6 GHz Band Group Approves Leaders

Credit: Paul Kirby, TR Daily

A 6 gigahertz band multi-stakeholder group today approved leaders for the group as well as for sub-groups that will tackle three work streams, but it tabled action on approving the scope of work, leaders, and even the title for a fourth subgroup that will focus on contention-based protocol issues.

The four co-chairs of the overall group plan to meet before an Oct. 30 meeting of the overall group to outline a framework for dealing with the outstanding issues regarding the fourth subgroup. Those issues took up the bulk of a 90-meeting held virtually today.

A number of group members expressed opposition to even creating the fourth subgroup, saying that the planned topic of contention-based protocol issues seemed to be out of the scope of the multi-stakeholder group. A proposed title for the fourth subgroup dealing with contention-based protocol “requirements” drew opposition as well. Among those who expressed concerns about the fourth subgroup, which was proposed by the UWB Alliance, were representatives from NCTA, Comcast Corp., Qualcomm, Inc., and Broadcom, Inc.

Representatives of 6 GHz band incumbents were approved as leaders of the overall group and each subgroup. Incumbents have complained about the potential for interference from unlicensed devices as a result of the 6 GHz band order adopted by the FCC in April (TR Daily, April 23).

The four co-chairs of the overall group are Richard Bernhardt, national spectrum adviser for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association; Edgar Figueroa, chief executive officer of the Wi-Fi Alliance; Don Root, chair of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council’s Spectrum Management Committee; and Brett Kilbourne, vice president-policy and general counsel of the Utilities Technology Council.

Leaders of the subgroup focused on work stream 1 (the process for harmful interference, detection, reporting, and resolution) are Mark Poletti, director-wireless technology for CableLabs; Tim Godfrey, technical executive for the Electric Power Research Institute; Jason Matthews of the Lake County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office; and Guy Bail, director-AFC for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International.

Danielle Piñeres, VP and associate general counsel for NCTA, suggested the slate of leaders was “a little bit unbalanced” because it included two public safety representatives. She suggested that there should only be one.

But Jeff Cohen, chief counsel and director-government relations for APCO, said, “This is probably the most important work stream for public safety.” He added that there wouldn’t be “great harm or imbalance” in having two public safety representatives as leaders.

The leaders of the subgroup for work stream 2 (the updating of incumbent information) are Mark Gibson, director-business development and spectrum sharing policy for Comsearch, and Farokh Latif, director-AFC for APCO.

The leaders of the subgroup for work stream 3 (automated frequency coordination (AFC) development and implementation) are Praveen Srivastava, principal wireless engineer II for Charter Communications, Inc.; Andrew Clegg, spectrum engineer lead for Google LLC; and Klaus Bender, VP-engineering for UTC.

The proposed leaders for the work stream 4 subgroup are Tim Harrington, CEO of the UWB Alliance, and Bob Weller, VP-spectrum policy for the National Association of Broadcasters.

The multi-stakeholder group plans to meet next on Oct. 30 from 2-4 p.m. eastern time. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

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NPSTC Asks FCC to Dismiss CTIA’s 911 Recon Petition

Credit: TR Daily

NPSTC Asks FCC to Dismiss CTIA’s 911 Recon Petition

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council asked the FCC today to dismiss a petition for reconsideration filed recently by CTIA asking the agency to reconsider its z-axis, or vertical, rules and deployment deadlines. The trade group cited testing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability of technologies to be ready to meet the FCC-mandated location-accuracy metric (TR Daily, Sept. 29).

In its filing in PS docket 07-114, NPSTC rejected CTIA’s justifications for its petition and argued that “the only thing that may prevent the implementation of vertical location technologies in the largest 25 cities by the April 2021 deadline is the intransigence of the carriers in preventing the deployment of the z-axis technologies that have already been demonstrated to be compliant.”

CTIA filed a petition for reconsideration of a sixth report and order on reconsideration adopted in July (TR Daily, July 16). The item requires nationwide wireless carriers to deploy z-axis location-accuracy technology nationwide by April 2025, giving non-nationwide carriers an additional year to meet the mandate. It also affirmed a fifth report and order adopted last year that set a z-axis metric of plus or minus three meters relative to the handset for 80% of indoor calls (TR Daily, Nov. 22, 2019). The item required nationwide carriers to meet April 3, 2021, and April 3, 2023, milestones for complying with the metric in the top 25 and top 50 markets, respectively.

