AT&T made a number of announcements today. FirstNet Assist is an app available later this year to allow extended primary users to request priority uplift during an incident. FirstNet Single-Sign-On will allow a user to logon with credentials once and have those credentials transferred to other apps on the device. The other apps do need to be modified with a software development kit (SDK) for that to work, and no apps presently have done that. But there are now about 60 apps in the FirstNet App Catalog and others in the pipeline. There’s also an API in the development ecosystem which will allow apps to modify their own priority under certain circumstances. I don’t have a lot more detail on these functions/features yet, but wanted you to know they have been announced.
Providers of VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) service are urging the FCC to clarify what services qualify as interconnected VoIP services and to clarify the extent of its preemption of state and local 911 charges for VoIP service that are greater than 911 charges for similar telecom services, and to do so in ways that will ease the onslaught of lawsuits they are facing from local and state agencies arguing that they are underpaying 911 fees.
Parties were responding in WC docket 19-44 to conflicting petitions for declaratory ruling filed in January by BellSouth Telecommunications LLC and several of the Alabama 911 districts asking the Commission to issue a declaratory ruling responding to a primary jurisdiction referral from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. “The District Court’s referral arises from a dispute between the parties regarding BellSouth’s billing of 911 charges for its business telephone service and the Alabama 911 Districts’ position that such service qualifies as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or similar service pursuant to Alabama’s 911 statute,” the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau had noted in inviting comments (TR Daily, Feb. 26).
NCTA said that it “agrees with BellSouth and urges the Commission to declare that state and local governments are preempted by federal law from collecting 911 charges for VoIP services that, in total, exceed the 911 charges applicable to comparable telecommunications services.” Continue reading
Return of FirstNet Authority and More. Sounds like a strange title until you realize that once the contract was awarded to AT&T to build and maintain the network, those in the field deploying the FirstNet network kept up the pace while the organization’s management seemed to disappear into obscurity. However, at the FirstNet Authority board of directors’ meetings last week, the acting CEO and the board developed a plan to move forward proactively in many new and positive ways.
Ed Parkinson, acting CEO and long-time public safety supporter, has done a great job putting together this plan and the board has responded in a positive way. There have been several times when the FirstNet Authority has been slowed by circumstances not under its control. The first incidence, in late 2013, slowed progress by almost a full year. In the latest case, there was not a CEO or President to drive it forward and the board of directors was short a few members. Now we have a full board and, from what I have seen, an acting CEO with a vision of where The FirstNet Authority needs to go, how to help continue building out the network, and identifying additional pieces and parts that make sense.
Instead of The FirstNet Authority management simply watching over the contract vendor, the new plan is to include the public safety community as more of a partner in this private/public partnership. Edward Horowitz, chairman of the FirstNet board, is quoted as saying at the meeting, “As we strive to fully realize the promise of FirstNet, we are engaging with public safety to chart a path forward for the network. Using their feedback, our Roadmap will advance the network and guide our investments over the next several years and beyond.” Read the Entire Column Here . Continue reading
Drive Tests, IWCE, and Palmyra Atoll. After a two-week interruption in my scheduled Advocates, this one will hopefully serve to get back on schedule and to convey what we have been doing and why. First up is that Michael Britt and I drove to a number of areas in southern Arizona, then into California, and finally to Las Vegas and back to Phoenix. We were drive testing using the Sierra Wireless MG90 installed in my car to measure FirstNet and Verizon coverage along this route. The results and some of the maps that were generated are discussed below. Next came the IWCE Conference, once again well done. This year we decided to begin offering our “best of show” selections, also listed below.
One day after returning home, Linda and I left for Hawaii, where she stayed in Honolulu for the week I flew down to the Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles and worlds away from Hawaii. This Atoll was used during WWII as a gun emplacement but is now jointly owned by the federal government and a non-profit preservation organization. The Atoll is being returned to its original state, which means eradicating thousands of coconut palm trees and other non-indigenous foliage. Our task is to review and recommend replacement of their older communications systems with a new Atoll-wide Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system, new marine and aviation radio equipment, some newer radar, and other items.
While the Palmyra Atoll is an unincorporated U.S. Territory, FirstNet will not build there. The average population on the island is about eight people, swelling to twenty-four, and falling to as low as four, depending on the time of year. I took my Sonim XP8 since I was told the Atoll is not gentle with electronics because of the rain (144 inches a year) and very high humidity. While there is no cell coverage on the Atoll, there is some WiFi and an older satellite service. Using ESChat PTT (Push-To-Talk), I was able to communicate with several people on the mainland. The XP8 came through the test of the weather and humidity perfectly. Planning a new communications system will be a real challenge but rewarding.
