Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 15, 2018

FirstNet the Authority and More.  With AT&T beating every due date, dealing with its coverage issues head-on, and deploying Band 14 ahead of schedule, not to mention certifying new FirstNet-approved devices, sometimes we forget FirstNet is the most important public/private partnership this nation has ever seen. When Congress formed FirstNet in 2012, it became an independent authority under the auspices of the National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA), which is a part of the Department of Commerce. FirstNet the Authority, as it has become known, was responsible for putting together the FirstNet request for proposal, distributing it, and making the award. Even with the delays caused by others, it shepherded the request through to a successful conclusion and awarded the FirstNet contract to AT&T.

Since then, the focus for public safety has been on FirstNet (Built by AT&T) and not so much on FirstNet the Authority although it continues to play many important roles going forward including being the final authority on how well AT&T is doing against the deliverables established both in the RFP and in the final contract. FirstNet the Authority still has a large staff of qualified people working with federal, state, and local agencies to ensure they fully understand the importance of joining FirstNet (Built by AT&T) and how to go about it. It is the checks and balances organization that, if AT&T strays from the goals set up in the contract (which to my knowledge it has not done) FirstNet the Authority has the clout to ensure AT&T gets back on track.

It is easy to see exactly how engaged both FirstNet the Authority and its board of directors have remained throughout the process. Its last meeting was held August 13, 2018, after the APCO show. Each committee reported to the board on activity that impacts FirstNet. Fiscal highlights for 2018 include that AT&T earned a sustainability payment of $5.5 billion, and the Authority was once again given a clean bill of health by the Inspector General (IG) in his report. This makes five years in a row the IG passed the Authority with high marks. Furthermore, the finance committee reported it met the financial requirements of FirstNet while staying under budget, perhaps one of a very few government-related agencies that does stick to its budget. During 2019, it appears as though funds will be made available for independent validation and verification of the public safety network coverage, which is an important task.  Read the Entire Post Here. Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 9, 2018

APCO and FirstNet.  The busiest booth at the APCO conference in Las Vegas was by far the FirstNet booth. There was plenty of great activity on the show floor, but the exhibit area was smaller than in previous years simply because APCO has changed over the 30-plus years I have been a member. It is now much more of a dispatch/PSAP-focused organization. To be sure, those who run and work in Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and dispatch centers are vital to the world of public safety, but APCO’s roots were broadly based on communications in the field, from the dispatch center out.

Both the exhibit floor and the comments I heard while walking it reflect this change. Yes, Motorola, Harris, JVCKenwood/EFJohnson, and Icom were still there with their booths and products but many of the Land Mobile Radio (LMR) vendor companies are no longer showing their wares at APCO. FirstNet and companies that are FirstNet partners were there in place of these vendors. In the FirstNet booth there were demonstrations from Sonim, Sierra Wireless, Cradlepoint, ESChat, RapidDeploy, and more. Time and time again those who were exhibiting told me they did not think anyone walking the floor had purchase decision-making authority.

Unlike in the past, there were only a few tower, antenna, and LMR-associated companies. Several times I was asked why the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), the 911 organization, and APCO don’t simply merge and be done with it. APCO has changed and if it was not for FirstNet as a major sponsor, I am not sure the show could survive. The focus of APCO is now more dispatch and PSAP-oriented but I was not blown away by Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) vendors on the show floor either. NG911 is the next big thing to happen to public safety communications after FirstNet. In reality, the two should have been planned and executed together since both NG911 and FirstNet are based on broadband technologies. However, the feds only saw fit to dribble out a little funding to NG911 and many of the states are still skimming 911 revenue off for their own, non-911 use. Read the Entire Post Here. Continue reading

Public Safety Spectrum, Technological Change Discussed

LAS VEGAS — A session at the APCO 2018 show here yesterday afternoon on FCC developments related to public safety evolved into a discussion of public safety spectrum and technological developments that may enable commercial operators to share frequencies with agencies.