“Given the importance of highly accurate vertical location capabilities to rapidly locate and assist individuals in distress, the Commission should immediately dismiss the petition for reconsideration that was filed by CTIA (‘Petition’) as both untimely and relying on arguments that were fully considered and rejected by the Commission. The Petition is untimely because it seeks reconsideration of the timeline that the Commission adopted in 2015 for the implementation of wireless vertical location. CTIA acknowledges that the deadline predates the Sixth Report and Order, requesting reconsideration of ‘the timelines affirmed in the Sixth R&O,’” NPSTC said.

“The Petition should also be dismissed because it relies extensively on arguments that were fully considered and rejected by the Commission in the Sixth Report and Order. For example, the Petition argues at length regarding the relative merits and availability of barometric pressure sensor-based solutions, the use of ‘push’ versus ‘over the top’ approaches to place those solutions in handsets, the adequacy of the Stage Z testbed results, the ongoing development of operating system (‘OS’)-based technologies by Google and Apple, and their proposal to extend the deployment timeline by an additional five years, permitting 50% accuracy in 2021 and 80% accuracy no sooner than 2025. Each of these issues was thoroughly considered and addressed by the Commission in the Sixth Report and Order and do not merit reconsideration just six month[s] before the first implementation deadline,” NPSTC added.

“CTIA claims that its Petition merits consideration because ‘the gravity of Z-axis testing challenges has only become known since the Sixth R&O was adopted’ and therefore qualifies as an event that ‘occurred or circumstances which have changed since the last opportunity to present such matters to the Commission.’ CTIA acknowledges, however, that this assertion is not true. Prior to the adoption of the Sixth Report and Order, the carriers made it very clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting additional testing and those statements were quoted by the Commission in the Sixth Report and Order. … Thus, CTIA’s cancellation of the Stage Zb testbed was both anticipated and irrelevant given the fact that only one vendor had expressed interest in participating,” NPSTC said.

“Instead, the only thing that may prevent the implementation of vertical location technologies in the largest 25 cities by the April 2021 deadline is the intransigence of the carriers in preventing the deployment of the z-axis technologies that have already been demonstrated to be compliant,” NPSTC added. “Several of NPSTC’s members served on CTIA’s Location Accuracy Quarterly Advisory Committee and observed firsthand the efforts of CTIA and its members to impose obstacles in the path of z-axis deployment.

“First, the industry abandoned the National Emergency Address Database along with the promise for dispatchable location in a reasonable time and now they want to delay the z-axis deadline,” the filing said. “The Commission should not permit the carriers to use the pandemic as a pretext to further this agenda. Instead, the Commission should continue its leadership in the pursuant of wireless location accuracy by immediately dismissing CTIA’s petition as untimely and devoid of new arguments. The Commission should also direct the carriers to finalize their implementation of those z-axis technologies by the April 2021 deadline that have already been demonstrated to be 3 meter compliant. The critical needs of public safety and the public that it serves, necessitates this decisive action.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com


Public Safety Bureau Chief Bemoans 911 Fee Diversions

States that divert 911 fees from funding public safety access points (PSAPs) to other purposes are standing in the way of call centers carrying out their duties and implementing next generation 911 (NG-911) services, Lisa Fowlkes, chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said today during an online Federal Communications Bar Association event.

“One of the biggest obstacles is 911 fee diversions,” Ms. Fowlkes said. “Look at it this way, if a state is collecting monies from 911 fees and they divert even a portion of that to somewhere else, that’s less money or your PSAPs. Whether you’re talking about next generation 911, or whether you’re talking about just repairing equipment or supporting 911 call center dispatchers, there’s been less money to do those things.”

The FCC continues to look for ways to stop 911 fee diversion, Ms. Fowlkes said, noting the Commission last month launched a notice of inquiry (PS dockets 20-291 and 09-14) soliciting comment on how states and U.S. territories diverting 911 fees for other purposes has affected the provision of 911 services (TR Daily, Sept. 30).

Ms. Fowlkes also pointed out the FCC has for the past 10 years delivered annual reports to Congress detailing how much money states take in from 911 fees and how much of that money is actually used for funding 911 services.

When the FCC adopted the NOI, FCC Chairman Pai cited FCC data showing that between 2012 and 2018, states diverted more than $1.275 billion in fees to non-911 programs or to their general funds.

Also of particular interest of late for the bureau, she said, is the FCC’s efforts to try to improve coordination between power companies and communications companies during emergencies, Ms. Fowlkes said.

“We’ve certainly encouraged, particularly the wireless industry and the electric power companies to come up with ways to facilitate coordination before, during, and after incidents,” she said.

The bureau also continues to work on “ways to support more enhanced geotargeting” for wireless emergency alert (WEA), she said.

Among other things, the FCC has received “positive responses” to a letter Mr. Pai sent last month to CTIA, Qualcomm, Inc., and ATIS seeking updates about various issues related to implementing enhanced geotargeting (TR Daily, Oct. 2).

