Draft Order Slates End of 800 MHz Rebanding


Courtesy: TR Daily

Saying the process that began in 2004 is “essentially complete,” the FCC today released a draft order in WT docket 02-55 that would end a rebanding program that moved Sprint Corp.’s commercial services to the upper portion of the 800 megahertz band and relocated public safety services to the lower end of the band.  

The process which aimed to avoid harmful interference has resulted in more than 2,100 licensees being relocated, the FCC says in the draft order, which it plans to consider at its April 22 meeting.  The draft order would direct the transition administrator to take any actions needed to terminate the program and to cease operations once that is done.  

“Nearly seventeen years after the 800 MHz Report and Order, the 800 MHz band reconfiguration program has achieved its objective — substantially alleviating the interference risk to public safety in the 800 MHz band,” the FCC draft order says. 

T-Mobile US, Inc., which acquired Sprint last year (TR Daily, April 1, 2020), asked the FCC in February to declare the rebanding project complete, and the administrator of the program subsequently submitted documentation asserting the effort was complete, the FCC draft says.  

The order would also grant T-Mobile’s request to terminate the letter of credit the company used to secure its financial obligation to pay for the costs of relocation incurred by public safety and other licensees, as well as its own relocation costs.  

In addition, the order would conclude that outstanding issues related to two 800 MHz licensees — the city of El Paso, Texas, and License Acquisitions LLC — can be addressed outside of the rebanding program, and thus do not pose an obstacle to ending the program.  

The FCC draft says the Commission accepts the administrator’s various certifications related to the completion of the program, as well as the certifications that all of the licensees, other than El Paso and License Acquisitions, have “completed their physical reconsideration activities, relocated to their post-rebanding frequencies and modified their licenses to delete their pre-rebanding frequencies or cancelled their license.” 

The order would also delete rebanding-related rules and approve the disposal of records that are no longer necessary after the termination of the rebanding program.  

The draft item is one of eight items listed on the tentative agenda for the April 22 meeting released today (see separate stories.) —Jeff Williams 

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Bureau Report Details Hurdles Facing 911 Over Wi-Fi

 Courtesy ~ TR Daily

The FCC submitted a report to Congress yesterday saying that while Wi-Fi could be used to expand 911 connectivity options for consumers, public safety answering points (PSAPs), and communications providers in the long term, there are currently limits to the feasibility of doing so.  

Further study of “technical and policy challenges” is needed “before the conditions in the evolving Wi-Fi ecosystem will support reliable provision of 911 services over Wi-Fi access points and spectrum for unlicensed devices,” said the report. 

The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau compiled the report after receiving comments in PS docket 20-285 (TR Daily, Oct. 2, 2020) following a public notice issued pursuant to the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 (TR Daily, March 23, 2018). 

The bureau said recent improvements in the provision of voice and broadband connectivity over Wi-Fi for non-emergency communications could support improved emergency communications, but noted several issues cited by commenters that would need to be resolved first. 

“Existing Wi-Fi and unlicensed infrastructure typically are not engineered to provide the resiliency and reliability needed to support communications in a major emergency and are likely to be affected by many of the same conditions that impair mobile networks in such circumstances (e.g., power outages, physical damage to infrastructure from storms, floods, or wildfires),” the report said. “In addition, opening these platforms to the public for purposes of 911 access would require modifying or disabling authentication protocols and other safeguards, which could result in increased vulnerability.” 

The bureau also said standards to support 911 services using Wi-Fi would need to be developed and adopted before Wi-Fi 911 services would be possible.  

“Such standards are crucial to the development of a cohesive end-to-end system that can support the necessary interactions between mobile devices, cellular networks, Wi-Fi networks, and PSAPs when a 911 call is made,” it said. “Further work is also needed to enable mobile devices to be automatically authenticated, automatically roam across telecommunication service provider and non-telecommunication service provider owned Wi-Fi access points, and be routed to the appropriate PSAP with accurate caller location information.”  

The report also noted some commenters expressed the view there would need to be legal and regulatory changes to address liability, privacy, and security concerns about making Wi-Fi available for 911 use.  

“The record reflects that the complex and competitive nature of today’s communications ecosystem impacts 911 service over Wi-Fi access points and spectrum for unlicensed devices,” the report said.  

In addition, it said, commenters noted that cable operators are prohibited from collecting some personal information about subscribers without prior consent, which could limit their ability to provide location information in an emergency situation to a PSAP. 

The bureau also pointed to concerns that enabling automatic authentication of unknown devices to Wi-Fi access points raises cybersecurity concerns for both network operators and consumers.  

The report said the bureau could not estimate at this time the costs or benefits of providing 911 service over Wi-Fi because of the “significant technical and policy changes” that would have to take place. —Jeff Williams 

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Public Safety Entities Concerned Over FCC’s 911 Fee Diversion NPRM

Courtesy ~ TR Daily

A number of public safety entities have expressed concern about an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking adopted last month that proposes rules to tackle the diversion of 911 fees by states and local jurisdictions for other purposes (TR Daily, Feb. 17).

Public safety groups and state and local entities say some of the FCC’s proposals are vague and are not flexible enough to permit 911 fees to be used for the range of components necessary to deliver 911 services.  They also say that a diversion by a small number of jurisdictions should not risk the eligibility of an entire state for NG-911 grant funds and that the FCC should consider more than just 911 fee diversion and instead the broader question of all underfunding for 911 services. Some public safety entities also expressed concern about heavy-handed federal regulations of state and locality 911 activities.

The Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2020, which was enacted in December as part of omnibus appropriations legislation, directed the Commission to adopt rules defining what 911 fee uses by states and jurisdictions constitute diversion (TR Daily, Jan. 4).

The NPRM, which was adopted in PS dockets 20-291 and 09-14, proposes to (1) “define the types of 911 fee expenditures by states and jurisdictions that are acceptable under the criteria[] in the new legislation;” (2) “allow states and jurisdictions to petition the Commission for a determination that a 911 fee expenditure not previously designated as acceptable by the Commission could be treated as acceptable;” (3) “prohibit any state or jurisdiction identified by the Commission as a fee diverter from serving on any advisory committee established by the Commission;” and (4) “require any state or jurisdiction that receives a federal 911 grant to provide the Commission with the information it requires to prepare its annual 911 fee report to Congress,” a news release noted.

The legislation also directed the FCC to establish an “interagency strike force,” which will study how the federal government can tackle 911 fee diversion most expeditiously and to report to Congress within 270 days. The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau solicited nominations for membership on the strike force.

In its comments, the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council said it “opposes diversion of 911 fees. However, addressing fee diversion is a complex issue that entails both legal and practical issues. For example, the Commission may need to consider whether Federal rules defining how state funds can be used encompasses any state’s rights issues. The NPRM proposes specific purposes and functions that would be allowable and that would NOT be allowable for the use of 911 fees and charges. From NPSTC’s perspective, the enabling legislation and statutes in each state that address allowable expenditures also would need to be considered. Also, as a practical matter, the way in which the Commission ultimately defines allowable and nonallowable expenditures could certainly impact the ability of a state and its localities to answer and respond to 911 calls for help.

“Also, in adopting rules, it is important to recognize that the priorities and needs may change over time. At its recent meeting, the last one under its current charter, the Communications, Security and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) adopted a working group report that advises the FCC to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the 911 system by, among other things, explicitly allowing 911 fees collected by states and localities to be used for cybersecurity [TR Daily, March 10]. Overall, cybersecurity concerns have grown to be a much higher priority over just the last few years.”

NPSTC added that it “recommends that the foundation of any rules adopted have the underlying goal of assisting jurisdictions to have sufficient resources that enable reliable and modern 911 public safety answering points and associated public safety communications capabilities needed to respond to 911 requests for assistance, to the extent possible. Properly serving the public requires sufficient funding  for the requisite staffing, equipment, capabilities and reliability. Admittedly, this is somewhat broader than fee diversion alone. Simply addressing 911 fee diversion alone does not of itself encourage resource sufficiency for 911 and related public safety communications facilities.”

“The Commission seeks comment on how to effectively gather information on the impact of any underfunding of 9-1-1 services. The law requires the Commission, for submission to the strike force and in future annual reports, to include ‘any information regarding the impact of any underfunding of 9-1-1 services.’ This language demonstrates Congress’s intent to understand how any underfunding, not just underfunding as a result of diversion, is impacting 9-1-1 service across the country,” said the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. “Therefore, to satisfy Congress’s intent, the Commission should take a broad approach to investigating and analyzing the extent to which 9-1-1 is underfunded and the impacts of underfunding on emergency response.”

APCO continued, “Sufficient funding is needed to keep agencies fully staffed and trained, keep equipment and technology up to date and secure, and help public safety telecommunicators best meet the public’s expectations when carrying out their life-saving missions. Using the strike force and annual reports to better understand the relationship between funding for 9-1-1 and emergency response will produce helpful information for public safety agencies and serve the Commission’s and Congress’s goal of discouraging fee diversion while looking at the bigger picture of the extent of underfunding regardless of the source.”

APCO noted that the FCC “seeks comment on its proposed lists of acceptable and not acceptable purposes and functions for the obligation or expenditure of 9-1-1 fees or charges. While important, evaluating whether expenditures fit a particular definition of acceptable purposes and functions and labeling states as diverters if their expenditure was not included in a pre-approved list does not necessarily align with the broader goal of ensuring the adequacy of funding for 9-1-1 … .”

The National Association of State 911 Administrators said that while it opposes the diversion of 911 fees for other purposes, it urged “the Commission to approach its rulemaking and any subsequent consequences to 911 fee diversion in a manner that does not jeopardize the very 911 system it seeks to protect.”

For example, in response to a proposal to clarify that states and taxing jurisdictions are responsible for the diversion of 911 funds by localities that receive fees from states, NASNA said, “In some states, service providers remit fees directly to political subdivisions, such as counties, for 911 use. Due to limits either by their own statutes or constitutions, states have limited authority over the local use of those funds. Additionally, the resources that would be required by states to monitor and enforce adherence would have no visibility over how these funds are spent at the local level. If a state has responsibility for diversion of 911 fees under these rules, the Commission should consider reporting requirements for political subdivisions in states where they do not exist today or at least provide states a transition period to implement such reporting requirements.”

Regarding the NPRM’s proposal for acceptable purposes that 911 fees can be used for, NASNA suggested that it fails to consider broader use of 911 fees by some states. 

“In particular, the NPRM is vague and contradictory on acceptable uses related to communications infrastructure that connects PSAPs (or otherwise ensures the reliable reception and processing of emergency calls and their dispatch to first responders),” the filing said. “NASNA also notes the proposed appears to be vague as to the use of 911 funding to support the high-level administration of a 911 Program such as State 911 Administrative offices, Treasury fund processing, and collection actions for the non-payment of 911 fees.”

