FirstNet Denies FoIA Requests for Information on AT&T Contract, Opt-In Notifications

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has denied a Freedom of Information Act request for information on the 25-year contract it has signed with AT&T, Inc., to deploy and maintain a nationwide public safety broadband network, as well as requests for other records, including opt-in notifications from states.

A letter yesterday from FirstNet Senior Counsel Natasha Robinson Coates noted that under section 6206(d)(2) of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which established FirstNet, FirstNet is exempt from FoIA requirements. “Accordingly, we do not undertake a search of our files for requested records or furnish such records to requestors,” she said. “Further, the requested information constitutes internal (non-public) agency records that FirstNet has determined not to make publicly available at this time,” she added. “Therefore, this letter closes your pending request before FirstNet.”

The letter rejected four separate FoIA requests submitted to FirstNet, the Commerce Department, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The requests had sought (1) “all user comments submitted to [FirstNet’s state plans]portal”; (2) “all communications from any state government officials to the First Responder Network Authority (‘FirstNet’) which the agency considers to be agreements (or proposed agreements) to ‘opt-in’ to the FirstNet system”; (3) “all Privacy Impact Assessments (‘PLAs’) created for systems affiliated with the First Responder Network Authority (‘FirstNet’)”; and (4) “all contracts, agreements, memoranda of understanding, etc. with AT&T pertaining to the First Responder Network Authority (‘FirstNet’).” Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, September 8, 2017

Public Safety Devices As FirstNet moves forward with more than twenty opt-ins, and the network begins to take shape, questions remain about the types of devices that will be needed and wanted by the public safety community. The original vison put forth by many of us working on the project prior to Congress allocating the spectrum or creating FirstNet is that at some point a single device would be carried by all first responders to access both broadband and Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems. Why burden those who already carry a belt full of gear with yet another device? However, during recent conversations with some of those advocating for public safety broadband and with many of today’s first responders, it appears as though the vision of one person, one device may not always be the best choice. It is clear that we will start with existing land mobile radio portables, smartphones, and tablets. AT&T has made it simple for opt-in states.

An agency simply signs up and its users receive new Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards for their existing smartphones (if they are compatible with AT&T’s spectrum). Over time, as AT&T builds out FirstNet Band 14, new devices can be purchased. There are already several offerings on the market, specifically from Sonim, that meet the need for hardened, long battery life devices and more are coming from Motorola, Harris, Tait, JVCKenwood, and others. LMR vendors are working on cross-over devices or devices that communicate back-and forth between LMR and LTE networks.

Discussions I have had indicate more than ever that there will need to be multiple types of devices, offering multiple types of services or combinations of services. One of the issues with this, of course, is that vendors do not like to build a few each of many different types of devices and would rather build many of one type. One of the reasons LMR radios are so expensive is that there are so many different radios needed for different portions of the LMR spectrum that production costs remain high. Read the Entire Blog Here

Senators Blast The FCC For Weakening The Definition Of Broadband To Try And Hide The Industry’s Lack Of Real CompetitionTechdirt Corporate Intelligence Sep  8 15:05 Back in 2015, the FCC raised the standard definition of broadband from 4 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up, to an arguably-more-modern 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up. Of course the uncompetitive broadband industry (and the lawmakers who adore them) subsequently threw a collective hissy fit about the change, because they realized a higher bar would only highlight their failure to deliver next-generation broadband to vast swaths of America. And highlight it did: by this…

Vermont Releases RFP for Statewide LTE RANMissionCritical Sep  8 10:03 The Vermont Office of Purchasing & Contracting, on behalf of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), is soliciting proposals for an alternative solution to the nationwide offering of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). Proposals are sought from qualified firms to build, operate and maintain a statewide radio access network (RAN) to connect to and be fully interoperable with the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN). read more

AT and T Exec Backtracks on Public Safety Grade CommentsMissionCritical Sep  8 10:03 Chris Sambar, AT&T senior vice president, apologized for comments he made “that may have been misleading” regarding a definition of public safety grade for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) nationwide public-safety broadband network. read more Continue reading

Verizon Praises Public Safety Customers

Verizon Communications, Inc., treasures its public safety customers, Matt Ellis, the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said today at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. “They are great customers,” Mr. Ellis said. But he defended the carrier’s decision not to bid on the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) request for proposals (RFP).