Many of our wireless sales and service member organizations are lamenting the fact that manufacturers from Asia are selling radio devices that are not only exceedingly inexpensive, but come equipped with instructions on how to tune the portable radios to potentially hundreds of channels ranging from 136-174 MHz and 400-512 MHz without regard to eligibility requirements. EWA’s research reveals that none of the products manufactured by Quanzhou TYT Electronics or Fujian Nanan QuanSheng Electronics are type-accepted for use under Part 90 of the FCC’s Rules.
Read entire article at EWA: https://www.enterprisewireless.org/blogs/if-radio-appears-smelly-or-smoke
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division launched a new prize challenge on March 18, the Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge! Up to $425,000 will be awarded to winning teams that create haptic interface prototypes that could improve public safety operations.
The public safety community needs access to critical information such as indoor maps, location, and routing, all presented in an intuitive, safe, and non-invasive manner during emergency and training scenarios. A haptic interface integrated into a first responder’s personal protective equipment (PPE) could assist the user in performing tasks such as monitoring patient vitals, navigating complex spaces with limited visibility, or maintaining situational awareness.
This challenge consists of multiple phases with contestants developing three haptic interface prototypes for use in PSCR provided virtual scenarios and a final haptic interface prototype embedded in firefighter PPE for testing at a real-world firefighter navigation course. PSCR will assess the efficiency, effectiveness, and level of user satisfaction of the haptic interface prototypes and their ability to assist first responders in conducting their tasks. Contestants will also have the opportunity to demo their initial prototypes with first responders at PSCR’s 2019 Stakeholder meeting in Chicago, IL.
For more information, please visit: www.publicsafetyhaptics.com. Thanks for sharing with your networks, and please reach out if you have any questions about the challenge or suggestions on how to spread the word about the challenge. All interested contestants must submit their concept paper on Challenge.gov by April 22.
The private sector is lagging far behind the federal government on implementation of a key cybersecurity practice that impedes hackers from using e-mail systems to launch attacks, according to the 2019 annual report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “The federal government is more prepared than the private sector to protect against phishing attacks, which are a primary method for hackers to gain access to enterprises,” said the report, which was issued yesterday.
A binding operational directive issued by the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 required federal agencies to adopt domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC) systems that would instruct Internet service providers to block unauthenticated e-mails, the report noted. DHS says that a large number of civilian federal government agencies met a 2018 deadline to deploy DMARC (TR Daily, Oct. 16, 2018).
“Government agencies’ use of the DMARC e-mail configuration is 47.9%, which is better than the average of 26% in the private sector,” the CEA report said. “Though adoption of DMARC is only one of many indicators of cyber hygiene . . . these results nonetheless suggest that federal cyber best practices could set an example for the private sector.”
The report indicated that “incomplete incentives” could be contributing to the private sector’s lack of cyber hygiene. “Evidence on the lack of many basic cybersecurity practices among the most profitable companies in the U.S. economy suggests that a lack of information awareness and a lack of resources are unlikely to be the primary culprits behind existing vulnerabilities,” it said.
It noted, among other things, that a comprehensive and flexible cybersecurity framework produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology had been available to businesses since 2014 and that sector-specific cyber threat information-sharing mechanisms had grown more robust in recent years, but that many companies did not participate.
“The degree of competition in the marketplace is an important moderating factor that determines whether a firm participates. In particular, unless firms in an industry understand the downside associated with their vulnerability to cyber attacks, they may not realize the gains that can come from collaboration through information-sharing,” the report said.
“Information-sharing and dissemination of best practices must remain a priority, particularly for small businesses that are more likely to lack the resources or infrastructure to search out and implement best practices. In particular, information needs to be publicly available, transparent, and shared to disseminate best practices and call attention to dangerous practices,” it added.
“The prevalence of cyber threats suggests that firms are relatively unprepared to protect themselves,” the report said, citing several academic studies. “In 2017 nearly three-quarters of organizations based in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands failed basic cyber readiness tests.”
“Even though the United States ranks higher than most countries in cyber readiness, its preparedness is still poor enough to concern policy-makers studying the impact of cyber insecurity on the U.S. economy,” it said. “Data show that the majority of Fortune 500 companies are vulnerable to cyber attacks, and thus fail to take even the most basic security measures.”