NENA reiterated that “the Commission must take care to avoid punishing state 9-1-1 offices for the behaviors of their legislatures or governors’ offices. We suggest further that the Commission avoid punishing these 9-1-1 offices for the actions of local entities over which those states may have no control. The Commission requests comment on including in its definition of diversion ‘distribution of 9-1-1 fees to a political subdivision that obligates or expends such fees for a purpose or function other than those designated by the Commission.’ NENA worries that the administrative burden of local surveillance and potential lack of state-level capacity for diversion enforcement has the potential to add to the already significant burden on state-level 9- 1-1 officials, whose responsibilities are already occupied with the baseline requirements of running a state 9-1-1 program and managing their state’s part in the nationwide transition to NG9-1-1. NENA is also concerned that states may lack the logistical capability to prevent this diversion of funds, especially in a timely manner.”

“The nature of state and local budget cycles means that these taxing jurisdictions often cannot change policy at the drop of a hat; offering timely and clear guidance on exactly what constitutes fee diversion (and whether that has changed recently) is essential to ensure states have a chance to do the right thing,” NENA added.

NENA also said that “it is absolutely essential that if a state is found to be guilty of diversion—especially for the first time, and especially in the midst of federal Next Generation 9-1-1 grant funding—that state be given notice of the Commission’s finding and opportunity to remedy. Lack of notice and remedy could be catastrophic for a state in the midst of a federally subsidized NG9-1-1 transition.”

A joint filing by 15 local and regional 911 authorities from Colorado said, “A small minority of jurisdictions outside of Colorado divert 911 fees, and that should be addressed. Have the ‘strike force’ work on stopping the fee diversion. The ‘strike force’ should not be used to make decisions on behalf of local government. The ‘strike force’ could look at what the states have in place and deem them acceptable, giving the ‘strike force’ more resources to concentrate on the problem and not trying to fix something that is not broken in most states, territories, and local jurisdictions.

“In Colorado, there are processes in place that prevent the state and local governments from diverting 911 fees,” the filing added. “We strongly encourage the FCC to include in proposed rule §9.24 some time limit in which the FCC will respond to petitions for clarification. Because Colorado is a strong local control state, meaning most 911 operations are carried out by local governments and not the State of Colorado, we strongly encourage the FCC to clarify that the rules will not deem the entire State of Colorado and all local 911 entities fee diverters if only a small number of individual 911 entities are found by the FCC to be diverting 911 fees. We also strongly endorse the concept of adding a pathway to compliance into the new rules. This would include the concept of a phase-in period of no less than one year for the new rules to allow states and local governments to come into compliance voluntarily.”

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission said that although “Colorado has never been designated as a diverter of 911 surcharge funds, the ability of state and local jurisdictions to comply with the rules proposed in this NPRM requires clearly defined rules that provide unambiguous guidelines. CoPUC recognizes that Congress has provided the FCC with a short time frame to finalize these rules, but we urge the FCC to ensure that in the rush to meet Congressional deadlines the FCC does not create rules that leave states struggling to interpret these new requirements. We also strongly encourage the FCC to think more about the process by which states or local jurisdiction may come into compliance with FCC rules regarding the use of 911 surcharge funds, since the goal of any rules should be to encourage and ensure compliance.”

Specifically, the FCC’s rules (1) “must provide clearer guidance on what it means by “PSAP operations”; (2) “should be clear that the costs of administering 911 programs, both at the state and local level, are an acceptable expense;” (3) “should also make clear whether emergency notification systems and expenses for 911-related membership organizations are acceptable expenses;” (4) “need to be clearer regarding what radio equipment or infrastructure is allowed and what is not, as the examples provided in the proposed rules are contradictory;” (5) “should provide a timeframe within which petitions for declaratory rulings will be addressed;” and (6) “should make clear that entire states will not be declared in violation of the FCC’s rules for spending decisions made by individual local jurisdictions within those states,” the CoPUC said.

In joint comments, nine local Michigan 911 entities said they “are supportive of the definitions proposed by the Commission regarding ‘911 fee or charge’ as well as the proposed definitional extension to include fees or charges designated for the support of ‘public safety,’ ‘emergency services,’ or similar purposes if the purposes of allowable uses of such fees or charges include the support or implementation of 911 services.[]  However, the definitional limitations proposed in paragraphs 24 through 25 of the NPRM are not acceptable. The limitations fail to recognize the interdependencies of the 911 dispatch system, as well as being inconsistent with prior Commission precedent.” They also urged the FCC to “find that the public safety radio system represents an appropriate use of 911 funding.”

The entities also asked the Commission to “impose mandatory timelines for consideration of a Petition for Determination” and said it agreed with NPSTC “on the need to specifically recognize the use of 911 funds for PSAP cybersecurity expenditures, and the need to closely review the full impact of proposed limitations on diverting state’s ability to participate on advisory committees. While some limitations may be appropriate, such sanctions must be narrow and targeted to resolving the issue, and not punishing and compromising public safety.” 

The Oklahoma 9-1-1 Management Authority said that one of its concerns regarding PSAPs in the state  “is a lack of priorities for 9-1-1 funding and a lack of a strategic technology plan. These two factors play a much more important role than diversion in the State. Oklahoma has a current bill in front of the legislation that will mandate the Authority to create a list of approved expenditures for 9-1-1 fees in the State. However, we will need to take an approach to help local PSAPs understand the technology needs and help prioritize them as well as create an authorized list of expenditures.”

The authority added that it “agrees that oversite is needed and also agrees in Federal standards to ensure 9-1-1 fee diversion does not occur. However, we believe the rules set at the Federal level need to be broad and allow for flexibility within the State and region to narrow the requirements as needed to fit the local need.”

