Parties Debate 911 Fees on VoIP Service

Providers of VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) service are urging the FCC to clarify what services qualify as interconnected VoIP services and to clarify the extent of its preemption of state and local 911 charges for VoIP service that are greater than 911 charges for similar telecom services, and to do so in ways that will ease the onslaught of lawsuits they are facing from local and state agencies arguing that they are underpaying 911 fees.

Parties were responding in WC docket 19-44 to conflicting petitions for declaratory ruling filed in January by BellSouth Telecommunications LLC and several of the Alabama 911 districts asking the Commission to issue a declaratory ruling responding to a primary jurisdiction referral from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. “The District Court’s referral arises from a dispute between the parties regarding BellSouth’s billing of 911 charges for its business telephone service and the Alabama 911 Districts’ position that such service qualifies as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or similar service pursuant to Alabama’s 911 statute,” the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau had noted in inviting comments (TR Daily, Feb. 26).

NCTA said that it “agrees with BellSouth and urges the Commission to declare that state and local governments are preempted by federal law from collecting 911 charges for VoIP services that, in total, exceed the 911 charges applicable to comparable telecommunications services.” Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, March 28, 2019

Return of FirstNet Authority and More. Sounds like a strange title until you realize that once the contract was awarded to AT&T to build and maintain the network, those in the field deploying the FirstNet network kept up the pace while the organization’s management seemed to disappear into obscurity. However, at the FirstNet Authority board of directors’ meetings last week, the acting CEO and the board developed a plan to move forward proactively in many new and positive ways.

Ed Parkinson, acting CEO and long-time public safety supporter, has done a great job putting together this plan and the board has responded in a positive way. There have been several times when the FirstNet Authority has been slowed by circumstances not under its control. The first incidence, in late 2013, slowed progress by almost a full year. In the latest case, there was not a CEO or President to drive it forward and the board of directors was short a few members. Now we have a full board and, from what I have seen, an acting CEO with a vision of where The FirstNet Authority needs to go, how to help continue building out the network, and identifying additional pieces and parts that make sense.

Instead of The FirstNet Authority management simply watching over the contract vendor, the new plan is to include the public safety community as more of a partner in this private/public partnership. Edward Horowitz, chairman of the FirstNet board, is quoted as saying at the meeting, “As we strive to fully realize the promise of FirstNet, we are engaging with public safety to chart a path forward for the network. Using their feedback, our Roadmap will advance the network and guide our investments over the next several years and beyond.” Read the Entire Column Here . Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, March 21, 2019

Drive Tests, IWCE, and Palmyra Atoll.  After a two-week interruption in my scheduled Advocates, this one will hopefully serve to get back on schedule and to convey what we have been doing and why. First up is that Michael Britt and I drove to a number of areas in southern Arizona, then into California, and finally to Las Vegas and back to Phoenix. We were drive testing using the Sierra Wireless MG90 installed in my car to measure FirstNet and Verizon coverage along this route. The results and some of the maps that were generated are discussed below. Next came the IWCE Conference, once again well done. This year we decided to begin offering our “best of show” selections, also listed below.

One day after returning home, Linda and I left for Hawaii, where she stayed in Honolulu for the week I flew down to the Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles and worlds away from Hawaii. This Atoll was used during WWII as a gun emplacement but is now jointly owned by the federal government and a non-profit preservation organization. The Atoll is being returned to its original state, which means eradicating thousands of coconut palm trees and other non-indigenous foliage. Our task is to review and recommend replacement of their older communications systems with a new Atoll-wide Land Mobile Radio (LMR) system, new marine and aviation radio equipment, some newer radar, and other items.

While the Palmyra Atoll is an unincorporated U.S. Territory, FirstNet will not build there. The average population on the island is about eight people, swelling to twenty-four, and falling to as low as four, depending on the time of year. I took my Sonim XP8 since I was told the Atoll is not gentle with electronics because of the rain (144 inches a year) and very high humidity. While there is no cell coverage on the Atoll, there is some WiFi and an older satellite service. Using ESChat PTT (Push-To-Talk), I was able to communicate with several people on the mainland. The XP8 came through the test of the weather and humidity perfectly. Planning a new communications system will be a real challenge but rewarding.