“We have a significant amount of low-band spectrum, and it just wasn’t as important for us to … bid on that as it was for others,” he said. He would not discuss whether the FirstNet system, which will be built by AT&T, Inc., was a threat to Verizon’s dominant share of the public safety market. Verizon has announced it will offer priority service and preemption to public safety customers, and it also plans to build a dedicated public safety core, matching AT&T’s offer (TR Daily, Aug. 15).

Courtesy TRDaily

TRDaily Reports: AT&T, Verizon Executives Defend Plans for Public Safety Networks

AT&T, Inc., and Verizon Communications, Inc., executives today defended and clarified their companies’ plans for deploying nationwide public safety networks, in the wake of criticism on matters such as the deployment of public safety grade facilities, the use of public safety Band 14, and interoperability between the two. The remarks were delivered at a Washington meeting of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC).

In his comments, Chris Sambar, senior vice president-FirstNet for AT&T, which is the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) network partner, apologized for “comments that I made that may have been misleading” concerning whether AT&T was committed to deploying a public safety grade network. “If my comments misled or concerned anyone, please know that we are absolutely 100% committed,” he said.

At a Senate hearing in July, Mr. Sambar was asked by Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) if AT&T’s commercial network is considered “public safety grade.” Mr. Sambar said there is no definition for that, but he said AT&T’s network is built “in a manner that is as reliable as possible.” The remark drew concern from some in the public safety community.

Last month, NPSTC released a statement expressing disappointment in AT&T statement that there is no consensus definition for public safety grade (TR Daily, Aug. 18).

At today’s meeting, Mr. Sambar praised a 2014 NPSTC report that defined public safety grade systems (TR Daily, May 23, 2014). He also stressed efforts by AT&T to protect 30 central offices and other assets in the Hurricane Harvey flood zone.

“As you noted in your report, it’s not reasonable to think that every single tower will be at the same level of public safety grade … but there does need to be some ranking,” Mr. Sambar said, saying that microwave and fiber hub locations are more important, as are cell sites relied on by public safety answering points (PSAPs).

He said AT&T has talked with states about the sites they consider to be particularly important, saying that a western state gave the carrier a list of 600 locations that it said need to be public safety grade.

Mr. Sambar also said he has heard “rumors” that AT&T will not deploy Band 14. In response to a question from Sen. Wicker at the July hearing about whether AT&T planned to build out Band 14 public safety spectrum “only where it is economically viable,” Mr. Sambar replied, “We are building Band Class 14 where we need the capacity in our network,” which will be done on a tower-by-tower basis.

That statement drew criticism from some people who say that public safety fought for Band 14 because that is the best band for the community’s use.

“We’re going to build out Band 14 broadly across our network,” Mr. Sambar said today. “We’re using it for capacity and coverage both.” In rural areas, AT&T will use the spectrum for coverage when it builds new towers, he said. He predicted that the carrier would deploy more than half the spectrum within the five-year initial build out and nearly everywhere over the 25-year life of the FirstNet contract. But he also noted that first responders will also use AT&T’s commercial LTE spectrum and said they won’t know which bands they are on.

Mr. Sambar also suggested that permitting other carriers to interoperate with AT&T’s dedicated FirstNet core will introduce security vulnerabilities into the network, citing, for example, Chinese hardware that some other carriers may use. “We’re not comfortable with that,” he said. He asked whether AT&T should have to allow interoperability with a U.S. mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) run by China Telecom.

