Pai Tells ACS It May Not Decline Service to Rural Healthcare Providers

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has reminded Alaska Communications Systems Group, Inc., (ACS) that it has an obligation under the Communications Act and FCC rules to comply with a “bona fide request” for telecom services “which are necessary for the provision of health care services in a State,” and that it must not charge rural healthcare providers more than the urban rate for such services.

In a letter dated today, Chairman Pai told ACS President and Chief Executive Officer Anand Vadapalli that he was “disheartened to hear this past week that Alaska Communications, because of questions about its compliance with Commission rules, is reconsidering its participation in the [Universal Service] Fund’s Telecommunications Program, a program that is key to providing remote Alaskan villages with telecommunications services.”

Under the Act and FCC rules, Chairman Pai said, “Alaska Communications may not deny or cut off service to any of its existing rural healthcare provider customers.”  It also “may not deny or cut off service to any of its existing rural healthcare provider customers for lack of payment of any charge higher than the urban rate,” Chairman Pai said.

“I would also remind you that, as a telecommunications carrier offering telecommunications services to rural healthcare providers, Alaska Communications is prohibited from engaging in unjust and unreasonable practices or from discontinuing service to a community without prior Commission approval.” — Lynn Stanton, – Courtesy TR Daily

Illinois Didn’t Divert 911 Funds in 2016

Illinois didn’t divert any 911 funds for other purposes in 2016, the state’s 911 administrator told FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly in a letter today. Statewide 911 Administrator Cindy Barbera-Brelle said in the letter that funds that she had indicated were diverted in 2016 were actually diverted in 2015. A total of $7.5 million was diverted in 2015. She told Mr. O’Rielly that since the 911 program was moved from the Illinois Commerce Commission to the Illinois State Police effective Jan. 1, 2016, no 911 funds have been diverted for other purposes. In an FCC report released in February, Illinois was listed as one of six states that diverted funds for other purposes in 2016 (TR Daily, Feb. 7). This year’s report was the ninth, and it noted that Illinois has been identified as a fee diverter in every report. – Courtesy TR Daily

NIST Researchers Working on Virtual Reality to Train First Responders

National Institute of Standards and Technology researchers are hoping “to make virtual reality simulations more of a reality for first responders, enabling firefighters, law enforcement officers and others to learn and practice how to best operate and communicate in emergencies,” according to a news release issued today. “NIST staff are developing virtual environments featuring scenarios such as firefighting in hotels. The goal is to spur industry to come up with user interfaces — visual indicators, sounds, voice commands — that are better, cheaper, proven effective and brought to market faster than otherwise would be possible. Such interfaces could be embedded in firefighters’ masks or smart glasses worn by emergency medical technicians, for example. A visual display might show the temperature or audio might warn that oxygen is low in a backpack tank. The idea is to present helpful data in an intuitive and nonintrusive manner.” “There is currently no method to test and measure user interfaces for first responders,” said NIST project leader Scott Ledgerwood. “We want to enable development, testing and rapid prototyping of these interfaces in a safe, controlled and repeatable environment.” – Courtesy TR Daily

CRS Report Outlines FirstNet Challenges

A new Congressional Research Service report outlines various challenges facing the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T, Inc., its network partner, and highlights issues that members of Congress might want to follow as they continue exercising oversight of the nationwide public safety broadband network.

While all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia agreed to allow AT&T build their FirstNet radio access networks (RAN), “challenges remain,” noted the CRS report, which was written by telecommunications policy analyst Jill Gallagher. “While governors allowed FirstNet/AT&T to deploy the network in their states, there is no requirement for state and local public safety agencies to use the network. FirstNet/AT&T must attract users to the network to ensure the network is self-sustaining, as required under the act. FirstNet set adoption targets and steep penalties that AT&T must pay if targets are not met. AT&T has offered specialized features and services (e.g., priority access to the network, support during disasters) to attract users to the network. However, Verizon has offered similar services to entice users to its network which may affect FirstNet/AT&T’s enrollment efforts.

 “There are other factors affecting enrollment,” the report added. “Some public safety agencies have expressed reluctance to join the FirstNet network, citing uncertainties with the resiliency, reliability, and security of the network, coverage, and cost. Other agencies have expressed an unwillingness to join until FirstNet can provide mission critical voice features — essential features that responders have on their radios and use during emergencies — that will not be available from FirstNet until 2019. Attracting users to the network will be challenging for FirstNet/AT&T, but necessary to meet the requirements in the law and achieve the intent of the act.”