During the discussion, Jeff Cohen, APCO’s chief counsel and director-government relations, said that until relatively recently, public safety and commercial spectrum were separate and were treated differently given public safety’s role in protecting Americans. Now, there is more interest in reallocating public safety frequencies for commercial use or in enabling sharing, he noted.

Public safety spectrum has been targeted for sharing or reallocation in the 4.9 gigahertz and 6 GHz bands and in the T-band (470-512 megahertz).

“Public safety is special,” said David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. But he added that “spectrum policy … needs to allow technology to drive change.”

Spectrum that once was not seen as useful is now being eyed for use thanks to technological developments, “and I think public safety can benefit from that,” Mr. Furth said.

“I think we need to be careful about siloing public safety spectrum policy too much,” he added. “At the same time, we need to make sure that if we’re going to rely on … commercial spectrum users to support public safety, that it be done in a way that serves public safety interests.”

In the 4.9 GHz band, where the FCC is mulling whether to allow commercial operators to share the spectrum or to reallocate the channels to operators. But Mr. Furth said that similar issues will arise “more broadly. Everybody that uses spectrum, I think, has an obligation to use it efficiently. It is a scarce resource.”

An audience member, David Buchanan, a public safety veteran who has worked on spectrum management issues with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council, asked, “What are the limits?”

“At some point, physics has got to drive this whole thing. You can’t just keep cramming people in,” said Mr. Buchanan, who helped organize NPSTC’s comments in the FCC’s 4.9 GHz band proceeding.

“The answer to the question of what is technically feasible and what is technically feasible at an affordable cost has changed,” Mr. Furth replied. “So what we don’t want to do is come up with an answer that sort of stops that progress in its … tracks.”

He added that while “the laws of physics are the laws of physics, and you can’t break them,” parties should not assume that a new spectrum arrangement is not technically feasible.

“It’s a balance. There are tradeoffs when you’re talking about interference, when you’re talking about sharing spectrum. There are always tradeoffs,” Mr. Furth added. “And we have to candidly and realistically assess what they are. … I think we’ve been pretty successful so far.” Continue reading

NPSTC Reps Stress Need for Retaining Public Safety Spectrum

LAS VEGAS — Representatives of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council yesterday stressed the importance of the public safety community retaining access to the T-band, 4.9 gigahertz band, and 6 GHz band in the face of attempts to take the frequencies away from first responders.

During a session here yesterday at the APCO 2018 show, Don Root, chair of NPSTC’s Spectrum Management Committee, noted that public safety groups and agencies are concerned that Congress mandated in 2012 that the T-band, which is used heavily by public safety in 11 major markets, be reallocated and auctioned by 2021 and incumbents be relocated by 2023. The T-band encompasses TV channels 14-20 (470-512 megahertz).

Legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate to repeal the T-band reallocation mandate (TR Daily, Feb. 27 and Aug. 2).

Mr. Root also noted that public safety is already fighting to convince the FCC not to reallocate the 4.9 GHz band for commercial use and to protect public safety operations in the 6 GHz band from interference.

“The fear is that the FCC has already made up its mind in taking the 4.9 [GHz band] away from public safety, but I think we’ve done a really good job” in explaining why that would be harmful to public safety, said NPSTC board Chair Ralph Haller.

Mr. Haller also cited what he said would be the “devastating impact” of public safety losing access to both the T-band and 4.9 GHz band

In initial comments filed last month (TR Daily, July 9) in response to a sixth further notice of proposed rulemaking seeking views on ways to promote more intensive use of the 4.9 GHz band (TR Daily, March 22), NPSTC said it “supports managed sharing of the band with Critical Industries Infrastructure (CII) entities and opposes reallocation and auction of the band for commercial use. Reallocation of the band would be very detrimental to public safety and likely would not be very productive for commercial carriers. The Commission’s calculation that no more than 3.5% of the potential licensees use the band apparently has created the misimpression that very little of the band’s capacity is in use, an inaccurate picture of the current public safety reliance on the band.”

During yesterday’s session, NPSTC representatives updated the audience on other work of the federation’s committees and working groups.