Qualcomm responded that all of its 5G chipsets currently being sold, and that will be sold in the future, will support enhanced geotargeting, and ATIS said it is making progress on developing enhanced geotargeting standards. CTIA committed to providing an annual report on how many phones in the market are capable of supporting enhanced geotargeting.

Ms. Fowlkes noted the geotargeting rules do not require wireless carriers to replace or upgrade phones to be geotargeting-capable.

“As you get more churn in terms of phones, it is hoped that there will be more phones out there” that support enhanced geotargeting requirements, she said. —Jeff Williams

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DHS Threat Assessment Warns About Russia, China

A “Homeland Threat Assessment” released today by the Department of Homeland Security places Russia atop the cybersecurity and foreign influence threats faced by the U.S.

“Russia—which possesses some of the most sophisticated cyber capabilities in the world—can disrupt or damage U.S. critical infrastructure networks via cyber-attacks,” it said. “Russia probably can conduct cyber attacks that would result in at least localized effects over hours to days and probably is developing capabilities that would cause more debilitating effects.”

But in his personal message introducing the report, Chad Wolf, DHS’s acting secretary, emphasized the threat of Chinese cyber attacks and propaganda. The Trump administration has sought to portray China as a cyber threat equivalent to Russia—a viewpoint that has provoked debate among national security experts not affiliated with the administration who place China’s economic espionage in a different category from the Russian threat to critical infrastructure and U.S. elections.

A DHS whistleblower recently claimed he was demoted for objecting to the administration’s attempts to downplay the Russian threat to U.S. elections (TR Daily,Sept. 9).

“While Russia has been a persistent threat by attempting to harm our democratic and election systems, it is clear China and Iran also pose threats in this space,” Mr. Wolf said. “Nation-states like China, Russia, and Iran will try to use cyber capabilities or foreign influence to compromise or disrupt infrastructure related to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, aggravate social and racial tensions, undermine trust in U.S. authorities, and criticize our elected officials.”

The threat assessment issued today is the first for DHS and is designed to “provide the American people with an overview of the information collected and analyzed by DHS employees around the world,” it said. “This inaugural HTA presents a holistic look from across the department and provides the American people with the most complete, transparent, and candid look at the threats facing our homeland.” —Tom Leithauser, tom.leithauser@wolterskluwer.com

FCC’s 4.9 GHz Band Regime Modified Over Dem, Public Safety Objections

Credit: TR Daily

FCC’s 4.9 GHz Band Regime Modified Over Dem, Public Safety Objections

The FCC voted 3-2 today to modify its framework for the 4940-4990 megahertz band over the objections of Democratic Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Jessica Rosenworcel and public safety entities, which complained that the new regime would hinder the ability of first responders to use the frequencies. A dozen public safety groups had asked Mr. Pai to pull the item from today’s agenda (TR Daily, Sept. 21), and one of the groups said it would challenge the item adopted today.

“In the 18 years since the FCC designated the 4.9 GHz band for public safety use, only about 3.5% of all potential licensees have taken advantage of this spectrum opportunity, and this spectrum remains largely unused outside major metropolitan areas,” an FCC news release said on adoption of a report and order and further notice of proposed rulemaking in WP docket 07-100 at today’s monthly meeting. “The rules adopted today establish a new framework that will empower eligible states to put 4.9 GHz band spectrum to its highest and best use and to allow new partnerships with electric utilities, FirstNet, and commercial operators to increase usage of this spectrum, while protecting existing public safety operations. And by expanding use of the 4.9 GHz band, the rules will facilitate the development of a more robust equipment market for the band, addressing a problem that to date hampered efforts to deploy service in the band.”

The order “permits one statewide 4.9 GHz band licensee per state to lease some or all of its spectrum rights to third parties — including commercial and public safety users — in those states that the FCC has not identified as a diverter of 911 fees. The Report and Order does not limit or modify the rights of any incumbent public safety licensees, so they will be able to continue to provide existing services. These new rules also eliminate the requirement that leased spectrum must be used to support public safety but would require lessees to adhere to the informal coordination requirements applicable to the band,” the news release added.

“The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking also adopted today proposes a new state-based licensing regime for public safety operations in the band, which would complement the new leasing regime,” the news release continued. “The Further Notice proposes to make permanent the current freeze on new applications and grandfather all current public safety licensees. It also proposes to allow states without a statewide license to obtain such a license and seeks comment on the creation of a voluntary state band manager to coordinate operations in the band. Lastly, it seeks comment on additional ways to implement and facilitate robust use of the band, including steps to address expanded access in states that divert 911 fees, the use of dynamic spectrum sharing, and ways to encourage collaboration across jurisdictions.”

