Comments Sought on Chicago’s 2-Year Narrowbanding Waiver Request (10/3/12)
Wednesday, October 03, 2012 | Comments

The FCC is seeking comment on a request for waiver of the Jan. 1, 2013, VHF/UHF narrowbanding deadline, filed on May 8, 2012, by the city of Chicago Office of Emergency Management Communications. The city is seeking a 24-month conditional extension to complete the narrowbanding of its VHF/UHF facilities by Jan. 1, 2015.

Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, with 9.8 million inhabitants, and the metropolitan area extends outside the county seat of Cook County, Ill., into neighboring DuPage County.

To help manage and protect the city’s residents and visitors, Chicago employs thousands of first responders and other employees who require the use of public-safety communications. However, due to budgetary and hiring constraints, the city employs only 16 radio technicians, who are solely responsible for the maintenance, installation and upgrading of the city’s numerous and intricate radio systems. Despite limited manpower and resources, the technicians have been able to perform maintenance and to complete a significant number of necessary and mandated upgrades to the city’s extensive public-safety radio networks.

The city of Chicago’s request describes its past and continuing efforts to bring its mission-critical communications networks into compliance with the Jan. 1, 2013, narrowbanding mandate, and states it is near completion of its multisite UHF T-band fire digital system, among other public-safety radio projects.

However, the city notes it has “been occupied in responding to other regional and national initiatives such as expanding its video surveillance system and engagement in Operation Virtual Shield in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice.”

Chicago claims that it has been working diligently and in good faith toward narrowbanding, making substantial investments in new infrastructure and reprogramming existing equipment. However, due to budget constraints and the diversion of financial resources to other federal projects, the city claims that it is unable to complete narrowbanding by the deadline.

Comments are due Oct. 23, and reply comments are due Nov. 2.

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