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) expressed support to tackle fee diversion, and said the Commission should consider frameworks used by states and municipalities. It said that “Pennsylvania has developed its legislation, fee rate, and eligibility requirements to meet Pennsylvania’s specific circumstances and needs to support 911 service.”

“PEMA commends the Commission’s approach of suggesting a broad framework of acceptable purposes and functions for the obligation or expenditure of 911 fees. The framework, if defined properly, would provide states and political subdivisions the flexibility to use 911 funds to suit their particular needs and circumstances while staying within the defined framework of acceptable uses and mitigating fee diversion,” the filing said. “However, it is not apparent the proposed rules provide a comprehensive framework of call delivery, processing, and dispatch functions related to PSAP operations or provide flexibility for the adoption of future technologies and capabilities such as NG911. The framework should consider needs of a NG911 environment such as networking, cybersecurity, geospatial information systems, and other NG911 related costs.”

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) said that creating rules for fees or charges other than those designated for 911 services would exceed the FCC’s statutory authority.

“The Commission seeks comment on extending the definition of ‘911 fee or charge’ to include fees or charges designated for the support of ‘public safety,’ ‘emergency services,’ or similar purposes if the purposes or allowable uses of such fees or charges include the support or implementation of 911 services. The Commission should revise its rule to define ‘911 fee or charge’ as those fees or charges specifically designated for the support of 911 services, whereby bringing it into alignment with statute,” it said. 

“The Commission seeks comment on its proposal defining acceptable purposes and functions for ‘multi-purpose’ fees or charges. The Commission should revise its proposal to reflect that multi-purpose fees and charges fall outside the scope of its authority. The Commission should remove accounting rules for multi-purpose fees or charges from its proposed rule,” the filing added.

The DHSES also said that the FCC has failed to meet “its obligation under the statute or the Administrative Procedure Act” to consult with public safety organizations and states. “The notice of proposed rulemaking makes no clear reference to any of the required consultation, thereby preventing input and consideration by the regulated parties. Further, the Commission has not yet reached out to impacted states, including New York, for consultation on this proceeding,” it added.

Several industry entities expressed support for the rulemaking.

“We applaud the Commission for its quick action in implementing the statute and taking further steps to end 911 fee diversion,” NCTA said. “As the Commission has noted, the diversion of fees collected to fund 911 service is a significant and ongoing problem, with more than $1 billion diverted between 2012 and 2018. This misdirection of 911 fees is unacceptable given the reliance people place on the 911 system and the urgent nature of these calls.”

CTIA encouraged the FCC “to further clarify the nature and scope of acceptable obligations or expenditures of 9-1-1 fees on 9-1-1-related services and functions. The Commission should also expand the proposed declaratory ruling process to enable other stakeholders, including communications providers and public safety organizations, to request FCC guidance over whether certain measures constitute 9-1-1 fee diversion. Finally, the FCC should confirm that communications providers’ collection of multipurpose fees identified as a single line item on consumers’ bills does not constitute 9-1-1 fee diversion, so long as the fees are collected into sequestered accounts and providers have the flexibility to disclose the purpose of the combined fees to consumers.”

T-Mobile US, Inc., said it “has long encouraged the Commission to adopt clear guidance defining what constitutes 911 fee diversion. Such comprehensive direction would spell out clear and transparent factors of what does and does not constitute diversion, thereby encouraging states to adopt best practices for spending 911 funds appropriately. Thus, T-Mobile is pleased that the Commission has proposed to adopt a definition of ‘911 fee or charge’ that would establish clear boundaries around what 911 fees may be used for. As the Commission moves forward to adopt a definition, T-Mobile encourages it to seek additional information on the practices of various states, counties, and municipalities to ensure that its definition of ‘fee diversion’ captures all instances where 911 fees are not being used for 911 costs.”

The carrier also encouraged “the Commission to consider and support alternative means of funding 911 services that do not rely on consumer surcharges.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

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NENA, NASNA Detail Complaints With NG-911 Legislation

Courtesy ~ TR Daily

NENA and the National Association of State 911 Administrators have detailed their complaints with next-generation 911 legislation included in the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America (LIFT America) Act, including the treatment of NENA’s i3 standard, shortcomings concerning  interoperability and reliability language, and the need for explicit authorization to use grant funds for cybersecurity.

The LIFT America Act, which was introduced by the 32 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee (TR Daily, March 11), includes $15 billion for grants to fund NG-911 deployment.

The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition, which is backed by eight major public safety groups, has endorsed the NG-911 provisions (TR Daily, March 18). 

But in a letter dated Friday but not released until today to the leaders of the House Commerce Committee and its communications and technology subcommittee, NENA and NASNA said, “The LIFT America Act recognizes that the governance and control of 911 systems, including NG911, should remain at the State, regional, and local level. At the same time, it establishes a nationwide framework to facilitate cooperation among Federal, State, and local officials and to promote the interoperability and reliability of NG911 systems. NASNA and NENA support these important objectives but believe they would be undermined by some of the Act’s provisions. Congress must act to rectify the following provisions or risk compromising NG911 for many years ahead.”

The groups complained that the legislation “fails to fully account” for NENA’s i3 standard “ecosystem,” noting that it would require the standard to be approved by the American National Standards Institute and “meet the definition of interoperable” in the bill while not requiring other standards to meet that definition. “The result of these distinctions borders on absurd,” NENA and NASNA argued.