For example, an LMR-LTE integration working group is finalizing a report with policy recommendations to manage mission critical push-to-talk user IDs. The report is a follow-on to a report released earlier this year (TR Daily, Jan. 10).

Also, the public safety Internet of things working group is “[f]inalizing review of use cases which illustrate public safety use of IoT systems by law enforcement, fire, EMS and secondary responders[,] including interaction and data sharing with Smart Buildings,” according to a presentation at yesterday’s meeting. The working group is “[h]ighlighting common themes among the use cases[,] including the need for data validity, data standardization, cyber security, management and consolidation of data streams,” it added. This fall, the working group “will start work on an education and outreach document that will raise awareness of critical issues for public safety agencies as they consider adoption of IoT solutions.”

Meanwhile, the EMS working group is “[f]inalizing [a] report recommending that EMS agencies evaluate their procedures regarding notification to hospitals during transport of patients with time sensitive medical emergencies (e.g. heart attack, trauma, stroke, sepsis).”

The cross border working group plans to submit a final draft report to the NPSTC board next month that will provide “guidance to PSAPs along the U.S. Canadian border on how to access customer account and location data that resides with a commercial carrier in the other country.”

For its part, the channel naming working group is working to complete “a report examining public safety interoperability issues with LTE Mission Critical Push to Talk[.] An initial conclusion is that interoperability will be managed at the state, regional, and local levels rather than the national level. The report is expected to be presented to the NPSTC board later this year and it will then go to the First Responder Network Authority’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

Sprint Seeks Reconsideration of 800 MHz Rebanding Order

Sprint Corp. has filed a petition for reconsideration of an order released last month that denied a request by Miami-Dade County (MDC) (Fla.) to extend the June 26, 2008, deadline for completion of 800 megahertz rebanding in non-border regions of the U.S. to give it more time “to return legacy equipment to Sprint Nextel and to remove pre-banding channels from approximately half of its 15,000 subscriber units” (TR Daily, July 2). In its petition in WT docket 02-55, Sprint asked that the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau “clarify or extend its 90 day deadline as applied to Sprint for concluding all matters relating to the MDC reconfiguration contract with Sprint.

To the extent that the Bureau sets new more extended deadlines for MDC, which in this unique case Sprint would not oppose, at least through April 1, 2019, then Sprint requests that its timetable for FRSA closing run concurrent with revised MDC timelines. Sprint also respectfully suggests that the Bureau or the TA Mediator continue to provide oversight and require periodic reporting so that progress can be monitored. In any case, Sprint requests that the Bureau recognize that Sprint cannot unilaterally force the closing of the FRSA contract if MDC has not completed the tasks required to reach a full settlement of open issues.”

Courtesy TRDaily

Senators Introduce T-Band Repeal Legislation

Democratic senators are pushing legislation to repeal a provision in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that would require the T-band to be reauctioned by the FCC for commercial use.

The Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act of 2018 (S 3347) was introduced by Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.). Cosponsors are Sens. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass). Public safety officials had hoped to secure a Republican to introduce the Senate measure with Sen. Markey.

The bill is a companion to legislation (HR 5085) introduced in February by Rep. Elliot Engel (D., N.Y.) (TR Daily, Feb. 27). Original cosponsors were Reps. Lee M. Zeldin (R., N.Y.) and Peter T. King (R., N.Y.), and that bill now has 19 cosponsors.

Meanwhile, a discussion draft circulated to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee would authorize the FCC to hold an incentive auction of the 4.9 gigahertz band and rescind the requirement that the FCC auction T-band frequencies (TR Daily, June 13). The measure has been circulated by staffers for committee Chairman Greg Walden (R., Ore.).

Congress required the FCC to reallocate and auction public safety spectrum in the T-band by 2021 and relocate incumbents by 2023. Proceeds from the auction can be used to cover the relocation costs of public safety licensees. The T-band encompasses TV channels 14-20 (470-512 megahertz). Public safety agencies use the spectrum in 11 major markets.

