Second Colorado Group Requests FCC Action on FirstNet Interoperability Concerns
Tuesday, December 04, 2018 | Comments

Another Colorado jurisdiction filed a petition asking the FCC to address Long Term Evolution (LTE) interoperability among commercial carriers.

The Boulder Regional Emergency Telephone Service Authority (BRETSA) asked the FCC to reconsider its Oct. 23 order dismissing the July 6 request for clarification filed by the Colorado Public Safety Broadband Governing Body (CPSBGB). Alternatively, BRETSA petitioned the FCC to issue a declaratory ruling and a notice of proposed rulemaking on the same grounds presented by the CPSBGB in its request.

In July, a CPSBGB filing requested that the FCC clarify that ensuring interoperability is a fundamental responsibility of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and that interoperability is supported at all levels including network, services, applications and devices. Later that month, the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), Broadband Office, backtracked on the request following pressure from FirstNet and AT&T executives.

The Nov. 21 filing from a Colorado 9-1-1 authority that includes four public-safety answering points (PSAPs) serving Boulder County said full interoperability is a fundamental and ubiquitous requirement for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN). BRETSA said it is not economically feasible for FirstNet to supply the coverage necessary to replace public-safety LMR systems or in the near term fully replicate the coverage nationwide of other commercial providers offering or developing public-safety priority services.

“Public-safety agencies have established investments in LMR networks and may have relationships with other CMRS (commercial mobile radio services) providers and investments in their service offerings,” the filing said. “Absent support for interoperability at all levels, including network, services, applications and devices, FirstNet will just become just another competitor in the public-safety radio space leveraging market share on interoperability but doing so on frequencies and with funding granted for the purpose of providing interoperable communications.”

The filing said that absent commission clarification of AT&T/FirstNet’s interoperability requirements, the FirstNet initiative is likely to result in the team of AT&T and Motorola Solutions increasing their respective market shares as a result of perpetuation of the public-safety interoperability problem rather than eliminating the problem.

BRETSA said that ex parte comments filed following the CPSBGB request by other providers underscored the nationwide implications of the issue. The authority said it is most appropriate that the commission address the issue in its full scope and scale, rather than for stakeholders in an individual state to negotiate with FirstNet regarding service in that state.

In its withdrawal letter, Colorado’s OIT acknowledged the interoperability concerns raised by the CPSBGB, and stated that it will work collaboratively with the CPSBGB and FirstNet to resolve the concerns. “Notwithstanding CO-OIT’s pledge, it is unclear what negotiating power CO-OIT, any other state or all states have to affect AT&T’s commitment to full interoperability when they have already opted in to the NPSBN, and the 700 MHz D block appears to have greater value for general commercial use than public-safety use, particularly if the lack of interoperability reduces public-safety subscription to and use of FirstNet services,” BRETSA said.

BRETSA said in the filing it understands that in a subsequent meeting between CPSBGB and AT&T, AT&T reiterated its position that its commitment and obligation is to provide FirstNet-to-FirstNet interoperability. AT&T said that it would work with other networks and providers but can only manage a call to the edge of its network. BRETSA further understands that AT&T views the interoperability concerns as premature before a problem arises.

The Boulder County 9-1-1 authority said it is rash to take a “wait until a problem arises” approach in the context of public safety.

“If AT&T is committed to interoperability, commission clarification that ensuring interoperability is a fundamental responsibility of FirstNet, and that FirstNet must ensure that interoperability is supported at all levels, including network, services, applications and devices, will do no harm,” BRETSA said. “If AT&T’s commitment falls short of that standard, commission clarification of its obligations is essential.”

The full filing is here.

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Comments
On 12/5/18, Terry Burnworth said:
It seems that this issue is going to develop into a very serious "tail wagging the dog" problem, which means the vendor will run the show, not the user.

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