Earlier at today’s meeting, a Verizon executive defended the company’s plans to offer priority service and preemption to public safety customers while building a dedicated public safety core (TR Daily, Aug. 15), saying that it doesn’t see itself as a competitor of FirstNet and wants its offering to be interoperable with the FirstNet system.

In the wake of Verizon’s announcement last month, some public safety advocates have questioned whether the company’s offering will undermine FirstNet and AT&T and whether it will be interoperable with the FirstNet service. Some also have asked why Verizon didn’t submit a bid for the FirstNet contract won by AT&T.

Don Brittingham, Verizon’s vice president-public safety policy, said that as it planned its public safety service, the company “understood that many in the public safety community might not view us in a good way, including our friends at FirstNet. … Our focus here is really to be complementary to FirstNet, and everyone might not see it that way initially.”

“We don’t view FirstNet as a competitor. We view them as a program that we want to be able to support,” Mr. Brittingham added.

But he also emphasized the importance for the public safety community of having “competitive choices,” which he said will “drive innovation” and favorable pricing. “We certainly believe that competition is important,” Mr. Brittingham said, but “we also know that none of that matters if you don’t have interoperability. … We are committed to be interoperable.”

He said it will be up to FirstNet to ensure there is “an umbrella framework” that ensures interoperability and an open ecosystem, including for apps. He said Verizon hopes to meet with FirstNet to ensure that its network can be interoperable with AT&T/FirstNet services. A particular challenge involves push-to-talk or other apps, as well as identity management.

He also said the company has used NPSTC’s public safety grade report as “a guide for us in how we build and operate our networks.” He said that “in almost every respect” Verizon meets or, “in many cases,” exceeds “what those standards require.”

Most of the areas where it doesn’t involve apps such as PTT, Mr. Brittingham said, including a PTT service that is fully interoperable with LMR and is moving to mission-critical voice. Another involves deployables and having stand-alone operations if the network is not operable, he said. Verizon is committed to rolling out devices that can use Band 14 so its public safety customers can also use FirstNet system, he stressed.

He said in response to a question that Verizon doesn’t have a data roaming agreement with AT&T and doesn’t think that one is necessary.  “I don’t see the roaming issue as being critical here,” he said. But he added, “We’re open to that.”

Mr. Brittingham also responded to criticism of Verizon about why it didn’t submit a bid in response to FirstNet’s request for proposals (RFP).

“For Verizon, we viewed the RFP as a spectrum arrangement,” he said. “Verizon has never had any interest in the spectrum. … It wasn’t about commercializing the spectrum.” But he said Verizon is committed to meeting the needs of public safety, noting that it will offer priority access immediately and plans to offer preemption by the end of this year or early next year. He said the public safety core will be ready in the first quarter of 2018 — the same timeframe as the FirstNet public safety core.

In response to another question, Mr. Brittingham said Verizon plans to establish a public safety advisory committee with input from FirstNet. “Obviously, FirstNet’s input in this is critical,” he added. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

 

TRDaily Reports: NPSTC Board Reviews Conclusions for LMR/LTE Integration Report

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) today reviewed initial conclusions in a report being finalized by its LMR to LTE integration working group. During a meeting in Washington, Chris Kindelspire, chair of the working group, said it was still finalizing a report on LMR/LTE integration and interoperability, but he discussed about 12 conclusions that will be in the report, including the need for open standards so agencies can use various vendors, the importance of the integration of LMR and LTE push-to-talk voice services, the belief that 3GPP standards on direct mode communications aren’t keeping pace with PTT network deployment, uncertainty on how 3GPP standards will be implemented, the importance of encryption for some tactical voice communications, and the need to define “mission critical.”

Also at the meeting, the NPSTC board approved a best practice on after-action reviews by the radio interoperability best practices working group.

David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, noted that the agency planned to soon complete action in its procedures for assessing alternative First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) state plans.  An item addressing an interoperability compliance matrix submitted by FirstNet has been circulated to FCC Commissioners (TR Daily, Sept. 5).  In June, the FCC adopted an order establishing its alternative plan review procedures (TR Daily, June 22), but the agency deferred action until it received additional input on consideration of the interoperability compliance matrix.