In 2018, the Commission unanimously adopted a sixth further notice seeking views on ways to promote more intensive use of the 4.9 gigahertz band (TR Daily, March 22, 2018). Republican Commissioners then 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 had not been heavily used since the Commission made it available for public safety agencies in 2002.

In response to the 2018 item, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council expressed support for sharing the band with critical infrastructure industry (CII) entities and opposed reallocating and auctioning the spectrum for commercial use (TR Daily, July 9, 2018). A number of utility trade groups expressed support for a band plan submitted by NPSTC and emphasized their members’ need for additional spectrum.

In their dissenting statements today, Commissioners Starks and Rosenworcel complained that the FCC’s action would harm public safety agencies at a time when they are facing multiple challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, protests, wildfires, and hurricanes and tropical storms.

“At a time when our public safety organizations are stretched to the limit and their communications needs are increasing, the Commission is adopting with no notice and comment an approach that is not only unwanted but runs contrary to years of public safety spectrum policy,” Mr. Starks said. “Since this proceeding first began, the FCC has considered many different options to increase spectrum usage in the 4.9 GHz band while protecting critical public safety operations. It’s black letter law that agencies must provide adequate notice and an opportunity to comment before adopting a rule. But at no point have we ever proposed effectively delegating the Commission’s spectrum authority over the band to state governments. I therefore already had serious concerns about whether the draft order circulated three weeks ago satisfied the Administrative Procedures Act. If the original draft put us on the edge of a precipice, the current one drives us off the cliff. The final Report and Order now disqualifies states from participating in the State Lessor model if they engage in ‘911 fee diversion,’ a concept that another item on today’s agenda frames for debate [see separate story]. This proceeding has never sought comment on that issue or anything like it, and there is no way that commenting parties, and the governments, public safety organizations and citizens that will be adversely impacted, would have reasonably known to comment on the idea. This approach is facially deficient as a matter of administrative law.

“Beyond serious procedural flaws, this decision is likely to have serious policy consequences,” Mr. Starks added. “By pushing management of the 4.9 GHz band to the states, the majority risks creating dozens of inconsistent approaches to this valuable spectrum resource. States have vastly different interests and levels of spectrum expertise and will undoubtedly take different approaches to issues like interoperability, security, and interference protection. As a result, public safety usage of the 4.9 GHz band may actually become less efficient, secure, and reliable — even as commercial interest remains meager at best. I recognize that the 4.9 GHz band presents a difficult challenge. But I wish that we had withdrawn this item to work on fully addressing the public safety community’s concerns. This isn’t the moment to take chances with critical public safety spectrum.”

“This decision is unfortunate,” said Ms. Rosenworcel. “It is not the right way forward for the 4.9 GHz band. It is a slapdash effort to try to foster use of this spectrum by giving states the right to divert public safety communications in exchange for revenue. This approach has virtually no support in the record. However, it does have opposition from a wide range of stakeholders from wireless carriers to public safety officials.”

Ms. Rosenworcel noted that “relatively few” of the 90,000 public safety licensees that are eligible to obtain 4.9 GHz band licenses have done so. “That’s because there is a limited vendor ecosystem supporting this band, so it is hard to acquire equipment and costly to deploy it.  As a result, for the past few years the Federal Communications Commission has sought comment on how to help public safety make use of these airwaves and what more can be done to encourage a robust market for equipment,” she added.

“In this decision we abandon this course and decide that these airwaves no longer need to support public safety. We clear the way to kick first responders off this spectrum and then cede this agency’s authority over the band to state licensees who will be empowered to lease these airwaves to third parties to generate revenue. This adds up to a reduction in public safety communications with a more fragmented market for equipment and a 5G future with a whole bunch of the same problems we had with leases in the 2.5 GHz band that — remember — we went to great efforts to dismantle in the not-too-distant past,” Ms. Rosenworcel said. “What a mess. It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a reason so many entities have come together to oppose this reorganization of the 4.9 GHz band.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his Republican colleagues defended the actions that he and his Republican colleagues took today.

For example, in response to a question during a call with reporters after the meeting, Mr. Pai said that “we are confident we provided adequate notice consistent with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act.”

In his written statement on the item, he said, “The Commission’s rules siloed this spectrum, which led to a limited amount of niche, expensive equipment available for use in the band. The story of the 4.9 GHz band became one of spectrum haves — primarily in large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle — and have nots — namely, the 96.5% of potential licensees that have not obtained licenses for 4.9 GHz spectrum, particularly the smaller and rural jurisdictions that cannot afford to deploy in the band.

