House Report Cites Need for Reliable Communications During Disasters

A report by the Republican staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that was released today criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies for failing to ensure they have resilient communications systems to respond to disasters. “Ensuring resilience and redundancy in communications infrastructure must be a priority at all levels of government,” the committee said in a news release about the 46-page report. The committee launched its FEMA oversight after 2016 flooding in Baton Rouge, La., and extended its review through last year’s hurricane season. “The importance of reliable communications systems should not have been surprising in light of the lessons-learned during the Hurricane Katrina response and the response to the 2016 Baton Rouge flood,” the report said.

Courtesy TRDaily


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

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

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

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 30, 2018

Passing the Baton.  The past several weeks have seen some interesting changes in the FirstNet Board of Directors and the U.S. Senate. First and foremost, the passing of John McCain was very sad news for many. I am not sure how many within the public safety community know how involved Senator McCain was in the early days of forming FirstNet or how much he supported the public safety community. On the FirstNet Authority side, we lost (due to retirement) our great board chair person Sue Swenson, vice-chair Chief (Ret.) Johnson, and “Mr. EMS”Kevin McGinnis. This leaves a gaping hole in the board with seven vacant chairs to be filled.

In July of 2010, three U.S. Senators announced they were joining the fight mounted by the public safety community to gain access to the 700-MHz D Block. These three were John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller. Until then, support from the Senate for the public safety requests was limited. Then on July 21, 2010, Senators McCain and Lieberman introduced a bill (S.3625) to allocate the spectrum known as the D Block to public safety and provide up to $5.5 billion in funding followed by another $5.5 billion as the network was built.

As this bill was being launched, the Public Safety Spectrum Trust, headed by Chief (Ret.) Harlin McEwen, the Public Safety Alliance (PSA), and other dedicated supporters were walking the halls of Congress to drum up bipartisan support for the plan. The PSA held a rally outside the capital building on a very hot, muggy day. Officials from fire, police, EMS, and sheriffs who participated wore their dress uniforms, which are not designed for standing for hours in the hot sun. Both Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman joined us for the event wearing suits and both spoke about their bill and how it was taking too long after the 9/11 report and recommendations, how they both supported public safety, and what they were trying to accomplish. Read the Entire Post Here . Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 23, 2018

Radio Interference in the Public Safety World.  There are many different types of interference that may have an impact on existing radio communications systems whether they are Land Mobile Radio (LMR), broadband, marine band, aviation and satellite or, of course, Wi-Fi systems. Deliberately causing interference might be considered as “hacking” wireless systems. Then there is the issue of the noise floor and its level being higher than it has ever been, which can also have a negative impact on all types of wireless communications. Radio transmitters either by themselves or in conjunction with other transmitters can cause major interference issues as well. While there are other types of interference, I will limit the discussion for this week’s Public Safety Advocate (PSA) to those mentioned above.

Malicious Interference. Malicious interference is often attributable to how easy it is to purchase cheap handheld radios on the land mobile radio channels and then program them to work on almost any radio channel in use. Most of these radios are made in China. Although these units have been causing interference for many years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) only recently began to crack down on their use. Once a device is programmed to, for example, a fire radio channel, the “radio hacker” can make calls, disrupt incidents, and otherwise cripple communications. In one series of events a teenager with a radio tuned to a fire dispatch channel in California caused mass confusion by re-routing engines to different locations as they were being dispatched.