The groups said that lawmakers should modify the bill so “‘commonly accepted standards’ means standards followed by the communications industry that enable interoperability, are consensus-based, and are developed by recognized standards development organizations.”

Regarding interoperability, NENA and NASNA called for “an additional explicit requirement in the legislation that NG911 systems be interoperable and that grant applicants take steps to demonstrate in their state plans how they will achieve interoperability.”

Congress should “either make clear in the legislative language that the definition of ‘interoperable’ in the Act only applies to NG911 or, alternatively, to modify the definition of ‘interoperable’ in a way that ensures interoperability between NG911 systems and legacy 911 systems,” they added.

As for reliability, NENA and NASNA said that “the reliability requirements imposed on NG911 grant recipients should be consistent with the FCC’s rules, as State 911 authorities will necessarily look to NG911 service providers to comply with any grant obligations.”

They also bemoaned the fact that “while the Act generally authorizes the use of NG911 grant funds for ‘implementation of NG911,’ it does not explicitly authorize cybersecurity expenses. NASNA and NENA believe that such expenditures should be expressly permitted. Notably, some states have already implemented an NG911 system but may have plans to establish an emergency communications cybersecurity center (EC3) to provide intrusion detection and protection services for PSAPs in their states. The implementation of State-based EC3s was recommended by the FCC’s Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture (TFOPA) as an efficient and effective framework for addressing cyber-based threats; this concept was also endorsed by CSRIC.”

The groups also said that “the Act should require NG911 grant applicants to certify annually that they are employing effective cybersecurity resources to protect NG911 systems and services from cyber-based attacks. While the Act requires applicants to address cybersecurity resources in their State plans, we believe that annual certification from the grant recipient that effective measures are being employed will provide additional assurance that NG911 systems will be protected.”

NENA and NASNA said they “oppose the establishment of a Federally managed security operations center (SOC) to manage cybersecurity on behalf of the nation’s PSAPs. While the security of our nation’s 911 systems is vital, the solution outlined in the Act would undermine State and local control of 911 systems, inject significant and complex privacy, technical and legal challenges into the NG911 implementation and operations process, and impose additional costs and administrative burdens on the National 911 Program — all without a clear roadmap for success.”

NENA and NASNA also said there is no need to establish an NG911 Advisory Board. If lawmakers keep such a provision in the legislation, any board should have NG-911 experts, the board should not add costs to the grant process, the board should only advise on grant guidelines, and the board should not be exempt from the Federal Advisory Committee Act, according to the groups. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

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Coalition Endorses NG-911 Legislation, Criticizes Others

Credit: TR Daily

The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition today endorsed NG-911 legislation that is included in the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America (LIFT America) Act, which was introduced by the 32 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week (TR Daily, March 11). The package includes $15 billion for grants to fund NG-911 deployment. But the coalition criticized NENA and the National Association State 911 Administrators (NASNA) for opposing the legislation.

The coalition said in a news release today that it “helped develop and fully supports the Next Generation 9-1-1 legislation that was included in the LIFT America Act with the leadership of Representatives Frank Pallone [D., N.J.] and Anna Eshoo [D., Calif.]. The Coalition’s approach is to secure the best outcome for public safety professionals and the communities they serve as they carry out their life-saving missions. Accordingly, the Coalition believes that this legislation is deserving of widespread bipartisan support throughout Congress. Unfortunately, some parties that disagree with the Coalition’s public safety-oriented principles are spreading misinformation about the legislation.”

Capt. Mel Maier, commander of the Emergency Communications and Operations Division of the Oakland County (Mich.) Sheriff’s Office who is a spokesman for the coalition, told TR Daily this afternoon that “some parties” in the news release “refers to a number of groups that are opposed to the legislation including NENA, based upon an inaccurate interpretation of bill language.”

He added that “NASNA is included in that category, which is surprising as they participated with our Coalition and in the development of the bill, and much of what they had identified as important was certainly included in the bill.”

NENA and NASNA are not included on the coalition’s letterhead, as eight other major public safety groups are.

The coalition said in today’s news release that legislation it supports will (1) “[n]ot only build upon current investments but rescue public safety agencies from being left with overly costly, substandard, incomplete, and non-interoperable solutions”; (2) “[e]nsure that technology standards prevalent in the consumer marketplace, and which have led to enormous innovation, interoperability, and economies of scale, are employed for NG9-1-1”; (3) “[e]nsure that other standards that vendors desire to use have the approval of a well-recognized standards development accreditation body”; (4) “[a]dhere to the cybersecurity protections for 9-1-1 recommended by an esteemed federal advisory committee”; (5) “[c]reate a well-rounded, balanced, and efficient advisory board composed of a cross-section of public safety professionals to provide initial and ongoing expertise to the federal agency responsible for administering the grant program”; and (6) “[n]ot only preserve state and local control of NG9-1-1 operations but ensure that diverse local public safety input is fully accounted for in all NG9-1-1 plans and grant applications.”

The coalition added that it “is solely motivated by what is needed by public safety professionals as they carry out their missions to save and protect the public every day. The Coalition appreciates the federal commitment to fund the transition to NG9-1-1 and respects the need to ensure that federal funds are expended in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Our grassroots effort will serve to express our support for the NG9-1-1 legislation, educate and, when necessary, dispel any misconceptions.”

NASNA recently called on Congress to pass NG-911 legislation that retains “the management of 911 systems at the State, regional, and local levels” while facilitating cooperation among entities nationwide (TR Daily, March 2).

