APCO Requests Reconsideration of 4.9 GHz Rules
Wednesday, December 30, 2020 | Comments

The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International asked the FCC to reconsider its recent rules allowing states to lease 4.9 GHz spectrum to commercial and other entities.

“The order introduces an ill-conceived approach to spectrum sharing that lacks a basis in the record,” APCO’s petition for reconsideration said. “Moreover, the commission’s radical shift to the 4.9 GHz rules ignores public safety’s needs and reasonable alternatives, which unlike the order’s approach, were part of prior proposals on the record, that would promote public safety and increase use of the band.”

The Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA) also asked the FCC to reconsider the order for similar reasons as APCO. Both organizations asked the FCC to vacate the new 4.9 GHz rules and direct its Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) to work with public-safety entities to find a better path forward.

In September, the FCC approved a report and order to allow states to lease 4.9 GHz spectrum to commercial entities. Since shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the spectrum has been exclusively for public-safety. However, for several years prior to the report and order, the FCC had been looking at ways to revitalize the band, arguing that it was currently underused.

Under the report and order, states would be able to lease open 4.9 GHz spectrum to commercial or critical infrastructure entities. The rules grandfather in existing public-safety licensees, but those licensees cannot modify their licenses if it would expand their operations.

APCO argued that in adopting the new rules, the FCC gave public-safety organizations and other interested parties little time and opportunity to comment on the proposed rules. The FCC announced the rules on September 8 and then approved them September 30 at its monthly meeting.

Public-safety organizations argued that the FCC should have provided notice of the new rules and sought comment on them before approving them at the meeting.

APCO also took issue with a provision of the order that prevents states that have diverted 9-1-1 fees from leasing 4.9 GHz spectrum to other entities. The record in 4.9 GHz did not support that provision, APCO argued.

“This provision is not a logical outgrowth of the record,” APCO’s petition said. “In fact, fee diversion was not even included in the draft order publicized within weeks of the final order’s adoption. As Commissioner (Geoffrey) Starks noted, ‘this proceeding has never sought comment on that issue or anything like it, and there is no way commenting parties and the governments, public-safety organizations and citizens that will be adversely impacted would have reasonably known to comment on the idea.’ ”

APCO also described tying 9-1-1 fee diversion to eligibility for leasing the spectrum as “arbitrary and capricious” because “there is no rational link between the diversion of 9-1-1 fees and the purpose of the 4.9 GHz band.”

APCO also argued that there was no basis for giving spectrum management authority to the states in the record. APCO noted that in pursuit of trying to increase usage of the band, there had been proposals such as allowing public-safety licensees in the band to lease spectrum capacity to critical infrastructure and other entities.

“At no point did the commission propose ceding licensing authority to states, creating a framework in which otherwise eligible public-safety entities’ access will be contingent on a state’s wherewithal and willingness to lease them spectrum,” the petition said. “In addition to being bad policy from a public-safety perspective, the new approach essentially permits states to lease spectrum to the highest bidder, which in effect creates state-by-state private auctions that will lack the economies of scale and consistency of a single, national-level approach.”

APCO’s petition also argued that the new rules threatened public-safety use of the band. APCO noted that prior to releasing the new rules, the FCC had stated that its goal was to ensure public safety continued to have priority access in the band and to protect incumbent public-safety users from interference.

“Departing from this goal, the order places ‘no restriction on the type of entity to which a state can lease or the type of services that the lessee can provide,’ ” the filing said. “State governments will thus be able to forego public-safety use of the band in favor of increased revenue under the pretext of ‘balancing the needs of public safety and the benefits that can come from non-public-safety use.’ The commission clearly has no intention to ensure public-safety use of the band is protected.”

APCO argued that even though the FCC had argued that its order would not substantially impact incumbents, allowing the state to control all the spectrum would fundamentally change the way the band works.

“Prior to the order, public-safety entities enjoyed exclusive, independent control of the band,” the filing said. “Now, they are subjugated to the will of a state lessor that has the authority to lease the band for commercial use that presents an entirely different spectrum environment. Changing the spectrum environment could render the band unfit for supporting existing public-safety use.”

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Comments
On 1/9/21, JOHN PATRIZI said:
Unless a user on this bandwidth is in a rural setting the public safety folks that have been or are using it in populated communities have caused a mess of interference issues from poor management. I applaud the FCC decision so that we may have reliable communications on LICENSED frequencies. APCO needs to focus on doing the research that led to this decision.


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