“Given the limited preparedness among Fortune 500 companies — manifested by not only the failure to adopt DMARC, but also a range of other cyber vulnerabilities . . . an additional concern is that smaller firms may have even less robust cybersecurity measures in place,” the report said. — Tom Leithauser, email@example.com
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board today approved principles for reinvesting in the nationwide public safety broadband network being built by AT&T, Inc., and officials detailed plans to develop a road map to ensure continued enhancement of the system, including through the FirstNet investments. Also today, FirstNet signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) committing to collaborate on innovations dealing with rural emergency medical care and response and mobile broadband used by rural first responders in the state and nationwide.
“This is the only nationwide broadband network that public safety has a voice in. From the earliest consultation days through the launch of the network, public safety has been and will continue to be at the center of everything we do,” FirstNet Board Chairman Edward Horowitz said in a news release. “As we strive to fully realize the promise of FirstNet, we are engaging with public safety to chart a path forward for the network. Using their feedback, our Roadmap will advance the network and guide our investments over the next several years and beyond.”
At a joint meeting of the board and its four committees today in Jackson, Miss., the board adopted a resolution stating the investment principles. It says that investments must (1) “[b]e derived from and benefit public safety”; (2) “maintain and advance the foundation of the Network”; (3) “[c]onsider a balanced approach and provide value to public safety”; and (4) “[b]e fiscally responsible and reflect strong financial management[.]”
A slide used at today’s meeting said the first principle stresses that FirstNet “investments must clearly be informed by public safety and support our strategic objectives and Roadmap domains. We will directly engage public safety to capture their priorities, inputs and data to inform future improvements to the Network[.]”
Federal agency board members proposed and advanced these principles, said Robert (Tip) Osterthaler, chairman of the Finance Committee. “The purpose of these is to inform and guide investment decision-making,” he said. “It’s a great addition to the governance process.”
Ron Hewitt, assistant director-emergency communications for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who represents DHS on the FirstNet board, said the investment principles will help ensure that the board meets its fiduciary duties.
Acting FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Ed Parkinson said that following the FirstNet board’s next meeting in June, FirstNet executives will bring investment ideas to the board. He stressed that FirstNet will consider input from the public safety community.
An earlier FirstNet road map focused on the issuance of a request for proposals (RFP) and an award of a contract to construct the nationwide public safety network. The new road map “will guide advancement of the Network by depicting a 2-to-5-year view of public safety operational needs, technology trends, and actionable opportunities,” according to a slide used at today’s meeting.
“To develop the Roadmap, the FirstNet Authority is engaging with the public safety community in various forums to capture their feedback on how broadband technology can serve their operational needs,” a news release said. “The Roadmap will incorporate industry trends through market research and outreach to the private sector, academia, and industry associations. This work will also enhance industry’s understanding of public safety’s communications needs. The FirstNet Authority will refresh the Roadmap to ensure it continuously accounts for public safety’s operational needs and industry trends.”
When FirstNet engages in discussions with first responders at forums and meetings or one-on-one, it will discuss these five topics: coverage and capacity, situational awareness, voice communications, secure information exchange, and user experience, according to David Buchanan, FirstNet’s executive director-public safety advocacy, and Jeremy Zollo, FirstNet’s director-Enterprise Strategy Division.
As the road map is developed, “public safety will continue to be in the driver’s seat,” said Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s chief technology and operations officer. The road map is designed to implement the FirstNet 2.0 strategic plan governing its actions through 2022. Continue reading
The FCC adopted a fourth further notice of proposed rulemaking today proposing a Z-axis, or vertical, location accuracy metric for wireless 911 calls. Commissioners took the action over the dissent of Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who said the item didn’t go far enough in assuring that first responders would be able to locate 911 callers.
The item in PS docket 07-114 proposes a Z-axis metric “of plus or minus three meters relative to the handset for 80% of indoor wireless 911 calls,” the agency noted in a news release. “The Commission tentatively concluded that such a location accuracy metric — within three meters above or below the phone — would be sufficiently accurate to identify the caller’s floor level in most cases and would be technically feasible under the timeframes established in the Commission’s Enhanced 911 rules.” Carriers would have to meet that metric or be capable of enabling dispatchable location.
National carriers would have to achieve the five-meter metric by 2021 in the top 25 cellular market areas (CMAs) and by 2023 in the largest 50 CMAs. Non-nationwide carriers would have an extra year to meet benchmarks.
