FCC Allows Charlotte and Texas to Offer Limited Public-Safety Broadband Service (8/1/12)
Wednesday, August 01, 2012 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
The FCC approved the interoperability showings of Charlotte, N.C., and Texas, authorizing the two jurisdictions to begin providing public-safety broadband service. The approvals are part of an order adopted Tuesday to allow limited deployment of public-safety broadband services in the existing public-safety broadband spectrum (763 – 768/793 – 798 MHz) under the commission’s special temporary authority (STA) rules.

In addition, the public-safety broadband waivers for the 21 jurisdictions that received them in 2010 will be ineffective as of Sept. 2, the date the majority of the waiver recipients’ leases will expire. The waiver recipients lease spectrum from the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST).

Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) must be formed by Aug. 22. FirstNet is charged with overseeing the nationwide public-safety broadband network.

The STAs will only be available for existing public-safety broadband spectrum, not the reallocated D block spectrum, which “will preserve the existing scope of any planned deployments and avoid unnecessary encumbrance of the D block spectrum prior to its being licensed to FirstNet,” the order said.

The FCC also dismissed all pending waiver requests to deploy either public-safety broadband or narrowband networks in this spectrum, as well as the request filed by the Bay Area cities for an extension of the 60-day deadline for entering a lease agreement with the PSST. This includes 38 broadband and 12 narrowband 700 MHz waiver requests.

Charlotte and Texas can provide service under their waivers until Sept. 2, when the waiver authorizations terminate, and they can seek to extend their deployments beyond this date by applying for STAs.

"The city of Charlotte appreciates the FCC's work in providing guidance to jurisdictions that want to pursue early deployment of this critical public-safety network and its commitment to timely action on any STA requests," said Chuck Robinson, director for the city of Charlotte shared services. "The city is carefully reviewing the STA criteria announced by the FCC in relation to the city's project."

The FCC said it will rule on STA requests within 30 days of receiving a complete application. Consistent with FCC rules, the STAs will be granted for up to 180-day periods. Recipients would be eligible to apply for renewal.

“This order provides a well-defined path for obtaining STAs, where it is warranted and consistent with the statute,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “The articulated criteria for evaluating STA requests provide applicants with needed guidance and clarity. They also establish the commission’s clear expectations for the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, which will use its authority judiciously and promptly and in accordance with this order.”

Given the importance of these requests, if any applicant requests review of a bureau decision, I will work with my colleagues to ensure that the commission completes its review within 30 days.”

The order said the FCC expects the limited deployments in only a few instances and only where it will not jeopardize FirstNet’s mandate to deploy a nationwide interoperable public-safety broadband network. Both Charlotte and Texas previously submitted interoperability showings to the FCC.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which will oversee FirstNet, in May partially suspended seven grants for public-safety broadband networks. NTIA said the action would ensure that the funds “are spent on facilities and equipment that will be incorporated into FirstNet’s single, nationwide public-safety broadband network.”

The FCC said the following must be included in an STA application for it to be granted:

• Substantial deployment prior to enactment of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act

• Ability to deliver timely service

• Specific public-safety need

• Compliance with “minimum technical recommendations”

• State-level coordination

“Alternatively, STA recipients seeking greater security may consider pursuing spectrum leases from FirstNet as a means of extending their deployments, subject to FirstNet’s willingness to enter such agreements,” the order said.

The full FCC order is available here.

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