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.

Registration Open for 2019 ANSI Unmanned Aircraft Systems Standardization Collaborative Meeting

Launch Meeting for Version 2 Update of Standardization Roadmap; Register by September 3

New York, July 22, 2019: The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) announced today the opening of registration for the 2019 meeting of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Standardization Collaborative (UASSC), scheduled for September 12 in Washington, DC. The meeting is the official kickoff  to support the development of a version 2 update of the Standardization Roadmap for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (December 2018).

Launched in September 2017, the UASSC’s mission is to coordinate and accelerate the development of the standards and conformance programs needed to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace, with particular emphasis on civil, commercial, and public safety applications. The UASSC itself does not develop standards but, rather, helps to coordinate the efforts of standards developing organizations (SDOs) and those who participate in standards development. Goals for the roadmap version 2 include expanding the content to include topics such as spectrum, urban air mobility, and recreational operations, etc., bringing in subject matter experts not previously involved, identifying potentially overlooked gaps, tracking progress to address the roadmap recommendations, reviewing priorities, and otherwise incorporating feedback. The target date for publication of version 2 is the end of June 2020. working groups (WGs) will convene twice a month conference calls starting in October to update the document.

The UASSC meeting will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EDT on September 12 at the AAMC Learning Center, 655 K Street, NW, Room LC 200 (2nd Floor), Washington, DC, followed by a networking reception. Participation is open to UAS stakeholders that have operations in the United States. There is no fee to participate but advance registration by September 3rd is required. The draft agenda is posted on the UASSC website. Meeting attendees are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the roadmap, review the topics covered by each WG, and return the sign-up sheet.

Sponsorship opportunities are available with recognition benefits at the meeting, on the web, and in print collateral. All sponsorship revenue is directly applied to help offset ANSI’s costs of operating the UASSC. ANSI extends its appreciation to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate, and others, for their generous contributions in support of the UASSC. The UASSC is co-chaired by Jay Merkle, the FAA’s executive director of UAS integration, and Matt Zuccaro, president and CEO of the Helicopter Association International.

“We are pleased to hear that the UASSC roadmap has been well received by the FAA, industry, SDOs, and others. The planned revision of the roadmap offers an opportunity for UAS stakeholder engagement to help develop and refine recommendations on standardization’s role in helping to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace,” said ANSI president and CEO S. Joe Bhatia.

More information is available at www.ansi.org/uassc.

About ANSI
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance U.S. global competitiveness and the American quality of life by promoting, facilitating, and safeguarding the integrity of the voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system. Its membership is made up of businesses, professional societies and trade associations, standards developers, government agencies, and consumer and labor organizations. ANSI represents and serves the diverse interests of more than 270,000 companies and organizations and 30 million professionals worldwide.

 

News Release: DHS S&T, IJIS Host Text-to-911 Techfest on Google Campus

Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) recently joined the Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute and Google to host the Text-to-911 Translation TechFest at the Google campus in Kirkland, Washington. The TechFest was designed to encourage nationwide efforts to improve technologies in support of public safety communications and response, particularly for people with limited English proficiency. The event included participation from technologists, public safety leaders, language service providers, and trade associations.

When DHS S&T and IJIS began the project in February of 2015, less than three percent of the nation’s 6,000 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), also known as 911 call centers, had implemented Text-to-911. Since then, not only has the number of PSAPs using the platform increased to 30 percent, but federal, state, and local laws have required call centers to ensure that the platform is available to the Limited English Proficient (LEP) population. Currently, almost 28 million people across the United States are identified as LEP and need to be accommodated as more PSAPs implement the technology in their respective communities.

“We anticipate the end result of this joint project will be a national standard for implementing Text-to-911 to LEP populations as well as operational, business, and training protocols that will ensure consistent national implementation,” said DHS S&T program manager Denis Gusty.

The TechFest provided insight to the advancements in currently available translation technology and also highlighted restrictions in translation, such as colloquial terminology and text shorthand. Overall, the TechFest revealed the need for further research and development to ensure 911 calls are answered efficiently and first responders are provided the correct information to respond.

Presently, DHS S&T and IJIS are researching best practices as well as interviewing experts in emergency communication, next generation 911 technology and public safety to develop standards that will be implemented nationally. DHS S&T and IJIS anticipate pilot tests with Arlington and Prince William counties in Virginia to test the protocols as well as determine estimated costs of nationwide implementation. These test pilots will begin in late summer of 2019.