 The report continued, “Congress may continue its oversight of FirstNet to ensure the FirstNet network is meeting public safety needs (e.g., security, reliability, and resiliency), requirements in the law are met, and the network is deployed as intended. Congress may monitor subscribership to ensure the network will be self-sustaining, as required in the act, and that the intent of the law is achieved.”

 Among other specific issues for Congress to be aware of are the lack of transparency of FirstNet’s 25-year contract with AT&T and the lack of core-to-core interoperability, the report suggested. — Courtesy TR Daily 

Public Safety Renews Concerns About ‘Dispatchable Location’ Definition

The public safety community today reiterated concern about how it says the wireless industry is interpreting “dispatchable location” in implementing 911 location accuracy rules that the FCC adopted in 2015 (TR Daily, Jan. 29, 2015), and it asked the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau to clarify the definition.

“We are writing today with an ongoing concern about how the wireless industry is interpreting ‘dispatchable location’ for 9-1-1 location accuracy purposes, within the framework of the FCC’s Fourth Report and Order,” the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council said in a letter in PS docket 07-114 to Lisa Fowlkes, chief of the Public Safety Bureau. “As defined by the Commission, dispatchable location means ‘the verified or corroborated street address of the calling party plus additional information such as floor, suite, apartment or similar information that may be needed to adequately identify the location of the calling party.’  With this information in hand, 9-1-1 professionals can help direct field responders to the scene of the emergency and enable them to provide life-saving assistance more quickly.

“Under the FCC’s rules, wireless carriers must provide a dispatchable location or a horizontal fix in the x,y plane within 50 meters for increasing percentages of all wireless 9-11 calls.  Therefore, a carrier seeking to comply with these benchmarks by providing a dispatchable location may only do so if the location it provides to PSAPs meets the FCC’s definition of dispatchable location,” the filing added. “For example, if a Wi-Fi access point is located across the street in a different building, carriers may not describe the physical address of this access point as being the ‘dispatchable location’ of the calling party.  Any related definitions resulting from the industry’s standards development activities such as through ATIS cannot be used to depart from the FCC’s definition of dispatchable location for regulatory compliance purposes.  Consistent with the Order, to be counted towards compliance, a location fix described by a carrier as a ‘dispatchable location’ must be ‘which door to open’ when assistance is required and nothing less.

“We understand that the Bureau has indicated agreement in the past that for compliance purposes, carriers must abide by the FCC’s definition of dispatchable location,” the public safety federation added. “As implementation of the Order continues, we respectfully request the Bureau to provide a formal response reemphasizing the definition of dispatchable location, to ensure that all carriers subject to this requirement understand and comply with the meaning and intent of this critical element of the Order.”

Last year, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials, and the National Sheriffs’ Association expressed concern about the industry’s interpretation of “dispatchable location” (TR Daily, Feb. 22 and April 28, 2017). — Courtesy TR Daily 

O’Rielly Votes for Puerto Rico Aid After Getting 911 Assurance

Puerto Rico will not divert future 911 fees for other purposes, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly in a letter dated Wednesday. As a result of the assurance, Mr. O’Rielly has voted for an item to allocate $750 million in universal service funding to support the restoration and expansion of communications networks in Puerto Rico.

Gov. Rosselló replied to a letter that Mr. O’Rielly sent last month criticizing Puerto Rico’s diversion of 911 funds in the past and suggesting he would oppose additional universal service funding to the island if it doesn’t end the diversion practice (TR Daily, April 24).

Mr. O’Rielly’s letter responded to a March 7 letter from Gov. Rosselló that responded to a Feb. 20 letter that Mr. O’Rielly sent the governors of Puerto Rico, New York, Oklahoma, Missouri, Montana, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam asking why they did not submit requested information to the FCC for its latest annual report on 911 fund diversions (TR Daily, Feb. 20).

In his March 7 letter, Gov. Rosselló said that in 2016, the year covered by the most recent FCC 911 diversion report, former Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla diverted $243,100 in 911 fees “under the legal authority conferred” by a law that “established that all savings in areas such as 9-1-1 fees must be transferred to the Workforce and Economic Development Promotion Fund under the Trade and Export Company of Puerto Rico.”

In his Wednesday letter to Mr. O’Rielly, the governor said that his administration reported the fee diversion that occurred during the previous administration and “requested an audit of 9-1-1 operations in Puerto Rico.”