Last year, national wireless carriers recommended a z-axis metric of plus or minus five meters (TR Daily, Aug. 7, 2018). The carriers were required to submit a recommendation pursuant to a 911 location accuracy order adopted in 2015 (TR Daily, Jan. 29, 2015).
But public safety entities said the industry proposal fell short and favored a more precise z-axis metric of at least plus or minus three meters.
“I don’t think this is ambitious enough,” Commissioner Rosenworcel said of the three-meter metric. “In the years since this framework was put in place, technology has evolved. It has improved. Our record reflects it is possible to locate 911 callers with more precision — and I think we should be able to do it in less time all across the country. The truth is a 3-meter policy does not provide public safety with precise floor location. As the text of the rulemaking acknowledges, it does not yield floor-level accuracy. I think that’s a problem. … We should choose standards that without fail provide floor level accuracy. When police or firefighters show up in an emergency, the last thing they should have to do is take out a measuring tape. They need a standard that tells them precisely where you are.
“I appreciate that this rulemaking has evolved since it was first put forward,” Ms. Rosenworcel added. “It now includes a discrete question about floor levels. It also asks questions about privacy. But on the most fundamental level, it is organized around standards that unquestionably fall short of what first responders require to keep us safe. The fact is we need real precision if we want to be able to locate with floor-level accuracy every 911 call — and we need it fast. And on this score this rulemaking misses the mark. I regretfully dissent.”
Her fellow Democrat, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, approved in part and concurred in part.
“While a 3-meter z-axis metric, as this FNPRM proposes, will get first responders close, it still leaves about a 10-foot margin of error, which can send first responders to the floor above or below you. I’m concurring in part because this FNPRM does not set out a clear path or propose a plan to get to a greater level of accuracy than 3-meters,” Mr. Starks said. “Only floor level accuracy will give first responders the right tools to go to the right floor, the first time, every time. We need a plan to get there and that plan has to get it done as quickly as possible. The days where first responders don’t know what floor of a tall building a call for help is coming from must become history.”
The Commissioner added that he “had several other concerns about this FNPRM, as it was originally drafted. The first is whether the vertical location technology described in the FNPRM will work for consumers who use the Commission’s Lifeline program. The FNPRM describes barometric pressure sensor technology, used in most higher-end mobile handsets manufactured since 2016, that can provide information about the handset’s altitude. This technology can be lifesaving if your phone has it. But, do Lifeline phones have it?’ … The FNPRM before us includes questions that I called for about this concern.
“My other concern has to with data privacy and security. The rules on which this FNPRM seeks comment allow carriers to comply with vertical location accuracy requirements in two ways, through z-axis technology, as this FNPRM addresses, or through delivery of ‘dispatchable location information’ which is essentially the caller’s address and floor or suite number if they are in a tall building. Carriers have developed technology to obtain dispatchable location information using wireless networks that users’ phones connect to when a 911 call is made,” the Commissioner said.
“Recognizing the high degree of location accuracy that this technology delivers, however, the Commission adopted rules specifically limiting use of data from the National Emergency Address Database, or NEAD, to 911 calls. The Commission also required industry to develop a privacy and security plan for this data. I’m glad that this FNPRM now asks important questions about the appropriate treatment of similarly situated z-axis data and whether rules like those the Commission adopted for NEAD data should apply,” he said. “We need to build protections in to make sure that consumer’s sensitive location data is not misused, like we have been reading about in the news. I appreciate my colleagues agreeing with me that these questions should be included.”
“While the wireless industry initially advocated for a five-meter z-axis metric, it recognized that the public safety community was not in agreement and, to provide certainty, is willing to test a three-meter metric in the established test bed,” Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said. “Currently, two vendors appear capable of providing vertical location accuracy results within three meters in some scenarios with a consistency that would comply with our rules. Early test bed results, however, do not support a two-meter z-axis metric, which was supported by some in the record. I plan on following this issue closely and will want to see that there is solid evidence to ensure that the metric the Commission eventually picks is feasible in the applicable timeframes.
“Further, I applaud the efforts of the wireless industry to perfect technologies capable of providing accurate vertical location. Besides z-axis technologies, the industry continues to work on the database to make dispatchable location — or providing an address along with floor, apartment or suite number — a reality. Device manufacturers are also working on technologies to provide accurate location information. I reiterate my firm belief that we must promote technological neutrality and that wireless providers should have a choice of solutions and vendors that they can utilize to meet our rules,” Mr. O’Rielly added.
