FCC Offers Update on Several Public-Safety Regulatory Issues
Tuesday, August 16, 2022 | Comments

The FCC provided updates on several regulatory matters related to public safety during a session at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Official (APCO) International Conference August 8-10.

The first topic the FCC officials addressed was 4.9 GHz, which since the early 2000s has been dedicated public-safety spectrum. However, for many years, the FCC has been looking to revitalize and increase use of what it believes is an underused band.

In 2020, the FCC approved rules that would have allowed states to lease spectrum to non-public-safety entities. That plan met with a great deal of backlash from public safety, who worried that non-public-safety uses could interfere with public-safety use as well as the fact that allow individual states to manage the spectrum could lead to inconsistent spectrum management practices around the nation.

In response, the FCC vacated those rules and released a new proceeding seeking comments on ways to increase usage of the band, while making public-safety use a priority. During the session, FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) Deputy Director David Furth said the new proceeding proposes a national framework instead of the previous state-based leasing approach.

“We’ve been wrestling with trying to make the band a good home for public safety for a long time,” Furth said.

As part of the proceeding, the FCC sought feedback on aspects of its new proposal and received comments from both public safety and other entities.

“There are a lot of interesting ideas on the table,” Furth said. “We are reviewing them now. I’m not sure where they will come out but we’re hoping to bring these efforts to fruition.”

John Evanoff, chief of the PSHSB’s policy and licensing division, discussed the status of the FCC’s wireless location accuracy rules that were put in place in 2015. As of 2021, carriers were required to provide a dispatchable location for 80% of all wireless 9-1-1 calls in the top 25 cellular market areas.

In April 2021, the FCC began an inquiry into whether the three major carriers were meeting those requirements. At that same time, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile requested an extension of the time period to certify those requirements. The FCC then reached settlement agreements with each of the carriers to help meet those requirements.

Evanoff said that as June 2, the three carriers had submitted certifications that they were now meeting the vertical location requirements. He said the FCC is currently in the process of verifying those certifications.

Another topic Evanoff touched on was the availability of text to 9-1-1. He said that the FCC is working to get a clear picture of where text to 9-1-1 is available around the country. As part of this work, the FCC is developing a map to display this data based on its Text to 9-1-1 Registry.

Currently, Evanoff said, the registry lists 3,100 public-safety answering points (PSAPs) that support text to 9-1-1, but the FCC believes there are hundreds more that have the capability. PSAPs aren’t required to report to registry. The FCC is currently working to improve the accuracy of the information in the registry and encouraged PSAPs to voluntarily submit data to it. That data can be submitted to T911psapregistry@fcc.gov.

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Comments
On 8/20/22, Mark J. Fletcher ENP said:
Glad to see the text to 911 map initiative being looked at again. Are used to personally manage a map based on ECC PSAP registration information that was public however as the FCC noted reporting was not required and reporting readiness differed greatly from actually providing the coverage. These factors and others made the process very complicated and something that had started as a hobby was taking far too much time. In any case the availability of services that are life-safety in nature is critical information and should have a public resource that is easy to view and accurate.


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