“You also questioned whether such diversions will occur in the future. To be clear, we will not allow any utilization of 9-1-1 funds for purposes other than those authorized under applicable laws, rules, and regulations,” he added. “To that effect, we have also initiated steps to submit amendments to the current state law that led to said diversion of funds, and we will be withholding future payments to the Treasury Department.

“I trust that my assurances in this matter will put to rest this issue and that Puerto Rico will be a recipient of funding currently under consideration, aimed at rebuilding Puerto Rico’s communications infrastructure,” Gov. Rosselló  added.

In response to the letter, a spokeswoman for Mr. O’Rielly said today, “Commissioner O’Rielly is satisfied with this response and has voted to approve the item.”

The proposal circulated by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in March (TR Daily, March 6) would also provide $204 million in support for the U.S. Virgin Islands. The item is an order and notice of proposed rulemaking. — Courtesy TR Daily 

Judge Denies Early Appeal Request in FirstNet FoIA Lawsuit

A U.S. District judge in Vermont has denied a motion by plaintiffs in a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) lawsuit seeking First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) records to file an interlocutory appeal of the judge’s decision to dismiss or grant summary judgment in favor of the government on all but one of 18 counts.

The suit (“Stephen Whitaker and David Gram v. Department of Commerce,” case 5:17-cv-192) was filed last year by Stephen Whitaker, a Vermont resident and government accountability advocate, and David Gram, a reporter for “VTDigger,” a non-profit web-based publication (TR Daily, Oct. 6, 2017).

Last December, Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford ruled that FirstNet was exempt from FoIA under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which created FirstNet (TR Daily, Jan. 2). He rejected 17 of the 18 counts in the suit.

 On the last count, Judge Crawford reserved making a decision on summary judgment pending a supplemental briefing. The count “requests injunctive relief prohibiting FirstNet from collecting personally identifiable information until proper privacy impact assessments are complete,” the judge noted in his decision.

 In an April 26 decision denying the plaintiffs’ motion for certification of interlocutory appeal, Judge Crawford wrote, “Certification for interlocutory appeal is appropriate when a district court’s decision involves a controlling question of law on which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and immediate appeal may materially advance the termination of the litigation. … The court is satisfied that immediate appeal of its decision on Counts 1-17 will not materially advance the termination of the litigation. The pending disposition of Count 18, which involves the application of a statutory provision that has never been interpreted by the Second Circuit, is practically certain to give rise to another appealable issue. The piecemeal appellate review requested by the Plaintiffs will only prolong this litigation. Because this is an independently sufficient basis for the court’s conclusion that interlocutory appeal is not appropriate, the court does not consider whether its prior decision involved controlling questions of law or whether there is substantial ground for difference of opinion on those questions.”

Judge Crawford also granted the defendant’s motion to file a reply brief, which it has already filed, to the plaintiffs’ supplemental brief regarding the remaining count, saying that the plaintiffs’ brief “attempted to raise a new issue as to whether the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network was operational, a matter of fact that had until then been undisputed.” He also said the plaintiffs could file a surreply within 14 days of his decision.- Paul Kirby,

FCC Reaches Settlements Over LED Signs

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has reached consent decrees with two companies to resolve investigations into whether they marketed LED signs used in digital billboards and other commercial and industrial applications without the required FCC equipment authorization, labeling, and disclosures in violation of agency rules. In a consent decree in file no. EB-SED-17-00024598, Optec Displays, Inc., agreed to pay $54,000, while in a consent decree in file no. EB-SED-17-00024600, Tradenet Enterprise Inc. (d/b/a Vantage LED) agreed to pay $15,000. Courtesy – TRDaily

Upcoming P25 CAP Advisory Panel Meeting Information

The next P25 CAP AP meeting will be held in conjunction with the upcoming SAFECOM and National Council of Statewide Coordinators (NCSWIC) meetings.

The AP meeting will occur on Wednesday, May 16 from 3:15 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. PDT at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront, Salon H&I. P25 CAP AP members, industry, public safety, and interested attendees will have the opportunity to discuss various topics during the open Q&A. Among the expected topics is continued discussion in the addition of Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) and Console Subsystem Interface (CSSI) testing to the P25 CAP.  An agenda including all logistical information is forthcoming. For those that cannot attend in person, note that the following conference bridge will be available: Dial-In: 866-951-1151 and Call ID: 7492054#.

Tech Talk: Chennai, India 3GPP Meeting Recap

April 23, 2018
By Dean Prochaska, Director of Standards, First Responder Network Authority

This blog post is part of the “Tech Talk” series focused on the FirstNet Authority’s standards development activities to support the public safety community needs.  This post recaps discussions linked to public safety and other related topics from the 3GPP Plenary meetings that were conducted from March 19-23, 2018 in Chennai, India.  The First Responder Network Authority (“FirstNet Authority”) represented public safety interests at the plenary meetings.

