Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, October 4, 2018

T-Band Revisited, New FirstNet Authority CEO. Just to refresh your memories, the T-Band is the 470–512-MHz spectrum that was allocated to UHF-TV channels 14-20 that has since been made available to both public safety and, in some areas, business Land Mobile Radio (LMR) users. This was implemented in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) action in 1971 and today there are eleven major metro areas that make use of the T-Band.

When Congress passed the bill authorizing FirstNet it included other provisions as well. One of these was that the T-Band would be available for spectrum auction nine years after the bill was signed. Once the auctions were over, the public safety community would have to vacate the spectrum within another two years. Those in Congress who added this provision to the bill indicated they had to have a “give-back” of some type to help them justify the release of ten additional megahertz of 700-MHz spectrum for public safety. It was not clear in the law who would pay for T-Band users to move off the T-Band nor where the FCC would find spectrum to accommodate them.

Some in Congress at the time FirstNet was passed into law believed FirstNet would be able to absorb all of the existing LMR users in these eleven metro areas. However, as of today, FirstNet is not ready to take over complete public safety-grade services including off-network voice communications and other functions needed by first responders. Therefore, as the deadline approaches, efforts to have Congress review and rescind this portion of the law have been stepped up.

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Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, September 20, 2018

FirstNet’s First Hurricane. Last week’s Public Safety Advocate discussed storms, wildfires, and other reasons it is so important for as many public safety agencies as possible to be a part of the FirstNet network and ecosystem. This week, weather hit the Carolinas hard with the arrival of hurricane Florence and FirstNet (Built by AT&T) sprang into action. So far, reports coming out of the area via reporters, tweets, and other social media indicate that FirstNet moved in and met the challenges it faced.

According to the FCC storm reports and verified elsewhere, 14 percent of the existing cell sites were out of service while more than 164,000 customers were out of cable, broadband services, and phones. Putting this another way, according to Tower Daily News and as reported by WWAY-TV, 86.4 percent of the cell towers remained in operation serving the public and the public safety community. As of last Sunday, the number of cell sites still down was reduced to 787, as compared to the 1,063 sites that were out of service a few days earlier.

In South Carolina, 98.3 percent of the 4,107 cell sites were operational going into last weekend, and by Sunday the number of sites down in the state had been reduced to 68 or 1.7 percent. On other communications services, the FCC’s latest report shows that 47 TV stations were on the air with only four being down, and 100 FM stations were broadcasting with only 20 off the air. On the AM side of things, 28 AM stations were broadcasting, leaving only three off the air. It is important to realize information about the number of cell sites and other communications facilities are generally furnished by the site owners, station owners, or others with knowledge of the current situation rather than numbers that are generated by the FCC directly.Read the Entire Post Here

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NTIA’s Redl Says Spectrum Sharing Is The Future Of 5G

Law360 Sep 19 21:25

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Law360 (September 19, 2018, 7:29 PM EDT) — For National Telecommunications and Information Administration head David Redl, the government’s … Continue reading

Wisconsin Awards $7M in Broadband Grants

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R.) and the state’s Public Service Commission have announced the award of an additional $7 million in broadband expansion grants. The 37 new grants will extend high-speed internet access to as many as 1,100 business locations and 14,000 residential locations,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.  The awards must be finalized in a PSC written decision.

“Because of the truly transformative power of broadband we are awarding more than $7 million to extend high-speed internet in Wisconsin,” Gov. Walker said in a statement. “With these grants we are continuing to build on our investments into broadband throughout the state to ensure that Wisconsin families and businesses have access to technology and information they need to excel. Broadband access is revolutionizing education, health care, and business just like electrical revolutionized farming for my grandparents.” Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, September 13, 2018

Weather to Move to FirstNet

To all my readers who delight in finding errors in my articles (for which I am grateful), “weather” in the title is correct as this week’s Public Safety Advocate deals with storms, wildfires, volcanoes, and all forms of nature-made and man-made disruptions to our normal lives. This is also the week we all remember where we were on that tragic 9/11 day, which in some ways underscores the work public safety had begun in the search to find a way to provide better interoperability between and among agencies.

