September 2012 Inbox
Friday, September 21, 2012 | Comments
 Following are comments we’ve received from readers about recent online and print news and articles. If you’d like to comment on an article, email
In response to “A Utility Sharing Request” from Sept. 26
Ms. Nelson brings several issues to the table that have been an ongoing debate among public-safety leaders and policy-makers for years. The first point she raises — “What is meant by secondary?” — is addressed in the Middle Class and Tax Relief Act of 2012 or PL 112-96 in Section 6208 where the term “secondary user” is first used.
My reading of the section is the term would be applied to a commercial entity that partnered with the network authority for access to the network capacity. The access granted is further specified as “to be used for commercial transmissions along the dark fiber of the long-haul network of such entity.” (Sec. 6208(a)(2)(B)(ii)) What I don’t see in the legislation as written is any provision for a secondary or commercial entity being given access to the wireless or radio access network (RAN) portion of the network. The question that must be addressed is whether “access to network capacity” also includes the wireless spectrum, much as the requirement for public safety to relinquish its T-band spectrum could apply to all users including business/industrial.
The second issue she brings forward is the conundrum of critical infrastructure industries (CII) and their access to spectrum. CII is something that doesn’t quite fit into either of the two shoeboxes where most would relegate them. In the public-safety shoebox, we have the municipally owned utilities, which by regulation are eligible to access the 700 MHz broadband spectrum. Privately owned utilities providing the same essential services are in the business/industrial shoebox and do not have access to broadband spectrum. There are many in the public-safety shoebox that are against sharing any of “their” spectrum with any agency that does not have the same focus — even when they are in the same shoebox, let alone allowing someone from the other shoebox to encroach their private network.
The dichotomy is these same “exclusive use” users don’t feel a request under Section 90.35(a)(5) to use spectrum assigned to the other shoebox is something that shouldn’t be routinely granted because “we’re public safety.” Projections I have seen regarding the amount of spectrum CII would like to have exclusively in exchange for access to its infrastructure is approximately 5 percent (1 megahertz) with an additional 4 megahertz or 20 percent of the total broadband allocation eligible for pre-emption.
Public safety would do well to partner with utilities for many of the reasons Ms. Nelson outlines. Utilities have an extensive amount of radio infrastructure that can be shared. Public safety would gain much more from partnering with private critical infrastructure providers than it would lose in sharing bandwidth. The segmentation of bandwidth Ms. Nelson proposes is one possible means of accomplishing this goal. Public safety would benefit from the sharing of spectrum in that during a major incident, critical services would be restored more quickly if the utilities have data that detailed the extent of the affected areas and the services required. Public safety gains through access to this same data as it provides a more complete picture to the emergency coordinator of the extent of the event and its impact on required response.
As an example, major weather events do not always result in all occupants in the affected areas evacuating. For those who chose to shelter in place, their most critical need is often not a service provided by the traditional first responder but the restoration of power and water, services provided by critical infrastructure. With critical infrastructure services either partially or fully restored, the demand on first responders lessens, and the restoration activities, which often extend many weeks or months, can get under way.
The primary issues with partnering from public safety’s viewpoint will always revolve around the question of secondary and essential. There are those in public safety that will argue secondary means secondary allowing secondary access to be pre-empted upon demand while others will argue a small segment is needed for CII to ease the reliance and burden on first responders to provide services they cannot. The argument that in an emergency, the entire assignment should go to first responders was answered by the FCC’s determination that government provided critical infrastructure services are eligible to use the 700 MHz broadband allocation. The commission ruled that local government services other than law enforcement, fire and EMS did “protect life, health and property” as stated in Section 337 of the Telecommunications Act when it responded to the city of Charlotte, N.C., petition on permissible uses of its planned 700 MHz broadband network. The issue of private industry using the network still requiring a decision is to what extent will the private utility’s data support its commercial operation and what portion will be in support of public safety’s mission?
Meter reading may be deemed a “commercial, for profit” use while reporting the status of a substation or transmission line may not. The questions and issues raised by Ms. Nelson are not easily answered, nor should they be swept under the rug by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and the FCC. The role of critical infrastructure in any response must be considered. CII is needed not only to restore essential services after the event, it is often needed during the initial response for evacuee transportation and even earlier during the planning and mitigation phases as it provides critical information regarding response and restoration priorities. As Chief Charles Werner of the Charlottesville (Va.) Fire Department said, “If I have power lines down, the electric company is a first responder in my estimation.”
William (Bill) Brownlow
Telecommunications Manager
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
I think Kathleen Nelson has a good point. She makes absolute sense. Utilities are the biggest asset you have. They are trusted, or not. If they are not trusted, why are the allowed to supply you with your utilities? They have good infrastructure and the technological knowhow to be there with technical personnel who work with the problems everyday that occur during disasters. I think they are perfect partners. I think first responders should really look at this link.
Leon van der Linde
Global Communications
Pretoria, South Africa