Mr. Furth also said the FCC would review the response to communications providers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  And he noted that the bureau would hold a workshop this fall on how to deal with any interference from commercial to public safety operations in the 800 MHz band.

In response to a question, he said the agency did not have an “aspirational shot clock” for launching a T-band proceeding.  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently told members of New York’s congressional delegation that the FCC was working on a framework for carrying out Congress’s dictate that public safety T-band spectrum be reallocated and auctioned by 2021 and incumbents be relocated by 2023 (TR Daily, July 31).

In other remarks, Charles Cooper, field director in the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, noted that the bureau was now listing all sanctions on the Daily Digest.  He said the bureau was also working to fully staff some field offices.

 

Also at the meeting, Sridhar Kowdley, program manager in the First Responders Group in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, discussed a July jamming exercise in Idaho to explore ways to mitigate jamming to public safety systems.  “We’re still working through the results.  There’s a lot of data,” he said. He noted that users of jammers include churches, restaurants, movie theaters, and resorts.  DHS wants to work with NPSTC to raise awareness of jamming threats and steps that public safety agencies should take to increase communications resiliency, he said.  “We want all levels of the organization to be aware of jamming,” Mr. Kowdley said.

He said it wanted agencies to know how to respond to jamming threats and implement initial recommendations that came out of the exercise, which was known as JamX 17. To mitigate jamming threats, equipment operators must take them seriously and take basic steps such as equipment shielding and height mitigation, according to the recommendations.  Polarization of jammers also is effective, as is the use of automatic gain control in systems.

Organizations should consult their legal counsels to understand state and local jamming laws and should conduct regular training drills.  They also should use multiple bands for backup systems and require that problems be promptly reported. For special events, agencies should develop a contingency plan and alert other jurisdictions of potential threats.  Security teams should be trained in jammer identification and mitigation tactics, and events should be monitored with spectrum analyzers and direction-finding tools to pinpoint sources of interference. A jamming exercise was also held last year, and another one is planned for 2019.

Also at today’s meeting, Jim Downes, Federal Partnership for Interoperable Communications manager in DHS’s Office of Emergency Communications, said it was still awaiting Office of Management and Budget approval so it could release a long-awaited survey of first responders to help it update the national baseline assessment of public safety communications capabilities.

Five states have signed memoranda of understanding to allow them to access federal interoperability channels; 10 other states are close to signing an MoU, Mr. Downes said.  Mr. Furth said the Public Safety Bureau planned to issue an order soon ratifying the MoU process.

Also today, Tom Gallagher, chief executive officer of the American Radio Relay League, urged NPSTC members to individually support congressional passage of the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2017 (HR 555), which passed the House in January (TR Daily, Jan. 23).

During an executive session after the open portion of today’s meeting, the NPSTC board agreed to review the federation’s options for a T-band resolution, decided to join the National Council on Public Safety UAS, and decided not to join the Wireless Innovation Forum, according to NPSTC Executive Director Marilyn Ward. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 31, 2017

APCO, FirstNet, and PTT over LTE.  Mid-month August, Denver hosted the annual Public Safety Conference. While those elected to APCO’s executive offices seem to be moving APCO more toward dispatch and training in that area, the show floor still represents what APCO has always been to me. It is an organization founded on the premise that public safety communications staffers needed a place to meet and discuss issues. Dispatchers and dispatch centers were a very important part of APCO for sure, but it now appears as though APCO is leaving its technical roots behind in favor of only one segment of the communications continuum. The good news is that the APCO show floor still represents all the various communications disciplines needed to provide public safety with end-to-end communications capabilities.