“In light of recent press reports, I will also restate my concern that location accuracy information should not be used in any way to infringe on the rights of American citizens. This location accuracy proceeding is about providing first responders with life-saving information, not a vehicle to aggregate location information that can be provided to others. This data should not be made available for use by government agencies to locate, monitor, or take actions that are harmful to Americans,” Mr. O’Rielly said.
He added that he appreciates “the questions added by the new Office of Economics and Analytics to facilitate a more thorough cost-benefit analysis. I am very pleased that, although there is discussion of the Commission’s past use of the flawed value of a statistical life standard, the item seeks to elicit data on the various z-axis options presented in the record so that we can do an appropriate cost-benefit analysis to inform the Commission’s decision making.”
“Originally, the wireless industry proposed that our vertical location accuracy metric should be plus or minus 5 meters,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai noted. “But based on the results of the tests that have been conducted to date as well as the input of public safety officials, I believe that a more stringent proposal is justified, and I have every expectation that our proposal will give our nation’s first responders the information they need to save lives.”
“Given the state of the technology, the wireless providers proposed that we require height accuracy data to be reported to PSAPs within five meters. The public safety community rejected this, arguing that three-meter accuracy is technically feasible and would allow first-responders to get to the right floor the first time in many more cases. We sided with the public safety community,” Commissioner Brendan Carr said. “Furthermore, we preserved the option to choose an even more stringent standard than three-meter accuracy based on the record that develops. I look forward to additional submissions from technologists educating the Commission on the feasibility of the height standards we consider between this Notice and the order.”
“Wireless providers have made significant progress enhancing 9-1-1 location accuracy capabilities and continue to develop and evaluate innovative solutions. We are encouraged by the FCC’s efforts to provide certainty around expectations and requirements to deliver vertical location information, such as z-axis,” said Matt Gerst, vice president-regulatory affairs for CTIA.
Dan Henry, director-government relations for NENA, said his group “applauds the FCC’s adoption of an NPRM on vertical location-accuracy metrics. 9-1-1 location-accuracy improvements — especially those that allow 9-1-1 to dispatch field responders to a specific floor in a building — will enable more exact emergency response and save countless lives when implemented. NENA thanks the FCC for its continued leadership on this critical issue.”
“Public safety appreciates and commends Chairman Pai pushing this FNPRM,” a public safety veteran told TR Daily in an e-mail. “In public safety’s view, 3 meters is certainly preferable to the carriers’ proposal of 5 meters and moves the needle in the right direction towards getting more precise vertical location accuracy. Plus or minus 5 meters can result in several floors above or below where the caller may be. This is unacceptable to public safety. Ultimately, public safety wants same floor accuracy which in many situations may be less than 3 meters. Commissioner Rosenworcel dissented, calling for the same floor. We agree that ‘same floor’ accuracy is the ultimate goal, but I hope commissioners don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good, and I’m concerned that if the FCC were to reject the 3 meter requirement in the Notice, we could potentially have no vertical requirement. … A final rule should call for the same floor but set 3 meters initially but require carriers to do better as technology advances and readdress the z-axis in a set timeframe.”
Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, said his organization applauds “the FCC for taking allegations that carriers have both misused, and failed to adequately protect, information collected under the previous Enhanced 911 (E911) geolocation mandate seriously by addressing these privacy concerns in the FNPRM. We especially appreciate Commissioner Starks’ work to champion this issue on behalf of consumers.
“We welcome the FCC’s move to ensure that carriers protect this geolocation information, and hope the agency will consider whether new precautions should be required to shield consumer privacy,” Mr. Feld added. “Just as agency silence translates to the sound of the dinner bell to unethical location services and to carriers eager to sell out their customers, agency action sends a clear warning that carriers must embrace their responsibilities or face real consequences. We hope the FCC will quickly conclude its investigation into the current allegations, and we look forward to working with the FCC to improve the protection of sensitive geolocation data intended for first responders.”- Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org
pdvWireless, Inc., today commended the FCC’s adoption of a 900 megahertz band notice of proposed rulemaking that proposes to segment the spectrum to enable some of the channels to be used for broadband communications. The item was released yesterday (TR Daily, March 14). “The NPRM proposes our recommended band plan concept and technical rules, raises no interference concerns, and describes a transition plan that would allow PDV to move quickly in bringing this broadband option to market in a number of areas around the country through a voluntary negotiation process followed by alternative means for addressing holdout situations. PDV intends to work collaboratively with the FCC and all affected parties toward adoption of final rules in a timeframe reflective of this industry’s increasingly urgent need for a private broadband solution,” said pdvWireless Chief Executive Officer Morgan O’Brien.