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Public Safety Groups Disagree on Giving Control of 4.9 GHz Band to FirstNet

The Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA) urged the FCC to change course on the 4.9 GHz band and issue a single national license, in reply comments in docket 07-100. PSSA had some support, but most commenters who commented on that want the band to remain independent of FirstNet. Comments were due Monday in docket 07-100.

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PSSA, which mounted a campaign urging that the band be preserved primarily for public safety (see 2305040033), said the FirstNet Authority is the logical manager of the spectrum. The authority is “already well positioned to step into this role given its extensive resources and expertise, including its outreach and consultation teams that regularly work with state and local public safety agencies nationwide,” PSSA said: “It is also an unbiased government authority that is positioned to administer the use of the … Band in a way to fully protect the interests of public safety with the track record in the deployment of interoperable broadband communications models to maximize band utilization, create economies of scale, and incentivize the deployment of cost-effective new technologies and equipment.” PSSA and the Public Safety Broadband Technology Association also filed a petition with more than 1,000 signatures supporting its stance.

Corning, New York, also urged the FCC to issue a single, national license. “The current licensing arrangement for the 4.9 GHz band is fragmented, relying on individual local licenses issued to public safety agencies,” Corning said. A single license would be “consistent with the Commission’s stated goal ‘to create a consistent, nationwide framework for the 4.9 GHz Band that fosters efficient use of this important mid-band spectrum’” and would “provide the necessary economies of scale to expand the band’s use and spur innovation of new technologies and devices at prices public safety agencies can afford,” the city said.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation, a 4.9 GHz user, filed in support of the PSSA. “The 4.9 GHz spectrum should remain solely for the use of public safety,” the Wyoming DOT said: “The most logical step to take is to put it in the stewardship of the FirstNet Authority.”

Other public safety comments said the FCC should maintain local control.

The Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) said the band shouldn’t be assigned to FirstNet. Doing so may prove “detrimental to the local public safety systems currently utilizing this band,” MCCA said, noting FirstNet’s presence could “drive” local public safety systems from the spectrum. “The 4.9 GHz band is and must remain, a local public safety band,” MCCA said. The National Sheriffs' Association also opposed giving the band to FirstNet: “The 4.9 GHz band is currently reserved for state and local public safety use and should remain so.”

Competitive Concerns

The Commission should reject calls by FirstNet to gain unfettered access to the 4.9 GHz band for its network and thus also for AT&T’s commercial use -- either by allowing FirstNet to serve as the Band Manager or otherwise permitting it to control or unduly influence the Band Manager selection process,” T-Mobile said. The FCC “lacks authority to simply license the spectrum to FirstNet,” the carrier said.

Granting FirstNet and, by extension, AT&T, nationwide access to the 4.9 GHz band would be inconsistent with the Commission’s goals in this proceeding,” Verizon said: “Public safety benefits from vigorous competition to provide the most advanced services and continue to yield significant benefits, including choice, innovation, and lower costs.” The Spectrum Act of 2012, which created FirstNet, didn’t give FirstNet authority to expand its network beyond the 700 MHz spectrum authorized for the national public safety broadband network, Verizon said.

The Maryland Department of Information Technology also disagreed with PSSA, while expressing sympathy for its stance. The proposal to issue a single nationwide overlay license to FirstNet is “antithetical to local control, would fail to best facilitate the needs and interests of the public safety community, and is not in the public interest,” the Maryland agency said. The agency cited a recent filing by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) (see 2305030080): “In the case of the MTA, as well as other metropolitan areas with underground transportation or other critical safety systems, lives may literally be placed into jeopardy by potential interference to systems emanating from a nationwide licensee unaware of local needs for spectrum.”

MTA said it disagreed with requests that the 4.9 GHz band be assigned to a single licensee for incorporation into a nationwide network, like FirstNet. Incorporation of the band into the FirstNet network “would not accommodate the operation of truly localized operations intended to promote public safety, including the 4.9 GHz band [communication based train control] project planned by MTA,” the authority said. The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District in San Francisco raised similar concerns.

Federated Wireless urged adoption of a dynamic spectrum management system similar to one used to manage the citizens broadband radio service band. “By adopting a tiered licensing framework similar to that used in the [citizens broadband radio service] band, the Commission can satisfy non-public safety demand for access to the band, including the needs of the critical infrastructure industry, while effectively protecting public safety operations from interference,” Federated said.

APCO said the FCC’s primary goal should be to preserve 4.9 GHz for public safety. Public safety’s “preemption rights must not be limited” and should be “fully protected,” APCO recommended: “The band manager’s responsibilities should not be divided among multiple entities” and “public safety licensees should not be paid to forego use of the band or expected to pay for using it.”