Only two short weeks after this gathering in Denver, Houston was hit by Hurricane Harvey. It is too soon for after-action reports since flooding and rescue efforts are still very much in the news, but preliminary numbers from the FCC indicate there were some call center outages, and some cell sites were offline, but not as many as might be expected. Of course, the FCC’s data was gathered during the height of the storm and may need to be revised as sites run out of fuel or connections to sites are damaged or flooded. The FCC does not maintain records on public safety LMR so there is no way at this point to compare and contrast the differences. However, listening to Houston Police and Fire Dispatch via the Internet it appears from a distance that their systems are fully functional and operational.

We also do not have any details regarding the Band 14 pre-FirstNet public safety LTE network that has been deployed and working in the Houston area for many months. As the rain subsides and the flooding ebbs, there will be plenty of after-action reports that will prove valuable to the entire public safety community. The head of the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) is right in the middle of the Houston Public Safety communications scene and I think when this is over he, among others, will be able to provide some important information on what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be improved before another incident occurs. Read the Entire Blog Here .

Alaska becomes 16th state to ‘opt-in’ to FirstNetUrgent Communications Aug 31 06:30 Alaska Gov. Bill Walker announces his decision to accept the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by …

Hawaii Opts in to FirstNetMissionCritical Aug 30 10:03 Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced his decision to accept the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T state plan for a public-safety broadband network. read more

Idaho City Gets Waiver for 700 MHz Wideband Mobile Data SystemMissionCritical Aug 31 10:03 The FCC granted a waiver to the city of Post Falls, Idaho, to allow the city to operate its wideband mobile data system on channels in the portion of the 700 MHz band reserved for public-safety narrowband systems. read more

Hurricane Harvey Suggests that Emergency Networks Improving Even Before FirstNetIT Business Edge Aug 31 05:35 When coupled with the creation of FirstNet and other dedicated emergency communications networks, it suggests that the big challenge of allowing …

Alaska to Transform Communications for Public Safety; Governor Walker Approves Buildout Plan for First Responder NetworkPR Newswire Aug 30 14:40 RESTON, Va., Aug. 30, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Alaska is modernizing communications technology for its first responders. Today, Governor Bill Walker announced his decision to accept the FirstNet and AT&T* plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state’s public safety community….

NTIA Releases Final Rules on FirstNet FeesMissionCritical Aug 30 10:03 The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued a final rule regarding its review of fees that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) may assess to help fund operations. NTIA will ensure that the fees FirstNet assesses are sufficient to cover its expenses but do not exceed what is needed to carry out its duties, an NTIA statement said. read more

Has FirstNet Rebranded AT&T’s Network as the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network?The National Law Review Aug 29 17:20 The actual terms of the agreement between FirstNet and AT&T remain unavailable to the public for proprietary reasons. However, what has been …

NTIA issues final rule for its review of FirstNet feesUrgent Communications Aug 29 16:45 Under the 2012 law that created FirstNet as the entity to build and maintain a nationwide public-safety broadband network, NTIAthe federal agency …

AT&T Exec Highlights Priority, Pre-Emption, App ProgramRadio Resource Aug 28 20:20 AT&T officials offered more details on priority and pre-emption and the application store for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) during …

FCC Activated Disaster Information Reporting System for Hurricane HarveyTV Technology Aug 28 17:10 WASHINGTONThe FCC is offering its support to the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey by having its Public Safety and Homeland Security …

Vodafone Ireland launch Nationwide Commercial Narrowband NB-IoT NetworkIrish Tech News Aug 31 08:55 NB-IoT will also provide benefits to communities in rural Ireland, with a number of advancements in connected health, such as Remote Health Care, …

U-blox enables narrowband IoT street lightingElectronics Weekly Aug 31 08:00 Streetlight remote management firm InteliLight has used Swiss company U-blox’s Sara-N2 series of  narrowband IoT (NB‒IoT) modules to control a connected smart streelight system in Romania. InteliLight used Flashnet’s NB‒IoT connected smart street lighting control system. A pilot project is already deployed on the OTE (Telekom) network in Patras, Greece. Having identified NB‒IoT as strategically important, … This story continues at U-blox enables narrowband IoT street lighting Or just r

