FCC Takes Action to Reconsider 4.9 GHz, Protect 9-1-1 Call Center from Robocalls
Tuesday, October 05, 2021 | Comments

The FCC tackled a variety of items at its September 30 meeting including seeking further comment on ways to protect public safety in the 4.9 GHz spectrum band and taking actions to protect 9-1-1 call centers from robocalls.

In 2002, the commission designated the 4.9 GHz band for public safety operations. Last October, the commission adopted a state-by-state leasing framework that would have allowed states to take this prime mid-band spectrum away from public safety. After public-safety organizations filed petitions for reconsideration of the commission’s order, the commission rescinded the state-by-state leasing rules at the meeting, finding that they risked fragmenting the band. The commission also partially lifted a freeze on applications in this band to allow existing public-safety licensees to modify their licenses and to license new permanent fixed sites.

Additionally, the commission adopted a further notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to establish a nationwide framework for the band that will spur technical innovation, lower equipment costs and promote interoperable communications. The notice explores options to ensure public-safety use of the band, including protecting public safety users from harmful interference, collecting more granular licensing data and adopting technical standards to promote interoperability. The further notice also seeks comment on ways to encourage use of new technologies, including 5G, and dynamic spectrum access systems to facilitate coexistence between public-safety and non-public-safety uses of the band.

Meanwhile, the FCC proposed new rules to protect public-safety answering points (PSAPs), from unwanted robocalls. The further NPRM adopted at the meeting would require voice service providers to block robocalls made to 9-1-1 call center telephone numbers listed on a PSAP do-not-call registry.

With the action, the commission also took the opportunity to gather updated information on how best to fulfill the goal of protecting 9-1-1 call centers from disruptive robocalls in a manner that avoids the potential security risks of making registered 9-1-1 call center numbers available to those claiming to be autodialer operators.

The commission is also seeking comment on several related questions, including the extent to which autodialed calls and text messages continue to be a problem for 9-1-1 call centers, as well as whether the number of unwanted calls and texts has significantly changed as a result of anti-robocall efforts since 2012, when the Commission first took steps to establish a PSAP do-not call registry at Congress’ direction. Finally, the Commission is seeking comment on ways to protect PSAPs from cyberattacks and disruptions other than those conducted with robocalls.

Find the full NPRM for the PSAP Do-Not-Call Registry here.

Additionally, the FCC launched a rulemaking proceeding to improve the reliability of communications networks and help ensure that the public can communicate when disasters strike.

Recent hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and ice storms demonstrate that America’s communications infrastructure remains susceptible to disruption during disasters. Disaster recovery efforts in the wireless industry are currently supported by the Wireless Network Resiliency Cooperative Framework, a voluntary industry agreement to promote resilient communications and situational awareness during disasters through roaming agreements, mutual aid, and other measures.

The commission adopted a NPRM that seeks comment on potential improvements to the framework, including evaluating what triggers its activation, its scope of participants, whether existing framework elements can be strengthened, any gaps that need to be addressed, and whether the public would benefit from codifying some or all of the framework in the commission’s rules.

As part of its own network resiliency efforts, the commission monitors communications outage data submitted to its mandatory Network Outage Reporting System (NORS) and voluntary Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS). The commission uses this information to provide critical situational awareness during outages and analyze outage trends. The notice seeks comment on ways to enhance the information supplied through these systems by communications providers, including how to encourage greater participation in DIRS and whether broadband service outages should be reported in NORS.

Last, because commercial power outages are a significant cause of communications network outages after disasters, the notice also seeks comment on improving backup power availability at key communications sites, enhancing coordination between communications providers and power companies, and other measures to reduce power-related disruptions to communications services.

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