For the public, the 9/11 Commission, and the U.S. Congress, what happened in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and how many lives were lost that might have been saved began to bring home an awareness of the plight of public safety and the inability to communicate from department to department or even in some cases between fire and law in the same jurisdiction. This was followed by Katrina and other major incidents requiring multi-agency responses, all of which were hampered by the lack of inter- and intra-agency communications.

The 9/11 attacks took place in 2001, but FirstNet was not formalized by Congress and the President until February 2012. Today, seventeen years later, it is real. FirstNet is up and operational providing vital additional communications services to the public safety community in the way of data and video to and from the scene of an incident. It is also capable of non-mission-critical Push-To-Talk (PTT), which is and should be considered as an important piece of the interoperability puzzle. FirstNet has been designed as the nationwide broadband system for public safety. Most interesting to me is that a team of people and their vehicles can be dispatched across multiple states and remain in touch with their local dispatch center for the entire trip. When they arrive, they can become part of the incident communications efforts and still report to their own dispatch center thousands of miles away. This is certainly not the case with Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems in general although there are nationwide channels available for LMR use. Read the Entire Post Here Continue reading

House OKs Bill to Delegate Permitting Power to States, Tribes

The House today passed on voice vote the Rural Broadband Permitting Efficiency Act (HR 4824), which would establish a voluntary program for delegating to states and tribal authorities the permitting authority for broadband facilities within existing operational rights of way on National Forest Service lands and lands controlled by the Department of the Interior.

The bill would create a categorical exclusion from environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act for projects in rights of way that have already had a NEPA review.  It would also create a process for designating a lead permitting agency for projects that span multiple federal land management agencies’ jurisdiction. The House Natural Resources Committee approved the bill in June (TR Daily, June 6). Continue reading

Public Safety Advocate, September 6, 2018

FirstNet Progress—RFP IOC Goals Compared to Today’s Network.  The Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by FirstNet the Authority includes a section known as Section J-8 that deals with dates by which certain items and portions of the network coverage are to be completed. This Initial Operational Capability description (IOC) will be used to track the progress of the successful bidder and to justify progress payments the FirstNet Authority will make to the winning bidder. There are five IOCs based on “months from award” by which the system can meet minimum operational capabilities and one more that serves as the Final Operational Capability (FOC).

It is important to understand that payments made to the winning bidder will not come close to covering the expenditures that will have been made. The bidder recoups this investment by putting the network into operation so it can use Band 14 spectrum to augment its own spectrum for commercial customers at times when Band 14 is not being used by the public safety community.

The RFP was awarded to AT&T on May 30, 2017. Therefore, IOC-1 was due to be completed by November 2017 (6 months), IOC-2 by May 2018, IOC-3 by May 2019, IOC-4 by May 2020, IOC-5 by May 2021, and IOC-6, the final set of milestones by May 2022. These timeframes are intended to keep FirstNet (Built by AT&T) moving forward and to provide FirstNet the Authority with measurable timelines to evaluate performance. When the vender meets the timelines, a pro-rated portion of the $7.5 billion set aside by the federal government from proceeds of other spectrum auctions will be disbursed, and performance of the selected vendor will be evaluated. Read the Entire Post Here . Continue reading

GAO: FCC Data Overstate Broadband Access on Tribal Lands

Broadband deployment data collected by the FCC from service providers overstates the availability of broadband access on tribal lands because it “considers broadband to be ‘available’ for an entire census block if the provider could serve at least one location in the census block,” according to the Government Accountability Office.

In a report prepared at the request of the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and released today, GAO said that “[o]verstatements of access limit FCC’s and tribal stakeholders’ abilities to target broadband funding to such areas. For example, some tribal officials stated that inaccurate data have affected their ability to plan their own broadband networks and obtain funding to address broadband gaps on their lands. By developing and implementing methods for collecting and reporting accurate and complete data on broadband access specific to tribal lands, FCC would be better able to target federal broadband funding to tribal areas that need it the most and to more accurately assess FCC’s progress toward its goal of increasing all Americans’ access to affordable broadband.” Continue reading