Read the Entire Column Here .Here are the articles I have selected with the help of Discovery Patterns artificial intelligence. Continue reading

EWA Reports: “If the radio appears smelly or smoke….”

Many of our wireless sales and service member organizations are lamenting the fact that manufacturers from Asia are selling radio devices that are not only exceedingly inexpensive, but come equipped with instructions on how to tune the portable radios to potentially hundreds of channels ranging from 136-174 MHz and 400-512 MHz without regard to eligibility requirements.  EWA’s research reveals that none of the products manufactured by Quanzhou TYT Electronics or Fujian Nanan QuanSheng Electronics are type-accepted for use under Part 90 of the FCC’s Rules.

Read entire article at EWA:

Just launched! NIST PSCR’s Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division launched a new prize challenge on March 18, the Haptic Interfaces for Public Safety Challenge! Up to  $425,000 will be awarded to winning teams that create haptic interface prototypes that could improve public safety operations.

The public safety community needs access to critical information such as indoor maps, location, and routing, all presented in an intuitive, safe, and non-invasive manner during emergency and training scenarios. A haptic interface integrated into a first responder’s personal protective equipment (PPE) could assist the user in performing tasks such as monitoring patient vitals, navigating complex spaces with limited visibility, or maintaining situational awareness.

This challenge consists of multiple phases with contestants developing three haptic interface prototypes for use in PSCR provided virtual scenarios and a final haptic interface prototype embedded in firefighter PPE for testing at a real-world firefighter navigation course. PSCR will assess the efficiency, effectiveness, and level of user satisfaction of the haptic interface prototypes and their ability to assist first responders in conducting their tasks. Contestants will also have the opportunity to demo their initial prototypes with first responders at PSCR’s 2019 Stakeholder meeting in Chicago, IL.  

For more information, please visit: Thanks for sharing with your networks, and please reach out if you have any questions about the challenge or suggestions on how to spread the word about the challenge. All interested contestants must submit their concept paper on  by April 22.


Report: Private Sector Lags Federal Government on Cyber Hygiene

The private sector is lagging far behind the federal government on implementation of a key cybersecurity practice that impedes hackers from using e-mail systems to launch attacks, according to the 2019 annual report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “The federal government is more prepared than the private sector to protect against phishing attacks, which are a primary method for hackers to gain access to enterprises,” said the report, which was issued yesterday.

A binding operational directive issued by the Department of Homeland Security in 2017 required federal agencies to adopt domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC) systems that would instruct Internet service providers to block unauthenticated e-mails, the report noted.  DHS says that a large number of civilian federal government agencies met a 2018 deadline to deploy DMARC (TR Daily, Oct. 16, 2018).

“Government agencies’ use of the DMARC e-mail configuration is 47.9%, which is better than the average of 26% in the private sector,” the CEA report said.  “Though adoption of DMARC is only one of many indicators of cyber hygiene . . . these results nonetheless suggest that federal cyber best practices could set an example for the private sector.”

The report indicated that “incomplete incentives” could be contributing to the private sector’s lack of cyber hygiene.  “Evidence on the lack of many basic cybersecurity practices among the most profitable companies in the U.S. economy suggests that a lack of information awareness and a lack of resources are unlikely to be the primary culprits behind existing vulnerabilities,” it said.

It noted, among other things, that a comprehensive and flexible cybersecurity framework produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology had been available to businesses since 2014 and that sector-specific cyber threat information-sharing mechanisms had grown more robust in recent years, but that many companies did not participate.

“The degree of competition in the marketplace is an important moderating factor that determines whether a firm participates. In particular, unless firms in an industry understand the downside associated with their vulnerability to cyber attacks, they may not realize the gains that can come from collaboration through information-sharing,” the report said.

“Information-sharing and dissemination of best practices must remain a priority, particularly for small businesses that are more likely to lack the resources or infrastructure to search out and implement best practices. In particular, information needs to be publicly available, transparent, and shared to disseminate best practices and call attention to dangerous practices,” it added.