In 2013, a report by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) that estimated the cost of relocating public safety T-band operations to other spectrum would be more than $5.9 billion and cited the lack of alternative spectrum (TR Daily, March 15, 2013).

“Every day, first responders in Massachusetts and across the country risk their lives on our behalf,” said Sen. Markey. “Law-enforcement, firefighters, EMS personnel and security officials rely on T-Band spectrum to communicate with each other in hazardous situations. I am proud to introduce this legislation so that the brave men and women who keep us safe will have the resources they need to do their job.”

“Our first responders put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and Congress has a responsibility to protect them. That includes making sure our fire, police, and EMT workers have access to the T-Band spectrum so they can communicate clearly and effectively while they’re doing their jobs and don’t have to worry about their communication systems failing during an emergency situation,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “I am proud to support this important legislation, and I will always do everything in my power to fight for our first responders.”

“Our first responders put their lives on the line for us every day, running towards danger rather than away from it,” said Sen. Casey. “We have a duty to ensure they have all the resources they need to keep the public, and themselves, safe. I’m proud to join my colleagues in supporting the radio communications system utilized by first responders throughout Pennsylvania.”

“Public safety and American taxpayers have invested wisely to build out T-Band land mobile radio networks to meet mission critical voice requirements of major metropolitan jurisdictions across the country,” said Tom Jenkins, president and chairman of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).

“In addition, these LMR networks provide the option for off-network unit-to-unit operations, local control, specialized operations such as paging for volunteer firefighters, and regional interoperability in large metropolitan areas. This is why the IAFC strongly supports the Don’t Break Up the T Band Act.”

“Many of the sheriffs we represent will endure severe public safety ramifications by the auctioning of the T-Band as required by Section 6103 of Public Law 112-96,” said Jonathan Thompson, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA). “Enactment of this legislation introduced by Senator Markey, together with H.R. 5085 introduced by Representative Engel, would repeal Section 6103 and enable public safety officers to continue use of the T-Band spectrum in which it has made significant investments of taxpayer funds to deploy mission critical communications systems.”

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council said its members, which include the IAFC and NSA, support the legislation. “Public safety organizations use the T-Band spectrum to support both day-to-day operations and regional interoperability,” the federation said. “Because of the mission critical nature of the communications required, local public safety organizations have spent many years and millions of dollars in federal, state, and local taxpayer funds to plan and build out T-Band networks that are designed for the operational needs of each area.”  – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, August 2, 2018

FirstNet and Video Surveillance.  Many of my Public Safety Advocates start out when I am asked a question that gets me thinking. This Advocate began when a good friend of mine who owns a company that specializes in all sorts of surveillance and stakeout communications equipment called to ask if FirstNet would permit agencies to use fixed surveillance cameras over the FirstNet network. His question was prompted by one of his customers who was using hidden video cameras disguised as items you would normally see on a street. I do not have an official reply to the question but the issue certainly needs to be explored and carefully examined.

These High Definition (HD) cameras, which use a lot of bandwidth, are being used on both Verizon and AT&T LTE commercial networks and while they are used only on-demand, they are still fixed and in operation for four to six hours at a time. This agency has experienced its video streams being reduced to slower speeds after only an hour or two. The agency wants to move these devices to FirstNet but needs to know if FirstNet would accept them being on the air from fixed locations. I have sent this query up to the FirstNet folks but have not yet heard back. I suspect the answer will be the same as on the commercial networks because the cameras are at fixed locations.

FirstNet was designed to provide data and video services to public safety and it has always been part of the plan to enable video feeds to and from incidents while they are happening. However, fixed HD video is another story and could prove political for FirstNet even with all the AT&T spectrum available to FirstNet users. Video is used during incidents. Dash and body cams generally record video and only send it out on a broadband network during an incident where it is important for others to observe in real time. Most fixed cameras in cities and elsewhere are connected via fiber or, in some cases, wirelessly using 4.9-GHz spectrum. At the moment, this spectrum is available only to public safety but if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has its way, it may end up as shared spectrum.

Read the Entire Post Here Continue reading