Public safety radios are sometimes taken out of service and sold or given to others, but most departments wipe them clean of their programming information before handing them over, or the radios are simply destroyed. A stolen or lost radio can normally be silenced and taken off the network much like your cell phone if it is lost or stolen. With mobile units, when the microphone button is pushed it sometimes inadvertently sticks and stays on the air. Many departments require all these radios to have time-out-timers in them to limit the time of the transmission and release the channel. It is difficult to identify open transmissions or catch radio hackers since they only transmit for a few minutes at a time and may move around. Some departments have enlisted the assistance of the local ham radio community as many hams practice “transmitter hunts” and have become very good at tracking down radios that should not be on the air.
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Two FirstNet board members step down, leaving seven open seats

StateScoop Aug 21 17:30

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The agency’s sole vendor for the project, AT&T, received authorization to begin building out its dedicated public safety broadband wireless spectrum in …

Records Show FirstNet, AT&T Execs Pressured Colorado Officials After LTE Interoperability Filing

RadioResource Media Group Aug 21 16:30

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First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T executives criticized a July 6 Colorado Public Safety Broadband Governing Body (CPSBGB) …

Two longtime FirstNet board members retire

RCR Wireless News Aug 21 16:10

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It has been an honor and a privilege to serve public safety over the past six years. Having accomplished what Chief Johnson and I set out to do back …

A Senator Says U.S. Broadband Maps ‘Stink.’ Here’s Why Nobody Wants To Fix Them.

Techdirt Corporate Intelligence Aug 21 15:02

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Last week we noted how an FCC “oversight” hearing fell well short of anything actually resembling, well, actual oversight. Three FCC staffers had just been caught making up a DDOS attack and misleading Congress, the press and the FBI about it — yet the subject was was barely even broached by lawmakers on either side of the aisle. It was another embarrassing example of the absence of anything resembling genuine accountability at the agency. Fortunately…

Twenty-two states ask US appeals court to reinstate ‘net neutrality’ rules

CNBC Aug 21 09:13

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The states argue the FCC action could harm public safety, citing electrical grids as an example.Â

Ajit Pai Opposes Effort To Update The Definition Of Broadband

Techdirt Corporate Intelligence Aug 17 15:02

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The Telecom Act of 1996 mandates that the FCC routinely assess whether broadband is “being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion,” and do something about it if that’s not the case. As part of that mission, the FCC also periodically takes a look at the way it defines broadband to ensure the current definition meets modern consumer expectations and technical advancements. That’s why, much to the telecom industry’s chagrin , the…

The next steps for FirstNet: Defining indoor coverage specifications (Reader Forum) Aug 17 13:55

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… FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority), a public safety network. FirstNet will be America’s first broadband network dedicated to emergency …

Samsung’s Exynos i S111 Delivers Efficiency and Reliability for NB-IoT Devices

Samsung Newsroom Aug 23 04:40

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Samsung Electronics, a world leader in advanced semiconductor technology, today announced its new narrowband (NB) Internet of Things (IoT) …

CTIA Unveils Internet Of Things Cybersecurity Certification

Law360 Aug 22 15:00

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The program, CTIA said, builds on security recommendations for IoT put forward by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration …

Brazil plans network in 700 MHz band for security forces

Telecompaper Aug 18 04:00

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Brazil is planning to set up an integrated communication network for the public security forces. This mobile broadband network will occupy part of the …

FCC supports rural broadband deployments to enable telehealth

Health Data Management Aug 17 23:00

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The delivery of high-quality care is no longer limited to the confines of …

The US May Yet Catch Its Global Peers in 4G Speeds

Light Reading Aug 17 16:10

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Verizon and AT&T debuted their 4G services the 700 MHz band they’d won in 2008. Sprint took the 2.5 GHz route for LTE after several attempts to …

Verizon calls for greater interoperability with FirstNet, says public-sector business still growing

Urgent Communications Aug 17 13:55

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No public-safety agency should have to choose a network based on where an application sits or what applications they’ll have access to..

FCC Faces Senate Commerce Committee Panel In Oversight Hearing

All Access Music Group Aug 17 09:10

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… missteps in the Net Neutrality proceeding as well as rural broadband, the Lifeline program, telehealth services, robocalls, and other issues.

FCC supports rural broadband deployments to enable telehealth

Health Data Management Aug 17 08:13

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Commission envisions care delivered directly to patients via telemedicine, regardless of their location, says Commissioner Brendan Carr.