“The prevalence of cyber threats suggests that firms are relatively unprepared to protect themselves,” the report said, citing several academic studies.  “In 2017 nearly three-quarters of organizations based in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands failed basic cyber readiness tests.”

“Even though the United States ranks higher than most countries in cyber readiness, its preparedness is still poor enough to concern policy-makers studying the impact of cyber insecurity on the U.S. economy,” it said.  “Data show that the majority of Fortune 500 companies are vulnerable to cyber attacks, and thus fail to take even the most basic security measures.”

“Given the limited preparedness among Fortune 500 companies — manifested by not only the failure to adopt DMARC, but also a range of other cyber vulnerabilities . . . an additional concern is that smaller firms may have even less robust cybersecurity measures in place,” the report said. — Tom Leithauser,

Courtesy TRDaily



FirstNet Approves Investment Principles, Signs Emergency Medical Care MoU

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board today approved principles for reinvesting in the nationwide public safety broadband network being built by AT&T, Inc., and officials detailed plans to develop a road map to ensure continued enhancement of the system, including through the FirstNet investments. Also today, FirstNet signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) committing to collaborate on innovations dealing with rural emergency medical care and response and mobile broadband used by rural first responders in the state and nationwide.

“This is the only nationwide broadband network that public safety has a voice in. From the earliest consultation days through the launch of the network, public safety has been and will continue to be at the center of everything we do,” FirstNet Board Chairman Edward Horowitz said in a news release. “As we strive to fully realize the promise of FirstNet, we are engaging with public safety to chart a path forward for the network. Using their feedback, our Roadmap will advance the network and guide our investments over the next several years and beyond.”

At a joint meeting of the board and its four committees today in Jackson, Miss., the board adopted a resolution stating the investment principles. It says that investments must (1) “[b]e derived from and benefit public safety”; (2) “maintain and advance the foundation of the Network”; (3) “[c]onsider a balanced approach and provide value to public safety”; and (4) “[b]e fiscally responsible and reflect strong financial management[.]”

A slide used at today’s meeting said the first principle stresses that FirstNet “investments must clearly be informed by public safety and support our strategic objectives and Roadmap domains. We will directly engage public safety to capture their priorities, inputs and data to inform future improvements to the Network[.]”

Federal agency board members proposed and advanced these principles, said Robert (Tip) Osterthaler, chairman of the Finance Committee. “The purpose of these is to inform and guide investment decision-making,” he said. “It’s a great addition to the governance process.”

Ron Hewitt, assistant director-emergency communications for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who represents DHS on the FirstNet board, said the investment principles will help ensure that the board meets its fiduciary duties.

Acting FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Ed Parkinson said that following the FirstNet board’s next meeting in June, FirstNet executives will bring investment ideas to the board. He stressed that FirstNet will consider input from the public safety community.

An earlier FirstNet road map focused on the issuance of a request for proposals (RFP) and an award of a contract to construct the nationwide public safety network. The new road map “will guide advancement of the Network by depicting a 2-to-5-year view of public safety operational needs, technology trends, and actionable opportunities,” according to a slide used at today’s meeting.

“To develop the Roadmap, the FirstNet Authority is engaging with the public safety community in various forums to capture their feedback on how broadband technology can serve their operational needs,” a news release said. “The Roadmap will incorporate industry trends through market research and outreach to the private sector, academia, and industry associations. This work will also enhance industry’s understanding of public safety’s communications needs. The FirstNet Authority will refresh the Roadmap to ensure it continuously accounts for public safety’s operational needs and industry trends.”

When FirstNet engages in discussions with first responders at forums and meetings or one-on-one, it will discuss these five topics: coverage and capacity, situational awareness, voice communications, secure information exchange, and user experience, according to David Buchanan, FirstNet’s executive director-public safety advocacy, and Jeremy Zollo, FirstNet’s director-Enterprise Strategy Division.

As the road map is developed, “public safety will continue to be in the driver’s seat,” said Jeff Bratcher, FirstNet’s chief technology and operations officer. The road map is designed to implement the FirstNet 2.0 strategic plan governing its actions through 2022. Continue reading