2017 marks a new era for massive commercial use of China’s narrowband IoTGoogle Alerts Aug 31 08:00 As of May 2017, the number of connections to China Mobile IOT had exceeded 120 million, making China Mobile the largest IOT service provider in …

A New Satellite Company Offers Governments the Ability to Track People From SpaceOuter Places Aug 30 18:20 According to Walter Scott, DigitalGlobe’s founder and CTO, “A large percentage of the population lives in a really narrow band of latitudes,” meaning …

DC court says Dish skirted rules in US airwave auctionThe Register Aug 30 06:00 No bid credits for sockpuppets, rules judge A US Court of Appeals has upheld US broadband watchdog the FCC’s decision to bar companies connected to satellite provider Dish Network from claiming discounts on their bids in a 2014 wireless spectrum auction.…

Ixia Launches New LTE Test Solution for Cellular IoTDATAQUEST Aug 30 03:55 … Long Term Evolution (LTE) test solution for cellular IoT enhanced Machine-Type Communication(eMTC) and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) technologies …

Hawai’i to Transform Communications for Public Safety; Governor Ige Approves Buildout Plan for …Cellular News Aug 29 16:45 Governor David Ige recently announced his decision to accept the FirstNet and AT&T plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state’s …

700 mhz public safety radiosMetro Encounter Aug 29 08:50 Oct 12, 2009 to Land Mobile Radio (LMR) mission critical public safety voice adjacent to the public safety broadband spectrum (the 700 MHz D Block).

FCC’s Pai: News Outlets Play Critical Role in Harvey AidMultichannel News Aug 28 17:10 Today, I have talked with FCC public safety and enforcement staff, including field agents who have been traveling throughout the storm zone, to thank …

Arkansas sheriff’s office sends rescue team, Little Rock company dispatches buses to TexasArkansas Online Aug 28 16:20 … for help, we, too, will respond and assist the first responders who are overwhelmed with rescue efforts, Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck said in the statement.

Why Ordinary Citizens Are Acting as First Responders in HoustonThe Atlantic Aug 28 14:30 The first responders are the neighbors. Bystanders. People that are willing to act. That underpinned whole-community response, the principle …

Communications Service Providers Asked to Adopt the FCC CSRIC Guidance on Signaling System …JD Supra Aug 28 14:10 Last week, the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau released a Public Notice (Notice) urging communications service providers to …

Get Those EAS Test Forms In, Advises Law FirmMultichannel News Aug 24 08:50 The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has also released the latest edition of the EAS Operating Handbook (available here) and …

Huawei and Telenor successfully trial Lean BCCH solutions in India to help offer affordable …Firstpost Aug 24 08:35 … scarcity, broaden the scope of Narrowband-Internet of Things (NB-IoT) ecosystem and offer affordable mobile broadband services to customers.

Hawaii Latest State to Opt Into FirstNet

Hawaii has opted into the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), joining 14 other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands in making that decision, FirstNet and its wireless network partner, AT&T, Inc., announced today. “The FirstNet network will transform the way fire, police, EMS, emergency management and other public safety personnel communicate and share information, enabling them to better serve their communities during emergencies and day to day operations,” Gov. David Ige (D.) said. “I believe this is long overdue,” said Maj. Gen. Arthur (Joe) Logan, the state adjutant general, state homeland security adviser, and single point of contact (SPOC) for Hawaii’s FirstNet initiative. “The 9-11 Commission required that first responders should have interoperable communications. That’s what FirstNet will provide to Hawaii.”

“Gov. Ige’s decision to join FirstNet will give emergency responders access to reliable, modern communications solutions they’ve never had before,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. “We are honored to deliver a high-speed network that will prioritize first responders and connect them across the Aloha State.” —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily