NPSTC Asks FCC to Reconsider 4.9 GHz Rules
Tuesday, January 19, 2021 | Comments

The National Public-Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) submitted a petition for reconsideration of the FCC’s new 4.9 GHz rules.

In September, the FCC approved new rules that would allow states to lease spectrum in the band to commercial entities. Previously, the 4.9 GHz band was allocated to public-safety but for several years, the FCC has looked at ways to increase usage of the band.

NPSTC is the third public-safety organization, along with the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International and the Public-Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA), to ask the FCC to reconsider the rules.

NPSTC and other public-safety organizations have expressed concern about states’ ability to effectively manage the spectrum and ensure that incumbent public-safety users do not experience interference.

“The decisions made in the sixth report and order (R&O) place the management of the 4.9 GHz band with each state and opens the band to potential usage by all user classes, some of which could be incompatible with incumbent operations,” the petition said. “The new usage being allowed at the discretion of states is far outside of public safety, including commercial mobile operations, with no priority for public safety.”

NPSTC noted that the FCC has argued that the move to allow states to license 4.9 GHz spectrum did not impact the rights of public-safety organizations. NPSTC disagreed with that claim, partially citing the 4.9 GHz application freeze that the commission had put into effect.

“The claim that the decision does not modify incumbent 4.9 GHz licensees’ rights is legalistic double speak,” the filing said. “Prior to issuance of the freeze notice that accompanied the report and order, local and state public-safety agencies had the right to apply for and obtain licenses for 4.9 GHz facilities to meet their respective operational requirements. That right evaporated upon issuance of the freeze notice and accompanying sixth report and order, with the exception of the rights of the one state lessor organization in each state.

“Whether those rights were canceled by specifically by the sixth R&O or by the accompanying freeze notice is irrelevant,” the filing said. “The fact remains that local public-safety agency incumbents can no longer modify their respective licenses for additional sites or additional spectrum in the band.”

NPSTC also argued against the fact that the FCC had not provided public safety priority in the band, noting that a state could choose to lease all of its spectrum to commercial entities and leave nothing for public safety. NPSTC noted that the FCC’s R&O did not provide any specific protections for public safety and instead left that up to the discretion of the states.

The organization also argued that the commission had not provided proper notice when approving the rules.

“The sixth R&O is supposedly a follow-up to the sixth further NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking),” the petition said. “In that sixth FNPRM, the commission set forth ‘leasing’ as one of four options discussed. However, nowhere in that discussion did the commission address the potentially negative impact to local public-safety agencies that the sixth R&O causes.”

NPSTC also noted that the freeze order, which impacts public-safety incumbents, was released with no notice and no chance for affected parties to comment on it. Additionally, the sixth R&O added the 9-1-1 fee diversion provision, which had not previously been mentioned in the proceeding.

“NPSTC is also concerned about states that divert 9-1-1 fees to other purposes,” the petition said. “However, the fee diversion issue needs to be separated from 4.9 GHz spectrum policy. … Given the decision in the sixth R&O, the commission has left all the localities that happen to be in states on the 9-1-1 fee diversion list with no option to meet their continued need for expanded 4.9 GHz systems. By linking 9-1-1 fee diversion with 4.9 GHz spectrum decisions, the commission is penalizing numerous localities that may have absolutely no control over what their respective state does with 9-1-1 fees.”

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