Senators Markey Renews Calls to Pass Legislation to Maintain First Responders’ Access to T-Band Spectrum

Boston (December 2, 2019) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) issued the following statement in response to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai’s call on Congress to repeal the mandate to auction T-Band spectrum. Senator Markey, along with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), introduced the Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act, legislation that would preserve emergency personnel’s access to T-band spectrum (470–512 MHz).

“Supporting the brave women and men in police and fire departments across the county and giving them the tools they need to succeed isn’t a partisan issue,” said Senator Markey. “I commend Chairman Pai for joining the coalition of public safety organizations and industry actors alike calling on Congress to protect the T-Band. It’s time for Congress to do right by the people who keep us safe and secure and pass my Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act before the end of the year.”

The Senators’ bill repeals a provision of the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction off this band of spectrum by 2021. Police and fire fighters in highly-populated metropolitan areas in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere use critical T-Band spectrum for emergency public safety communication. Agencies across the country have invested millions of local, state, and federal dollars in the T-Band networks, which offer the reliable coverage and regional interoperability that first responders require for mission critical voice communications. Congressman Eliott Engel (NY-16) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

A recent study by the United States Government Accountability Office noted that the cost of relocating T-Band users to other bands of spectrum would cost between $5 and $6 billion, and for many T-Band users, alternative bands of spectrum are limited or “nonexistent.”

 

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WTB and PSHSB SUSPEND THE PROCESSING OF APPLICATIONS TO RENEW PART 22 AND 90 LICENSES FOR SYSTEMS OPERATING ON 470-512 MHz (T-BAND) SPECTRUM

“By this Public Notice, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (Bureaus) announce that, until further notice, they will accept, but not grant, applications to renew Part 22 and Part 90 licenses for operation in the 470-512 MHz band (T-Band). Licensees that have filed, and will in the future file, timely and complete applications for renewal of license may continue to operate using their licensed facilities past the license expiration date while the suspension is in effect.”

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-19-1225A1.pdf  

 

Pai Urges Congress to Repeal T-Band Auction Mandate

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today called on Congress to repeal its mandate that the agency reallocate and auction public safety T-band spectrum. In a related development, the Commission today suspended the processing of T-band renewal applications.

“In 2012, Congress passed legislation requiring the FCC to reallocate and auction T-Band spectrum used for decades by public safety licensees and fund the relocation of those licensees elsewhere.  The agency has extensively analyzed the T-Band and concluded that moving forward is not viable — relocation costs for public safety licensees would likely far exceed any potential auction revenue, making it impossible to fund the relocation and comply with the mandate.  The Government Accountability Office has agreed — reporting to Congress that the T-Band mandate is unworkable and could deprive first responders of their current ability to communicate by radio,” Mr. Pai said in a statement.

“Because of these concerns, I’m calling on Congress to repeal the T-Band mandate,” he added. “I’m hopeful that Congress can resolve this matter without delay.  Doing so will not only protect public safety communications in the T-Band but will also allow our dedicated auction staff to focus in 2020 on auctions that will make new airwaves available for 5G, like spectrum in the 3.5 GHz and 3.7 GHz bands.”

The requirement was included in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, and public safety entities have been urging Congress since then to repeal the provision, arguing that the T-band spectrum in the 470-512 megahertz band is crucial to public safety agencies in the 11 cities where it is used.

Legislation has been reintroduced in the House and Senate to repeal the statutory mandate.

The Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act was reintroduced in October by Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and Bob Casey (D., Pa.) (TR Daily, Oct. 31). The bill was reintroduced in the House in January by Rep. Elliot Engel (D., N.Y.). Similar legislation failed to pass both chambers in the 115th Congress.

In a report released in June, GAO said that Congress should consider legislation that would rescind the T-band mandate (TR Daily, June 21). The report also said that the FCC is concerned about the impact to public safety of relocating systems.

GAO noted that the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) has estimated that relocating public safety systems in the 11 cities where the T-band is used by public safety entities could cost more than $5.9 billion. NPSTC says that alternative spectrum is not available (TR Daily, March 15, 2013).

GAO said the FCC has calculated the costs of relocating public safety users from the T-band at $5 billion to $6 billion. The agency estimates it would cost $4 billion extra to relocate business-industrial users, GAO said, although Congress is not requiring those users to be compensated for moving to other spectrum.