In a letter to House and Senate leaders, NASNA said, “There are other interests that are raising new proposals to the framework that was previously agreed upon. While perhaps well-intentioned, those proposals would substantially disrupt the efforts of State authorities to develop, implement, and operate NG911 systems. Those changes include establishing a Federal NG911 security operations center, the creation of a new Federal program to drive development of new NG911 standards and technologies, and adding restrictive requirements for credentialing and access management.”

NASNA added, “We agree that NG911 security, standards, and credentialing are all important issues, which is why they are all currently being addressed by State 911 authorities. We urge you to reject these proposals and to move promptly to introduce legislation consistent with the bill language we have attached.”

NASNA Executive Director Harriet Rennie-Brown, who signed the letter to congressional leaders, told TR Daily that the “other interests” mentioned in the letter was a reference to the coalition, whose members include a number of major public safety groups. The coalition has pushed draft legislation that would call for a “nationwide strategy” to deploy NG-911 (TR Daily, Sept. 1, 2020).

In response to the LIFT America Act, NENA Chief Executive Officer Brian Fontes said, “The infrastructure bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix the cracks in the foundation of all public safety response: America’s 9-1-1 systems. It is absolutely essential that we get it right. But unfortunately, the language introduced today could strand already-substantial state investments in NG9-1-1 deployments, and create cybersecurity risks for state, local, and tribal governments.”

NENA noted that it has asked lawmakers “to build on the widely supported language of the Next Generation 9-1-1 Act of 2019, a bipartisan bill that enjoys the backing of more than 17,000 local 9-1-1 administrators and front-line dispatchers, as well as state 9-1-1 administrators and industry leaders.”

Mr. Fontes added, “There is already widespread agreement in the 9-1-1 community on the standards and technologies needed to make Next Generation 9-1-1 a reality in every community within this decade. What we need now is a major federal commitment and a workable policy framework to get it done.”

In response to the coalition’s news release today, Dan Henry, NENA’s regulatory counsel and director-government affairs, said, “Funding for NG9-1-1 is absolutely essential for public safety and for all those we protect.  As the only association solely dedicated to 9-1-1, we’re committed to working with Congress and all others to ensure effective legislation and a successful NG9-1-1 grant program.”

NASNA had no immediate comment. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

FCC Outreach

On Monday, Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel circulated a draft Report and Order to establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP).    “As we work our way through a pandemic that has upended so much in our day-to-day life, we have been asked to migrate so many of the things we do online. From work to healthcare to education, this crisis has made it clear that without an internet connection too many households are locked out of modern life. It’s more apparent than ever that broadband is no longer nice-to- have. It’s need-to-have.” Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel  The FCC is seeking outreach partners to help build awareness and educate consumers about the Emergency Broadband Benefit among their membership and communities.  Sign up at the FCC’s EBB webpage and bookmark the page to check on program updates and important information for consumers.  Circulating the Draft Report and Order among the FCC’s Commissioners is an important step in our rulemaking process.  Ultimately, the item will be voted on by the Acting Chairwoman and Commissioners.  Then, assuming an affirmative vote, the Bureaus and Offices of the FCC would begin the process of launching and executing the program.  The Acting Chairwoman has also released a preview of the March Open Meeting agenda. You can see her Notes on both the agenda and the Emergency Broadband Benefit .You can see her Notes on both the agenda and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Order here: https://www.fcc.gov/about/leadership/jessica-rosenworcel#link-0 .

FYSA: Releasing the FY 2021 SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants

On behalf of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, I am releasing the FY 2021 SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants (SAFECOM Guidance), which has been posted to the SAFECOM website at: cisa.gov/safecom/funding. The SAFECOM Guidance is updated annually to provide relevant information on policies, eligible costs, technical standards, and best practices for state, local, tribal, and territorial grant recipients investing federal funds in emergency communications projects. While only certain agencies require compliance with the SAFECOM Guidance, all entities are highly encouraged to follow the recommendations within this document to ensure interoperable, resilient, and fully effective communications.

In its 15th edition, the SAFECOM Guidance continues to evolve to meet the needs of the public safety community. This year’s guidance reflects the current public health and geopolitical landscapes, investment priorities, technical standards, and available supporting materials for implementing emergency communications projects. Key changes to the guidance include information on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, new cybersecurity resources, and repeal of the T-Band spectrum auction.

The development of this document would not have been possible without the input, ideas, and expertise of our partners at SAFECOM and NCSWIC. We thank them for their contributions to ensure that emergency communications policies are consistent across the Federal Government. For questions or additional information on the SAFECOM Guidance, please email: ECD@cisa.dhs.gov.

Parkinson: FirstNet ‘Will Become Stronger’ After Nashville Bombing & More News

Courtesy TR Daily

Parkinson: FirstNet ‘Will Become Stronger’ After Nashville Bombing

The nationwide public safety broadband network that AT&T, Inc., is building for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) “will become stronger” because of a Christmas Day 2020 bombing in Nashville that severely damaged an AT&T central office, resulting in outages to FirstNet subscribers (TR Daily, Jan. 4), FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Ed Parkinson said today.

“We will learn from this event—public safety will learn from this event—and ultimately the FirstNet system will become stronger as a result of this,” Mr. Parkinson said during a quarterly meeting of the FirstNet board and its committees held via video conferencing.

Mr. Parkinson added that he appreciates the “no-holds-barred, direct information” that FirstNet has received from FirstNet subscribers about the impact of the bombing on their service.