“Half a decade later, this unacceptable state of affairs persists,” he said. “The 4.9 GHz band remains valuable spectrum — and it remains underused and in regulatory limbo. To maximize the value of this public resource for the American people, today we revise our rules by empowering eligible states to put the 4.9 GHz band to its highest and best uses. We will harness the power of our Secondary Markets framework to create leasing opportunities for statewide entities in states that do not divert 911 fees for non-911 purposes.

“Under our new approach, we will allow a single state government entity to lease covered spectrum in this band while maintaining and protecting incumbent public safety licensees’ operations. We recognize the simple truth that what works for New York City may not make sense in rural West Virginia; therefore, we give lessors the right to choose what is best for citizens of their state: They can enter into leases with public safety and non-public safety entities alike. If an eligible state wants to lease its spectrum to FirstNet for use in its Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network, it can do so. If it wants to lease the spectrum to a commercial entity to use for deploying a dedicated public safety broadband network, it can do that. If the state wants to lease spectrum in less densely populated areas to a wireless Internet service provider, an electric utility, or another critical infrastructure industry (or a mix of all three) and retain the spectrum in more densely populated areas, it can do that too.”

“The approach we adopt today may not be perfect. But it’s better than any of the alternatives that have been proposed,” Mr. Pai added. “And one thing we know for sure is that regulatory inertia is not the best option. The 4.9 GHz band is well-suited to meet the nation’s growing demand for mid-band spectrum, and this Commission will not stand idly by and let this spectrum continue to largely lie fallow. Leasing arrangements will create significant opportunities for commercial access while protecting incumbent public safety operations and generating substantial potential revenues that states can use to strengthen public safety services. Our flexible, forward-thinking framework represents the most viable path for making this public resource an actual resource for the public.”

“The underlying premise of the item before us is incredibly sound,” Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said. “The 4.9 GHz band is vastly underutilized — and not just by a little bit. Seeking to produce greater efficiency and increase the uses of 50 megahertz of spectrum, at a time when the premium for spectrum is at an all-time high, shouldn’t be controversial. And, this scarcity is precisely why the Commission must take action as soon as possible, not only on this band and the 3.1-3.55 GHz frequencies considered today [see separate story], but also on the 5.9 GHz band.

“While I certainly respect and support our public safety officials and truly appreciate all that they do to protect our communities, no Commission should let spectrum essentially lay fallow based on the notion that someday the allocation just might, possibly be widely used for its intended purposes,” he added. “The messages of ‘we intend to use it if certain conditions are met’ or ‘it’ll be needed someday’ are no longer credible or sufficient.”

“My first action when this item was circulated was to request a reversal of course and seek full commercialization of the band, while protecting existing incumbent systems,” Mr. O’Rielly continued. “That is consistent with my approach to the NPRM and is driven by the fact that every expert admits that the U.S. must free more spectrum to meet the demand for future commercial wireless services. While this spectrum may not be an ideal 5G band on its own, it has been identified by the wireless industry as a very good candidate for that purpose if the Commission takes certain actions. Sadly, my request didn’t win the day with my colleagues.

“Compelled to pivot, I have tried to live within the rather, let’s say, interesting approach taken in this item. I do have some concerns that this will just create another EBS [educational broadband service]-like mess, kicking the proverbial can and forcing a future Commission to revisit this whole structure,” the Commissioner said. “It is not entirely clear how or whether it will work at all, as proposed. There is also the distinct possibility that this item won’t necessarily solve anything, but instead may even prolong uncertainty. I am able to support the item, however, because, at the very least, it moves away from the status quo towards somewhat improved usage and commercialization of the band. Moreover, the modified version excludes states that are diverting 9-1-1 fees to other purposes from reaping any benefits from this spectrum largesse — such as New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and certain counties in Nevada.”

“In the end, we will just have to wait and see if any of the item’s structure gains traction or survives future policymakers’ second guessing. Having extensive experience on these matters, I’m a bit skeptical that will be the case,” Mr. O’Rielly said.

“For nearly two decades, the FCC has designated this 50 MHz swath of spectrum for public safety use. And yet after all this time, by our count, only about two percent of eligible public safety entities have become licensees. There are many causes for this underinvestment; availability and cost of equipment, scale, and an inefficient sharing regime are just a few,” Commissioner Brendan Carr said.

“The status quo isn’t working. So today we set out to fix these problems for the benefit of states and public safety officials alike,” he added. “We do so by empowering local leaders — not those of us sitting here in Washington — to determine the highest and best use of this spectrum based on those elected officials’ own assessments of local needs. They can keep using this spectrum for public safety (and do so more efficiently due to the new rules we put in place), or they can lease these airwaves and use the revenue to fund public safety or other mission critical initiatives. They have the choice, and I trust them to make the right call for their communities. … If there ever were a time for our agency to give public safety a hand, to get rid of some old rules, to open a path for funding, now would be that time. So we take that step today and empower our country’s local leaders to determine how best to use this spectrum.”

