21 Jurisdictions Gain Waivers to Move Forward with Broadband Networks (5/12/10)
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
The FCC granted conditional approval of 21 petitions filed by cities, counties and states seeking waivers to move forward with the construction of regional or statewide interoperable wireless broadband networks in the 700 MHz public-safety broadband spectrum. The commission required the broadband networks be deployed under a common interoperability framework in coordination with the FCC's nearly formed Emergency Response Interoperability Center (ERIC).

The common framework will ensure that all networks being deployed are technically compatible and fully interoperable, FCC officials said.

"The order adopted today provides a path forward for states and local jurisdictions to proceed with the deployment of interoperable public-safety broadband networks under uniform terms and conditions set forth under the waiver approvals," an FCC statement said. "It also represents a critical first step towards the deployment of a fully nationwide interoperable network."

To ensure compatibility and interoperability of public-safety broadband networks, the order set forth the following conditions that each waiver recipient must meet:
• Nationwide network interoperability;
• Mandatory use of the Long Term Evolution (LTE) air interface standard, recognizing the unique circumstances associated with the 700 MHz band and the need to achieve interoperability;
• Network support for certain applications, including access to the Internet, to an incident command system, and to field-based server applications; and
• Use of certain system characteristics, including security features.

The agencies must submit technical deployment and conformance testing plans to ERIC, specifically including plans for achieving and maintaining interoperability with all public-safety broadband network deployments in the 700 MHz band. Petitioners must also implement all phases of technical requirements adopted by the FCC.

The agencies also must participate in the demonstration network testing being sponsored by the federal Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) program and the District of Columbia. In addition, waiver awardees must offer service and/or access to all designated public-safety agencies within the network coverage area.

They should also enter into a standard form spectrum lease with the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST), which holds the national license for the public safety broadband spectrum. The PSST may charge a limited administrative fee as part of the lease arrangement, but only after first submitting a proposed budget for public comment and approval by the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. They must also submit quarterly progress reports to the FCC, in consultation with the PSST.

"I believe that the order is generally good, and we're pleased the FCC chairman and commissioners moved this forward, because it will help in moving forward with a nationwide network," said Harlin McEwen, PSST chairman. "I think they've protected the interests of the public-safety community and the PSST. They've recognized that the waiver applicants must assist with the funding as it relates to this part of the project. We are going to have to have legal assistance, and that costs money."

McEwen said Hogan Lovells, a Washington law firm, is the PSST's legal partner. He said the PSST executive committee's quarterly meeting is next week and details of the waivers will be discussed. "Our plan is to more fully activate our recently created operator advisory committee," McEwen said. "We'll move forward aggressively with that and engage them in discussions for a budget for support for their activities."

With respect to the designation of the LTE air interface standard, the FCC said it's not endorsing LTE technology, but said that requiring a single air interface standard for 700 MHz waiver applicants was reasonable to ensure interoperability.

Overall, the FCC granted conditional relief to all states, counties, and cities that have submitted waiver petitions. The commission denied the waiver request submitted by Flow Mobile, a commercial vendor, because commercial entities are ineligible under existing law to be licensed on the public-safety spectrum.

The following cities, counties and states were granted waivers:
• Adams County, Colo.
• Alabama
• Boston
• Northern California Consortium (Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose)
• Charlotte, N.C.
• Chesapeake, Va.
• District of Columbia
• Hawaii and counties of Maui, Hawaii and Kauai, and the city and county of Honolulu
• Iowa
• Los Angeles County
• Mesa, Ariz., and TOPAZ Regional Wireless Cooperative
• Mississippi
• New Jersey
• New Mexico
• New York City
• New York State
• Oregon
• Pembroke Pines, Fla.
• San Antonio
• Seattle
• Wisconsin Consortium (Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties)

In a statement, New York officials plan to maximize use of existing state assets, including the use of a state-owned fiber-optic cable network, known as NYeNet, for its broadband network. New York officials said they see this as an opportunity to foster public/private partnerships to accelerate the buildout of first responder broadband infrastructure. The network will be built in partnership with participating counties in the state and will support state and local police, firefighters, rescue service workers, EMS workers and other appropriate entities.

"I thank FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the FCC for granting waivers to New York State and New York City for the early deployment of interoperable public-safety broadband networks and for its commitment to advancing public-safety broadband communication," said New York Gov. David A. Paterson. "The state has identified public-safety broadband communications as a top priority. These waivers will enable New York state to expand these services at both the state and local levels."

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