Last month, FirstNet board Chairman Robert (Tip) Osterthaler, Vice Chairman Richard Carrizzo, and other FirstNet officials traveled to Tennessee and Kentucky to meet with public safety users that were impacted by the outages (TR Daily, Feb. 2). FirstNet also has had virtual discussions with public safety officials and state, local, and federal users. Those discussions continue.

Mr. Parkinson said that FirstNet is working to “develop this comprehensive picture” to review the impact of the bombing on public safety operations.

“Ultimately, we plan to make recommendations to AT&T that will enhance the user experience,” he said.

Also during today’s meeting, which lasted less than 45 minutes, Mr. Osterthaler said that FirstNet is waiting for the Biden administration to appoint a new designee on the board representing the director of the Office of Management and Budget.

In addition, Todd Early, chairman of the board’s Public Safety Advisory Committee, said that the chair of its tribal working group, Danae Wilson, who has represented the National Congress of American Indians, is departing. She has also served on the PSAC’s executive committee.

During the meeting, Dave Buchanan, FirstNet’s director-public safety engagement, outlined advocacy efforts during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021—the last three months of calendar year 2020—and plans for the rest of the year.

During the first quarter, there were 23 focus groups with public safety stakeholders from 33 states, 93 national events, 310 public safety engagements, and more than 10,000 stakeholders reached, according to Mr. Buchanan.

Looking ahead, he said, FirstNet wants to focus on demonstrations; emphasize collaboration with industry, academia and government; and “document and publish actionable feedback … in order to improve the FirstNet experience.” The authority wants to continue to grow the public safety marketplace while focusing on a new and expanded marketplace that involves industry, academia, and government partners, he said.

Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s chief network and technology officer, and Mr. Parkinson said they were pleased that there are now 1.9 million subscribers on the FirstNet system from more than 15,000 public safety agencies and organizations (TR Daily, Jan. 27), and Mr. Bratcher said the deployment of Band 14 remains ahead of schedule, with 80% deployed.

Mr. Bratcher also said that more than 256 FirstNet devices are available, 193 of which support Band 14, and more than 166 apps are in the FirstNet catalog.

The officials also welcomed AT&T’s recent announcement of several offerings, including those dealing with Z-axis location-accuracy, high-power user equipment, and land mobile radio interoperability for push-to-talk enhancements. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Strengthen CISA to Boost Federal Cybersecurity, House Committee Told

To improve the cybersecurity of civilian executive branch agencies, Congress should go further to give the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency authority to impose cybersecurity requirements on agencies and allow it to be the cybersecurity service provider for those agencies, the House Homeland Security Committee was told today.

“CISA needs to become a shared service provider for cybersecurity for agencies.  When you look at over 130 executive branch agencies, the vast majority of them will never have the talent, the expertise, or the resources to defend themselves against the most sophisticated nation-states,” Dmitri Alperovitch, executive chairman of the Silverado Policy Accelerator, told the committee.

CISA became a stand-alone operational component of the Department of Homeland Security in late 2018 when President Trump signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act.  Under its initial director, Christopher Krebs, CISA accelerated its efforts to provide shared services to civilian agencies.  At today’s hearing, however, Mr. Krebs described what happened during his tenure as a “half step.”

“We need to take that full step.  Agencies … are simply not in a position to secure themselves all by themselves,” Mr. Krebs told the committee.  The federal government needs a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy for civilian executive branch agencies, he said, and that strategy should include mandates for all agencies to meet.

“Those requirements will likely be very onerous and very expensive, and I can think of maybe a handful of agencies that would be able to comply,” Mr. Krebs said.

Mr. Alperovitch, in his written testimony, recommended that Congress “take steps to set CISA on a path to becoming the operational CISO, or chief information security officer, of the civilian federal government.”

“Congress took an important step toward centralizing federal cybersecurity strategy by creating CISA in DHS in 2018, but the next step is to give CISA both the authority and the resources that it needs to effectively execute its mission,” he said.

“Ultimately, CISA should have the operational responsibility for defending civilian government networks, just as Cyber Command does for DoD networks,” he added.

Other recommendations from witnesses at the hearing, titled “Homeland Cybersecurity: Assessing Cyber Threats and Building Resilience,” focused on ways the federal government could coax the private sector into improving cybersecurity.

Sue Gordon, the former principal deputy director of national intelligence, noted that the federal government responded to the 1929 stock market crash by establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission and later requiring publicly-traded companies to use the standardized bookkeeping methods known as generally accepted accounting principles.

“In 2021 is it time for us to consider a bipartisan government and private sector approach to looking at generally accepted security principles?” she asked.  “It just isn’t satisfying to me” that private sector entities, especially those subject to SEC regulation, can decide for themselves how to protect their networks, she said.

Michael Daniel, who was the White House cybersecurity coordinator during the Obama administration and now is president and chief executive officer of the Cyber Threat Alliance, said the public and private sectors needed a more mature relationship to collaborate on cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity forces the government and the private sector into a different kind of relationship. Traditionally, the government is either a regulator or a customer for the private sector. While the government does have those relationships in cybersecurity, the government and private sector can have a third type of relationship in this area, that of partner or peer,” Mr. Daniel testified.

“This type of peer relationship is relatively new, and we do not have the necessary laws, policy, procedures, or even vocabulary to fully manage it, other than the overused ‘public-private partnership’ term,” he said.