Mr. Carr was asked on a call with reporters after the meeting why he kept referring to local leaders when, in fact, states will make decisions about the spectrum. He said he refers to state and local leaders as one category, as opposed to federal leaders.

A dozen of public safety groups had asked Mr. Pai to pull the item from today’s meeting agenda. AT&T, Inc., which is the First Responder Network Authority’s network partner, also expressed opposition to the item, while Verizon Communications, Inc., said it opposed assigning the spectrum to FirstNet. T-Mobile US, Inc., said the FCC should seek comment on whether public safety licensees should be able to sell spectrum rights to non-public safety entities.

In a joint statement today, 11 public safety groups criticized the FCC’s action.

“The majority, consisting of Chairman Pai and Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr, took this action against the wishes of a multitude of national public safety associations,” they said. “Prior to today’s order, the FCC’s rules hamstrung public safety from making the best use of this important spectrum band. For years, public safety repeatedly offered specific proposals to the FCC to improve these rules so that law enforcement, fire, EMS, and 9-1-1 professionals could benefit from the multitude of broadband applications this band would make possible. Instead of granting these requested rule changes, the majority continued a false narrative that public safety is to blame for any underutilization and ignored public safety’s needs in an attempt to benefit commercial users. Further, the FCC took this action while failing to provide sufficient notice of its actions. With public safety professionals facing unprecedented national emergencies and natural disasters, the timing of the majority’s action is especially unfortunate and misguided.”

Signing onto the filing were the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International, International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, National Association of State EMS Officials, NPSTC, National Sheriffs’ Association, and Western Fire Chiefs Association.

In a separate statement, NPSTC said that it “is disappointed that the FCC did not follow the recommendations we made for 4.9 GHz. The NPSTC proposal would have resulted in a complete database of current and future use, implemented nationwide frequency coordination to prevent uncertainty due to interference, allowed for some dedicated uses like robotics, and opened use of the band to critical infrastructure organizations. This would have assured that the band would serve the needs of public safety well into the future. Under the FCC’s plan, there is no certainty that public safety needs will be met, based on the decisions made in each state. The plan promotes a profit motive at each state rather than assuring adequate public safety access to the band. The marketplace model simply does not work for public safety which is a government responsibility even if it operates at a net loss. We do strongly support the 911 fee diversion language and recognize the efforts of Commissioner [O’Rielly] to bring action on this issue. We look forward to providing comments to the further notice.”

The Public Safety Spectrum Alliance, which has argued that the FCC should assign the 4.9 GHz band public safety spectrum to FirstNet, said that it would not give up.

“We are extremely disappointed by the FCC’s action that jeopardizes public safety’s access to spectrum critical to life-saving operations. Today’s action by the FCC shows clearly that commercial interests won out at public safety’s expense,” said Jeff Johnson, a PSSA leader who is chief executive officer of the WFCA and former vice chairman of FirstNet. “This spectrum was allocated by the FCC to public safety after 9/11 to be part of the interoperability solution for first responders. When will our government authorities put the interests and safety of public safety and the communities they serve ahead of commercial interests? The FCC itself has acknowledged, the 4.9 GHz band has been under-utilized because of the FCC’s complicated rules and the narrow use cases envisioned by the FCC in 2002. And yet today they take this action when the record does not support such an action as was pointed out by Commissioner Rosenworcel.”

“Our legal counsel is preparing a list of options for consideration,” added Chris Moore, another PSSA leader who is a former San Jose police chief and now a principal at Brooks Bawden Moore LLC. “Once we have reviewed these options, we will quickly move forward and take action to seek reversal of this clearly arbitrary and harmful decision. We would also like to publicly thank those commissioners that voted against this ill-conceived plan.”

“The nation’s fire chiefs are disappointed in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to license dedicated public safety spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band to the states” Kenneth Stuebing, first vice president of the IAFC, said in a separate statement. “This spectrum is used for critical fire and EMS operations across the nation. We urge the FCC to ensure that the states protect incumbent public safety users as it begins the process of granting these licenses. Also, we recommend that state fire chiefs organizations contact their state governors’ offices to protect this spectrum for public safety use.”

Joan Marsh, AT&T’s executive vice president-regulatory & state external affairs, said, “The 4.9 GHz band, while currently under-utilized, contains enormous potential to provide more expansive support of public safety communications. Informal coordination requirements have limited the spectrum band’s usage to date, and we appreciate the FCC’s efforts to consider ways to expand its use while ensuring the spectrum remains allocated to public safety. As the Commission moves forward, we will continue to support licensing rules that drive toward more efficient nationwide coordination and more effective use of this spectrum by public safety entities across the U.S.”