South Africa went through the same exercise 15 years ago. Your customers should be on 12.5 kilohertz by now. If they have waited this long, they need enforcement. My answer is, change to 12.5 kilohertz. They need to change now. Requesting waivers is lazy; they have received many years to change. What did the radio dealers do? They were supposed to help their customers to change. Start now with the repairs. We did, and it worked out well.
Leon van der Linde
Global Communications
Pretoria, South Africa

This is a great day for radio system owners and operators in the United States. Finally, a highly feature-rich, digital radio system with open standards for a truly competitive procurement process is available.
Rick Nielson, P.E.
Nielson Communications 
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

In response to “Tornadoes Test Tri-State Interoperability” in the September issue
I am a proponent to locally controlled radio networks. After reading the article, which seemed to reflect a great success to a concept that I always believed to be flawed, the punch lines came reaffirming the very reasons I always opposed such a concept. “They expected that if something happens, first responders will back them up. That day threw all of those ideas out. With every county in the region dealing with a major disaster of its own, officials didn’t have the ability to call on their neighbors.”
In the end, the system did not work for its intended purpose. There is a better way, but everyone is too busy trying to save a dime instead of understanding the technology and putting a wise course of action together that works in saving lives. Creating a technological autocratic nightmare is not the answer.
Reid Ashbaucher
Radio Engineer and Technician
Toledo (Ohio) Area Regional Transit Authority
Author’s Response: I may have misled you on that sentence. The radio system worked. It was the fact that during the first few hours we were without enough first responders to respond to all of the calls.
A good example of this was in Dade County, Ga. In the late afternoon, we had an EF3 tornado traverse the county. Catoosa County, Ga., responded and was assisting when they were recalled using the regional system back to Catoosa County for an EF4 tornado. That same EF4 traversed Catoosa County; Hamilton County Tenn.; Bradley County, Tenn.; and ended in McMinn County, Tenn. While everything was not perfect by any means, I don’t think any of the first responders would recommend going back to their old systems.
Once the initial response was over and other officers were called up, the fact that state or county borders did not hamper their ability to communicate was a shining example as we had Tennessee officers working traffic in Georgia using their radios talking not only to their home dispatchers but also the dispatchers and officers within the county where they had been deployed to. Thanks for your comments and for the work you do for public safety in your area.
Arnold Hooper
Wireless Communications Director
State of Tennessee,
Department of Safety

I may be looking at this from the wrong angle. The world is now looking at Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks for disaster management. I always ask the question, how useful is it during a disaster? Why do I ask? As far as I can determine with all the articles I read, you need a base station/repeater in between two LTE units. How rugged will these "repeater" units be during storms and disasters? Can LTE units talk unit to unit when the in-between stations are down?
No use having the latest technology if a hurricane comes along and sweeps a whole area's base stations away and nobody has communications. Radio can still work on simplex on certain protocols such as NXDN for instance.
I was just thinking. I would like to hear some comments from the experts on this because it is a critical point for me.
Leon van der Linde
Global Communications
South Africa

The last paragraph of this article, well actually, the whole article is frightening. More control, another executive order, the better to rule the masses. There is barely a body among them that has a clue regarding the depth and breadth of the country’s emergency communications systems or their capabilities — any more than the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a unit has a clue about internal security. This government becomes scarier by the minute.
D Stevenson
Syracuse, N.Y.

Click here for the August 2012 Inbox.
Click here for the July 2012 Inbox.
Click here for the June 2012 Inbox.

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