U.S. Oil Refinery Allowed to Use Public-Safety Channels for TETRA Network
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 | Comments

The FCC granted a waiver and processed an application filed by Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend, seeking three 450 – 470 MHz public-safety pool channels for use in its radio system in Minnesota. The waiver allows Flint Hills Resources to use public-safety channels for which it is not otherwise eligible.

Flint Hills Resources operates one of the largest oil refineries in the United States in Rosemount, Minnesota, and selected 450 MHz TETRA for its mission-critical communications network. TETRA includes no monitoring capability and cannot operate on shared channels. The Flint Hills Resources frequency coordinator, Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA), located only one industrial/business (I/B) pool channel available on an exclusive basis for TETRA operation in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Flint Hills Resources then obtained five Part 22 frequencies on the secondary market. This will meet most of its needs.

To satisfy the remaining system requirements, Flint Hills Resources proposed using three 450 – 470 MHz public-safety channels at one of the two sites covering the refinery property.

Most commenters, except the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, supported the waiver request. In addition, the fire departments of Rosemount and the adjacent communities of Eagan and Inver Grove submitted letters in favor of the request.

The FCC said the grant would have little or no impact on the public-safety pool. Flint Hills Resources confined its request for waiver to the minimum number of public-safety channels covering the smallest possible area, only after its frequency coordinator confirmed there are not enough I/B channels available for TETRA operations at the refinery.

“That the fire departments in nearby communities support the request demonstrates that they do not believe that the proposed operations will create congestion or interference on public-safety pool channels,” the FCC said. “We also conclude that grant of the requested waiver would be in the public interest. Reliable communications is essential for critical infrastructure industry (CII) entities like Flint Hills Resources.”

APCO said the waiver would be contrary to the public interest because Flint Hills Resources will, after the transition to the new system, cancel its authorization for any I/B channels that it no longer needs, and this will “leav[e] spectrum that was not reserved for public safety fallow.”

The FCC disagreed. The full order is here.

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