Louis Peraertz, VP-policy for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, said that his group supports the 4.9 GHz band item.

“Opening the 4.9 GHz band to a much wider range of non-public safety uses is a very positive step forward,” said Michael Calabrese, director of the Wireless Futures Project at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. “It is extremely underutilized. At the same time, the unexpected conditions on state eligibility and the undeveloped nature of the process for sharing the band suggest that the Commission has far more work to do before there is a final resolution on how best to encourage more intensive and productive use of the band.”

“As our nation’s electric, gas, and water utilities modernize their infrastructure, access to spectrum is critical to ensure the continued safe, reliable and secure delivery of essential energy and water services,” said Sheryl Riggs, president and CEO of the Utilities Technology Council. “Utility communications systems underpin the reliable, resilient operation of essential electric, gas, and water services, and UTC looks forward to working with states to explore opportunities for utilities to access spectrum in the 4.9 GHz band.”

States did not weigh in on the item before its adoption. The National Governors Association said today that it had no comment. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

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FCC NOI Focuses on Stopping 911 Fee Diversion

The FCC today launched a notice of inquiry in PS dockets 20-291 and 09-14 soliciting comment on how states and U.S. territories diverting 911 fees for other purposes has affected the provision of 911 services.

“In today’s notice of inquiry, we’re continuing to do our part to address the problem of 911 fee diversion,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said during the Commission’s monthly meeting, which was held virtually. “And if we can find a way to end this practice once and for all, we will improve our nation’s 911 system, keep America safe, and do the right thing by America’s first responders.”

Mr. Pai cited FCC data showing that between 2012 and 2018, states diverted more than $1.275 billion in fees to non-911 programs or to their general funds.

Mr. Pai called it “outrageous” and “unacceptable” for states to divert 911 funds.

Diverting 911 fees is “fraud,” Mr. Pai said, adding: “The government takes money from consumers with the promise it will be spent on improving our nation’s 911 system and spends it on something else. And this fraudulent practice has real-life consequences.”

The Commission is asking for comment on what regulatory steps it could take to deter the practice, such as “limiting the availability of FCC licenses and other benefits based on fee diversion or using the Commission’s truth-in-billing authority to increase consumer awareness of fee diversion where it occurs.”

Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who has for years called upon states to stop the practice, said he is “hopeful that today’s NOI will continue the positive momentum needed to finish the project and reduce the number of diverters to zero.”

Mr. O’Rielly was sharply critical of states for diverting 911 fees instead of otherwise cutting spending or raising other taxes to meet their funding needs.

“What is unconscionable, even shameful, is that certain states hide behind labels like ‘public safety’ to dupe consumers and shortchange 911 call centers,” he said.

Mr. O’Rielly said the “vast majority” of states have decided to end the practice, but New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Nevada “remain unapologetically” on the list of states that continue to divert 911 funds.

“While we have had some success shrinking the number of diverters, more work remains,” he said, adding: “Diverters are already statutorily barred from receiving federal NextGen911 grants, and I expect that Congress may need to provide even stronger statutory tools for the Commission to finally address the remaining diverters and prevent this horrendous practice in the future.”

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who credited Mr. O’Rielly for pressing the issue, said she was pleased to see the FCC adopt the NOI in hopes of eventually ending 911 fee diversions.

“It’s not acceptable when states allow a line item on communications bills that expressly says it is for 911 service but then turn around and send those fees elsewhere,” she said.

The NOI asks “appropriate questions about the boundaries of this agency’s authority and seeks ideas regarding the steps we can take to improve our annual fee diversion reports and put the pressure on to end this ugly practice altogether,” Ms. Rosenworcel said.

Commissioner Brendan Carr, who credited Mr. O’Rielly for conducting a “shame campaign” to highlight states that have diverted 911 funding, said he is “glad we’re pressing forward” with the NOI.

“It is truly a shame that some of those resources that are identified and needed [for 911 service] are being diverted,” Mr. Carr said.

In a press release, CTIA praised the FCC for adopting the NOI.

“State governments erode public trust and safety when they divert millions of dollars collected from wireless consumers intended to maintain and enhance our nation’s 911 system,” CTIA Vice President-regulatory affairs Matt Gerst said in a press release. “We look forward to working with the FCC to identify new ways to address the problem.”

NENA also commended the FCC for taking the action.