In the FirstNet Authority’s ongoing effort to keep you informed regarding standards development activities impacting public safety, and following our recent update on the December plenary meetings in Portugal, this blog discusses the latest developments from the 3GPP plenary meetings held in Chennai, India from March 19-23, 2018. The March quarterly meetings addressed standards in several areas relevant to the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) during three separate plenary group meetings.

The Radio Access Network (RAN) Plenary— During the RAN plenary meetings, more than 340 global registrants worked tirelessly on all outstanding work items to ensure completion of 5G specifications. As you may recall from our last blog, the Stage 3 specifications for Non-Standalone 5G New Radio (NR) (NR working with legacy 4G core network) were completed in December 2017.

Considerable time was spent discussing the timeline for the development of specifications to support the already agreed upon 5G Standalone architectural options. These architecture options consist of combinations of LTE or NR connecting with Next Generation (NG) core networks using a single mode radio. This work remains on schedule for completion by June 2018*.

During the meeting, discussion also took place around standardization for additional non-standalone architectural options. These options allow both NR and LTE working together with a 5G Core, but it will require a dual mode radio.  The development plan for these options was agreed upon and the work will be completed by December 2018*.

Release 15 is in the final stages of completion and the requirements drafting for Release 16 has already begun.  While 5G NR is developing fast, it is important to keep in mind that considerable resources will be spent on further enhancing LTE and its features. In other words, LTE will continue to evolve in Release 16 to offer valuable upgrades of services such as:

  • Uplink enhancement for fixed wireless links
  • Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT)/enhanced Machine Type Communications (eMTC) enhancements
  • Extreme long-range coverage
  • Further enhancements for aerial vehicles

The Core Network and Terminals (CT) Plenary – The CT Plenary meeting included over 130 global registrants.  The meeting focused on the progress of Release 15 work items, and although the primary focus was 5G, work items related to public safety were included.  For example, the Stage 3 work for Release 15 enhancements on Mission Critical Push-to-Talk (MCPTT), Mission Critical Video (MCVideo), and Mission Critical Data (MCData) is in progress with varying degrees of completion.  Release 15 also includes the new item on interworking with legacy Land Mobile Radio (LMR), but since Stage 2 for this project was extended by three months, no work has occurred in Stage 3 yet.  CT continues to have challenging schedules and resource constraints, so we are working closely with our standards counterparts to ensure that steady progress continues on public safety work.

The Service and System Aspects (SA) Plenary—With 175 global registrants, the SA Plenary meeting mostly focused on early progress for Release 16 work items.  Since the major push to complete 5G is behind us, SA is returning to a more normal workload with a wide variety of new initiatives and improvements being worked on across all committees.  Since Release 16 is just beginning, there was much discussion this week on coordination with other Technical Specification Groups (TSGs), particularly RAN, to ensure that all aspects of system level features are included in each TSG’s release planning.

We are pleased to report that remaining work on the Stage 2 (architecture development) technical specification describing the architecture for interworking between MCPTT and legacy LMR systems was completed and approved.  As you may recall, this project was granted an exception at the last plenary meeting to continue the work for a few more months, and the extension allowed delegates to complete all planned Release 15 Stage 2 work.  However, since Stage 3 (protocol development) is getting a late start, it will be challenging to complete all work on the suite of LMR interworking specifications by the original target date of June 2018.  We’ll report on progress in our next blog.

Work also continued on re-naming the current Mission Critical specifications to remove the limiting “over LTE” wording so existing specifications can be reused for 5G and future generations.  Renaming of Stage 1 specifications was completed at the last plenary meeting, and work on Stage 2 Mission Critical specifications has now started with some initial changes completed on titles and references.  This work will continue since Stage 2 contains more detailed technical design specifications that will take more time to evaluate and modify to generalize beyond LTE.

In addition, new Stage 2 studies have commenced on enhancing both location services and the IP multimedia subsystem (IMS) architecture for 5G.  These two study items are important to address public safety needs for location-based services as well as to improve the IMS core performance, a key element in the Mission Critical Services architecture.

*This date implies the completion of 3GPP Stage 3 specifications. Typically, Abstract Syntax Notation 1 (ASN.1), a broader standards document language describing the message protocol formats, will take an additional three months from Stage 3 completion.

Source: FirstNet Blog