“We need to fully develop the laws, policies, and procedures to govern this type of interaction, so that the relationships remain aligned with our overall sense of equity and appropriate roles for government versus the private sector,” he added. —Tom Leithauser, tom.leithauser@wolterskluwer.com

FCC to Consider 911, Secure Network Items, Hear Reports at Feb. 17 Meeting

The FCC plans at its Feb. 17 meeting to vote on items addressing 911 fee diversion and network security and to get staff presentations on efforts to implement three initiatives funded by the recent omnibus appropriations and COVID-19 relief package (TR Daily, Jan. 27).

The FCC plans to consider a notice of proposed rulemaking in PS dockets 20-291 and 09-14 implementing section 902 of the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2020. Among other things, the legislation requires the Commission to take steps to address states’ diversion of 911 fees for other purposes.

Also on tap is a third further NPRM in WC docket 18-89 proposing to modify FCC rules in response to changes made in the omnibus appropriations legislation to the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

The three initiatives on which staff will deliver reports are the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit Program for low-income Americans and those affected economically by the pandemic, which was created by Congress in the recent legislative package; the COVID-19 Telehealth Program created last spring for which Congress appropriated an additional $249.5 million in the recent legislation; and the collection of information aimed at creating more accurate and granular broadband data maps, as mandated by the Broadband DATA Act, for which Congress appropriated $65 million in the recent legislation. 

The meeting is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

FirstNet Fires Back at Interoperability Complaints

Courtesy of TR Daily

First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Chief Executive Officer Ed Parkinson fired back today at critics who bemoan a lack of interoperability with the nationwide public safety broadband network that AT&T, Inc. is building under a contract with FirstNet.

“Recent claims that there is a lack of interoperability with FirstNet and that special interoperability solutions are needed are simply not true—they ring hollow for those who understand the value of a nationwide public safety broadband network and that rely on FirstNet to keep them mission ready every day,” Mr. Parkinson said in a blog posting. “They depend on us for public safety standardized features, such as Mission Critical Push-to-Talk, aka FirstNet Push to Talk, and things as simple as sending a text to a public safety counterpart using another commercial wireless service. Because we are fully committed to international standards, they all work seamlessly.

“In fact, the 2012 legislation that created the FirstNet Authority not only called for our broadband network to be based on 3GPP standards, but required us to be actively involved in standards organizations representing public safety,” Mr. Parkinson added. “This legislation recognized that standards-based solutions not only provide interoperability, but also foster creative innovation for Mission Critical services, provide economies of scale, and provide for multiple suppliers of services which typically leads to lower costs. To reinforce this commitment to standards, our contract with AT&T requires the use of interoperable standards-based solutions.”

He said that FirstNet “has been actively working to develop standards for mission critical services in 3GPP since 2012. In collaboration with global public safety colleagues in 3GPP and AT&T, the FirstNet Authority led the charge to complete standards for mission critical services, such as Push-to-Talk, Video, and Data, including enablers such as direct mode device-to-device (D2D) and group communication services (e.g. Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (MBMS). We continue to work on enhancing these standards and evolving them for inclusion in 5G and ensure that the needs of first responders are addressed, now and in the future. In addition to the work in 3GPP, the FirstNet Authority and AT&T have been actively involved in developing standards for interworking new broadband mission critical services with legacy Land Mobile Radio systems.  

“We are responsible for keeping public safety’s unique communication needs at the forefront of technology and as a result, FirstNet is the fully operable communications network that public safety asked for, it is available today and, as public safety’s communications needs advance, it will continue to grow and evolve for decades to come,” Mr. Parkinson stressed.

Earlier this month, Verizon Communications, Inc., which offers a public safety service that competes with FirstNet, called on industry to join together to ensure there is “true” interoperability for first responders (TR Daily, Oct. 15).

“We cannot achieve true interoperability … until all carriers, device manufacturers, platform and solutions providers commit to building their solutions to interoperability standards. Verizon isn’t waiting for that; we have partnered with Mutualink to enable first responders to easily create secure group communications for improved collaboration and data sharing in near-real time, giving agencies greater control and choice when cross-agency communications are mission critical,” said Andrés Irlando, Verizon’s senior vice president and president of its public sector and Verizon Connect. “It’s time to get to work. We invite other industry leaders to join us. It’s simply the right thing to do for the dedicated public servants who risk their lives every day to save others—and for the millions of Americans they protect and serve.”

Verizon has argued that FirstNet has a “restrictive and proprietary approach” to interoperability, a criticism shared by some others that have called on policy-makers to require FirstNet to permit other carriers to interoperate with the FirstNet core.

“Without true interoperability, first responders responding to the same emergency using different service providers will only be able to communicate within their own user groups and unable to use one another’s public safety audio, video, and data services,” Verizon told the FCC last year (TR Daily, Sept. 30, 2019).

FirstNet and AT&T have argued that the type of interoperability sought by Verizon and others is not what Congress envisioned when lawmakers created FirstNet and that it could impair the security and resiliency of the nationwide network.

In his blog posting today, Mr. Parkinson said that “public safety expected us to aim squarely at solving the interoperability issue that had plagued effective public safety communications for decades by ensuring that we did not repeat the mistakes of the past—we could not create a patchwork of disparate and incompatible broadband networks, and we had to implement a network based upon open standards.”

“The first responder subscribers from these agencies enjoy full, seamless operability with one another and represent every public safety discipline and all levels of government in the 56 jurisdictions that we serve,” he added. “Because we based FirstNet on open international wireless standards as required by Congress, and created objectives requiring AT&T through our contractual agreement to meet those standards, the network is interoperable with other standards-based mobility networks. Our users can talk, text and exchange data with the users of commercial wireless networks across the globe.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

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

FCC FederalNews SpectrumAllocation