“Fee diversion continues to damage 911’s reputation and puts lives at risk,” NENA Director-government affairs Dan Henry said in a press release. “We appreciate the Commission’s willingness to tackle this challenging issue, and look forward to contributing our perspective to the proceeding.”—Jeff Williams


NPSTC Criticizes CTIA’s 911 Location-Accuracy Petition

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council has criticized CTIA’s petition for reconsideration asking the FCC to reconsider its 911 z-axis, or vertical, rules and deployment timelines. The trade group made the request in a petition for reconsideration that cited testing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability of technologies to be ready to meet the FCC-mandated location-accuracy metric (TR Daily, Sept. 29). “NPSTC is disappointed that CTIA and the wireless carriers are again trying to delay implementation of the roadmap for location services initiated in 2014,” NPSTC Chair Ralph Haller said in a statement. “CTIA states in its petition for reconsideration that, ‘wireless providers are delivering increasingly accurate location information with wireless 9-1-1 calls.’ While that assertion is debatable, even if somewhat true, the carriers have had six years fully to meet the z axis requirements. The FCC should reject this CTIA petition for reconsideration, retain the April 3, 2021, deadline, and initiate enforcement actions for carriers not meeting the 2021 requirements. This is a life and death issue that has already taken too long to implement.”


FirstNet Charts Course Through Road Map 

As it turns the page to a new fiscal year, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) today highlighted the progress made toward meeting the authority’s goals of improving public safety communications and the need to continue following the road map charting its future course.  

“In the upcoming fiscal year, in addition to ensuring that our program remains on schedule and on cost, the board will focus on the roadmap developed in close consultation with the public safety community,” FirstNet Chairman Robert Tipton (Tip) Osterthaler said during a virtual meeting of the FirstNet board and its committees. “We’ll also continue to listen to FirstNet users as their needs evolve, updating the roadmap accordingly.” 

FirstNet continues to play a key role for the first responder community, Mr. Osterthaler said.  

“In my view, it would be hard to overstate the importance of secure, mobile broadband access for law enforcement, fire services, emergency medical services, and all of those people and organizations that support and enable them,” he said. 

The board continues to work on updating the technology and applications available to FirstNet users, Mr. Osterthaler said. 

FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Ed Parkinson also credited FirstNet for working to “ensure that we don’t skip a beat” during the challenges posed by conducting business during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This really echoes the sentiment that we will always be there for public safety and our people have been able to support the authority throughout these past six months,” he said. “We’re meeting public safety where they are to ensure that we continue to gather the invaluable feedback to advance our roadmap, which will further guide our programs, activities, and investments.” 

In addition to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FirstNet continues to adapt based on lessons learned from other public safety events, such as the recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and the wildfires in the western part of the U.S., he said. 

“Our culture at FirstNet is to listen, learn, and evolve,” Mr. Parkinson said. “We’re constantly striving to improve and to do things better. Ultimately, lives depend on our ability to get the job done.”  

Dave Buchanan, FirstNet’s executive director-public advocacy, noted the amount of outreach that has gone on between FirstNet and the public safety community, including engagements with about 12,000 public safety stakeholders.  

“We continue to keep up the drumbeat, even under the unusual circumstances of (fiscal year 2020) of making sure we’re reaching public safety across the country,” Mr. Buchanan said.  

Among other things, he said, FirstNet has increased its use of webinars in recent months, including 19 events in the past 12 weeks attended by 1,262 public safety professionals. 

All of the events have provided feedback FirstNet is using to create improvements for users, Mr. Buchanan said.  

FirstNet has also been collecting data to be used as FirstNet continues along its road map, including conducting surveys to solicit public safety feedback on various topics, holding one-on-one discussions, and convening focus groups, he said.  

Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s chief technology and operations officer, highlighted several areas of progress, including work on ensuring that public safety needs are included in global standards being developed through 3GPP. 

In particular, he noted the completion of 3GPP Release 15 dealing with push-to-talk communications, as well as vehicle-to-everything 5G technologies.  

In addition, work on Release 17 is in “full swing,” with a target completion date of December 2021, he said.  

FirstNet is focused on that release’s items related to enhancements to the “building blocks for mission critical services” using 5G, additional device-to-device standards, enhanced location-based services, and non-terrestrial network support, Mr. Bratcher said.  

In addition, he noted, there are now more than 200 products available for use on the FirstNet network, with 159 of those Band 14-capable, he said. 

FirstNet is delivering on the “broad, diverse range of devices” public safety interests have been asking for, Mr. Bratcher said.  

“I think we’ve exceeded this objective and goal,” he said. 

There are also now more than 100 applications available that can be used with the network, Mr. Bratcher said. 

During the meeting, the board adopted an amendment to its bylaws to allow the board chair to designate another board member to serve as the chair of the Governance and Personnel Committee. Before the change was made, the bylaws required that the board chair serve as the chair of that committee. —Jeff Williams