Meanwhile, the Wireless Telecommunications and Public Safety and Homeland Security bureaus announced today that they are suspending the processing of applications to renew parts 22 and 90 licenses for systems that operate on the T-band.

“Licensees that have filed, and will in the future file, timely and complete applications for renewal of license may continue to operate using their licensed facilities past the license expiration date while the suspension is in effect,” the bureaus said in a public notice released in PS docket 13-42.

The public notice pointed out that in 2012, “to stabilize the spectral environment in light of the T-Band Mandate, the Bureaus suspended acceptance and processing of certain other T-Band applications [TR Daily, April 26, 2012]. That freeze was imposed to allow the Commission to consider issues surrounding future use of the T-Band and implement the Act. … Given that the February 22, 2021 statutory deadline is less than 15 months away, the Bureaus have determined that suspension of renewal processing is now necessary for the Commission to have the full range of implementation options available.”

Sen. Markey welcomed Mr. Pai’s statement today.

“Supporting the brave women and men in police and fire departments across the [country] and giving them the tools they need to succeed isn’t a partisan issue,” the lawmaker said. “I commend Chairman Pai for joining the coalition of public safety organizations and industry actors alike calling on Congress to protect the T-Band. It’s time for Congress to do right by the people who keep us safe and secure and pass my Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act before the end of the year.”

Public safety groups also praised Mr. Pai’s support.

“Chairman Pai’s call for repeal of 6103 of P.L. 112-96 is to be applauded,” NPSTC said. “His statement is consistent with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) and public safety calls for repeal of section 6103.”

“APCO has always supported repeal of the T-Band provision.  It’s the right thing for Congress to do,” said Derek Poarch, executive director and chief executive officer of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International.

“Our members appreciate Chairman Pai’s support for the repeal of the T-Band auction requirement,” said International Association of Fire Chiefs President and Board Chairman Gary Ludwig. “The fire and emergency service relies on the T-Band for interoperable communications in many of our nation’s metropolitan areas. In cities like New York and Chicago, public safety does not have an alternative to the T-Band. Today, fire departments large and small have access to the spectrum they need to communicate with each other. If a T-Band auction moves forward, this will no longer be the case. On behalf of the IAFC, I urge Congress to pass legislation repealing the T-Band auction requirement this year.”

“We see this as a move in the right direction. We hope that … Congress is open to our pleas,” said Craig Allen, chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Communications & Technology Committee and a retired lieutenant colonel for the Illinois State Police. “It is unworkable to vacate the T-band space for public safety.”

Andy Seybold, a wireless industry consultant and public safety advocate, said he was surprised to see Mr. Pai weigh in. “Previously it appears as if the FCC said that they could do nothing unless Congress passed a bill to repeal the give back,” he noted.- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, November 14, 2019

T-Band, FirstNet Updates, Laptops and Tablets

First and vitally important to eleven major cities and their metro areas, both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have introduced bills cancelling the T-band (470-512) giveback. House bill H.R. 451 is one of the simplest bills ever introduced in the House and it is almost exactly the same as the bill that languished in the House last year. This bill that was sponsored by Representative Eliot, a democrat from New York, now has nineteen sponsors. Three are Republicans and sixteen are Democrats who are primarily from areas that will suffer badly unless the requirement to return the T-band to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) for auction is overturned. The original bill is presently under the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

The Senate bill, S. 2748, contains the exact wording as the House bill. It was introduced in the Senate by Senator Markey, a democrat from Massachusetts. The bill currently has a total of four co-sponsors including Senators from NY, MA, and PA, all Democrats. After it was introduced in early October and submitted to the Committee on Science and Technology where it currently resides.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which provides cost estimates for most bills, has not yet weighed in on this bill, however, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that is in line with the reports from National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) concerning the cost of relocating first responders in the eleven metro areas that currently have access to portions of the T-band. That is if there was any spectrum available for relocating these agencies. Based on FCC data, there is none. There is a bill in both houses of Congress, as there was last Congressional session, and NPSTC and the GAO have both stated that moving first responders off the T-band would be a very costly and, in reality, impossible task.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and first-responder agencies in areas where the T-band is in use have been working with Congressional staffers and their bosses to make sure they understand the seriousness of the consequences if these bills do not pass in both houses and are not signed into law.

Read the Entire Column Here

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PROMOTING TELEHEALTH IN RURAL AMERICA. Increases Transparency, Predictability, and Efficiency of RHC Program Funding Decisions. (Dkt No 17-310).

Action by: the Commission. Adopted: 2019-08-01 by R&O. (FCC No. 19-78). WCB. FCC-19-78A1.pdf

Nearly 60 million people—roughly 1 out of every 5 Americans—live in a rural area. Telehealth services are one important solution to the challenge of health care access in rural areas by connecting rural patients with general physicians and medical specialists located outside the patients’ communities. The Commission promotes telehealth in rural areas through the Rural Health Care Program (RHC Program or Program), which provides financial support to help rural health care providers obtain broadband and other communications services at discounted rates. These services are in turn used by health care providers to offer telehealth to patients living in and around the communities they serve.

As the demand for robust broadband has increased throughout the country, the RHC Program has witnessed a dramatic increase in health care provider participation. Even with the Commission increasing the RHC funding cap last year by more than $170 million over the prior $400 million funding cap to account for inflation, demand continues to stress the RHC Program. This creates a challenge for program administration, leading to uncertainty among participants as to the status of their funding requests and complicating the planning of upgrades and existing service relationships. This increased demand and resulting administrative challenges required us to take a closer look at whether the current rules and procedures are cost-effective and efficient and adequately protect the Universal Service Fund against waste, fraud, and abuse. Accordingly, in this Report and Order, after reviewing the record, Federal Communications Commission FCC 19-78 3 we adopt a number of the proposals made in the 2017 Promoting Telehealth Notice and Order3 to reform the RHC Program rules to promote transparency and predictability, and further the efficient allocation of limited RHC Program resources.

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, May 30, 2019

Month-End Miscellany.  The first order of business this week is to give a shout out on behalf of all those who have given their lives for our freedom, military and first responders alike. I wish it was not necessary, but they did make the ultimate sacrifice for us, so this week especially, it is time to stop what we are doing, even if only for a few moments, and give thanks for each and every one of them.

Next, I want to give a shout out to all the first responders and scores of volunteers assisting them in what seems to be a never-ending series of tornadoes and floods across much of this nation. I have watched reports of numerous water rescues and UAV (drone) views of utter devastation from tornadoes. In the years I spent in the Cincinnati area working for General Electric Mobile Radio, I remember all too well the day the area was hit with more than seventeen tornadoes. My car, a new car GE leased for me, was parked in front of a GE two-way radio dealer. When we came out, it looked like it had been hit by rocks, not hail.

I reported to my fire department and my amateur radio net and proceeded to work for the next few days trying to find survivors. It was an experience I will never forget. Those in the Midwest are dealing with far too many similar situations. I only hope there is a break for them in the near future. Read the Entire Column Here.

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Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, May 16, 2019

Hurricanes and Other Disasters. Hurricane season runs June 1 through November 30, 2019, and a number of agencies and organizations are formulating their predictions about the potential severity of the upcoming season. For example, the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project Team has predicted a slightly below average Atlantic hurricane season, forecasting thirteen named storms and five hurricanes. The National Weather Service defines a hurricane as “a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 MPH or higher” and major hurricanes as class 3 or higher storms.

It is interesting to read the various projections. Several, like the one above, call for a lighter storm season but some are predicting we could have more and more damaging storms this year. We won’t know until it is over, but we do know we need to be prepared for these storms if we live in the Eastern region of the United States. We also need to continue to be prepared for the types of storms that have been racking the Midwest and the fire season on the West Coast that now runs all year long.

With the likelihood of so many disasters, public safety resources can become strained. Communications, of course, is key to being able to position resources where they are most needed and to coordinate activities which, during disasters, are highly focused on saving lives, then property, and protecting first responders’ personal safety. For many years, only Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems have been capable of providing communications needed in the field. However, there are shortcomings inherent with LMR systems. While they work well, some are not fully hardened to remain operational during most disasters. The most significant problem is that local, state, or federal agencies called in to assist bring their own LMR communications capabilities and these are not usually compatible with LMR services of others at the incident.

Read the Entire Column Here

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