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FCC Renews FirstNet's Band 14 License

The FCC Friday granted FirstNet a renewal of its Band 14 license “for the remaining period of its authorization,” not to exceed 10 years, starting Nov. 15, 2022, “or for the remaining period of its authorization from Congress.” The Spectrum…

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Act, which created FirstNet, provided licensing for an initial 10-year term. The law limits renewal to a term “not to exceed 10 years.” FirstNet’s license formally expired in November, but FCC officials said then the license remained active as long as the renewal application was pending in the agency’s universal licensing system (see 2211160071). Most industry observers expected the license to be renewed (see 2209230045). The FCC notes in the order that while the application was pending before the agency, the National Sheriff’s Association, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, six members of the Verizon First Responder Advisory Council and T-Mobile “filed comments opposing unconditional renewal of FirstNet’s license” but didn't propose that renewal be denied. The FCC imposes a number of conditions. The order notes that in its comments T-Mobile cites a 2020 GAO report (see 2009240056) that recommended that FirstNet strengthen oversight of AT&T “by adhering to GAO best practices, sharing oversight with stakeholders, and using end-user satisfaction to gauge performance.” The FCC notes the Public Safety Bureau asked FirstNet to provide additional information on how it's holding AT&T “accountable for meeting its contractual obligations, and also asked how FirstNet addressed the findings and recommendations” in the report. “We find that FirstNet’s response is sufficient to meet the renewal standard, but direct FirstNet to notify us when GAO has closed the remaining outstanding recommendation,” the order said: “We will also continue to monitor AT&T’s performance under the contract and FirstNet’s oversight of AT&T under FirstNet’s renewed license.” A 2021 Commerce Department Inspector General Report “questioned FirstNet’s governance over network security and its ability to hold AT&T accountable for failing or ineffective security requirements, leaving the network susceptible to security risks,” the order said: “The IG Report made six recommendations for remedial actions by FirstNet, and directed FirstNet to provide an action plan to the DOC Inspector General.” The FCC said the authority must complete “implementation of the recommendations in the IG Report, in the projected time frame, and we direct FirstNet to notify us of its satisfaction of these recommendations.” The Public Safety Bureau issued the order. The FirstNet Authority is “pleased to have its Band 14 spectrum license renewed, which will allow public safety to have uninterrupted access to advanced broadband services, capabilities, and features to better serve communities nationwide,” a spokesperson emailed. “We appreciate the FCC’s careful consideration of our license renewal application and recognition of the FirstNet program’s achievements,” the spokesperson said.