) where devices work regardless of where they are within or outside their own jurisdiction.

Some of the important issues already identified include:

  • Common mapping issues—It seems each dispatch system has a mapping system that is not compatible with others in the area or adjacent areas.
  • Mission-Critical PTT—Help ensure it becomes truly operable and does not create islands of PTT users who cannot communicate with other departments, thus negating the primary reason for FirstNet and return public safety to the era of incompatibility across departments.

TJ Kennedy, who came out of public safety and earned a reputation for being a true believer and friend of all of public safety as first the General Manager and later President of FirstNet, will be the CEO of this venture. One of his opening statements frames the goals of the organization: “Our goal is not to be a standards body, per se, but to help drive industry standards and compliance and to also ensure that public safety chooses standards, so that everyone—both in industry and public safety—knows what the standards are that are going to be followed.”

I believe this organization is important to the public safety community. FirstNet is the standard broadband pipe AT&T is building for public safety, but what runs on that pipe needs to be the same or at least operable between agencies. It won’t do any good if every agency is still using a different map format or different applications that are not compatible with each other. I see the PSTA acting as the go-between for approved standards, the development community, and the public safety community to ensure that not only is the FirstNet network nationwide and fully interoperable, but what runs over it is, too!

Winding Down

I enjoyed my few days at PSCR. On the whole, it is a needed entity and is doing a lot of great work. However, I think sometimes its members’ exuberance gets the best of them and ends up causing problems for public safety. PSCR is well funded, it is working with many smart companies and educational institutions, and it is doing important work. I am looking forward to next year’s event to see how far it and its partners have come in a year.

I met up with a lot of people I have known for the many years we have all been at this, and I met some new people who are there to carry on going forward. It is amazing how much has been done and listening to the FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson recap all the accomplishments made in a little more than a year between FirstNet the Authority and FirstNet (built by AT&T) was a great reminder of how quickly the dream from almost twenty years ago is coming together now that there is an organization and a network provider. Sue has done a great job over the years. I have had the pleasure of being a consultant to her during her various and challenging jobs over the years and have always respected her and her understanding of how to get things done and get them done correctly the first time. She will be missed but as she said, we are entering Chapter 2 of FirstNet and she will stay involved in public safety now that it is in her blood. I hope to work with her again wherever she ends up.

I also had an opportunity to meet with some startups I have been following for a number of years. One of these is Assured Wireless (not a client). It has a product that is very well designed and provides lots of functionality including Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Mesh, and Bluetooth, and is also a computing platform so it will run applications. It has been designed primarily to be mounted in public safety vehicles but in today’s world that also includes drones. The main reason I follow Assured Wireless is that its FirstNet radio is capable of operating in the high-power mode authorized by the FCC for band 14 which, instead of ¼ watt can go up to 1.25 watts adding more range and better data speeds, particularly in rural areas where there may be coverage issues using standard ¼-watt devices. The company has come a long way, the product is about to be launched, and it should become a popular addition to FirstNet (built by AT&T), especially in rural areas.

The Public Safety Advocate will be back on its regular weekly schedule starting next week—there are a lot of exciting things happening. As the network gains more users and as those who have been using different broadband networks realize the future for public safety broadband is FirstNet, I believe more and more agencies will sign up. FirstNet coverage is a priority for AT&T and it is putting significant resources into expanding coverage. Those who have not experienced FirstNet coverage because they are using some other network should at least give it a try and see how well it will serve their community.

Andrew M. Seybold
©2018 Andrew Seybold, Inc.

Continue reading

FirstNet Cites Benefits of Network in Action

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) officials today cited several examples of the system in action during the Boston Marathon in April, the Volvo Ocean Race in Rhode Island last month, and after damaging storms in Connecticut last month. During a keynote speech this morning at the Public Safety Communications Research program’s Public Safety Broadband Stakeholder Meeting in San Diego, FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth cited the three responses by AT&T, Inc., FirstNet’s network partner, according to the text of his remarks.

FirstNet also discussed the Connecticut response in a blog posting today. Meanwhile, the Oglala Sioux Police Department became the first tribal entity to sign up with FirstNet. “We’re very proud to lead U.S. tribal lands as a FirstNet early adopter. We have firsthand experience regarding the huge void that a lack of communication can mean during critical incidents,” said Oglala Sioux Chief of Police Robert Ecoffey. “Moving to FirstNet enhances our ability to respond to the serious needs across the reservation for the protection of life and property on behalf of tribal members and the public.” The tribe is based in South Dakota.

Courtesy TRDaily

 

O’Rielly: ‘Mixed Results’ Seen on 911 Fee Diversion

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said in a blog posting today that there have been “mixed results” from efforts to convince states to stop diverting 911 fees for other purposes or to urge them to report to the Commission whether they are or not. He said he has “visited some of the diverting states and wrote to those states and territories that did not respond to the Commission’s request for data. After such time, it seems appropriate to ask: have things improved? In reality, the effort to end 9-1-1 fee diversion has had mixed results.

Of the five self-reported diverting states and seven states and territories that did not respond to the Commission’s inquiry (for a total of twelve), two states remedied filing errors to clarify that they are not diverters, one state and one territory are in the process (one with firm commitments) of ending diversion within their borders, one state started exploring ways to stop the practice, and seven states and territories have not yet made progress on either providing the Commission with their state data or ending the despicable practice of stealing 9-1-1 fees for their own personal spending.”

Courtesy TRDaily