FCC Grants Waiver for Interoperability Channels in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
Friday, September 29, 2017 | Comments

The FCC granted, on its own motion, a waiver of the commission’s rules to facilitate use of two nationwide interoperability channels (151.1375 and 154.4525 MHz) in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

In Puerto Rico and the USVI, only three of the five interoperability channels (VCALL10, VTAC13 and TAC14) are available for public-safety use. Therefore, the FCC temporarily waived this limitation to allow public-safety agencies to use the two additional frequencies in support of hurricane response and recovery activities.

“We find that good cause exists for a temporary waiver of the restriction on public-safety use of VTAC11 and VTAC12 in Puerto Rico and the USVI,” the order said. “First, the combined impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has resulted in massive damage and communications outages in both locations.”

In addition, in response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, the FCC issued special temporary authorizations (STAs) granting authority for out-of-area first responders, during recovery operations, to use land mobile radios licensed to their home areas.

“We anticipate that additional out-of-area first responders will deploy to Puerto Rico and the USVI with radios equipped with the VHF interoperability channels,” the FCC said. “Waiving the restriction against public-safety use of VTAC11 and VTAC12 will make all five interoperability channels available for use and obviate the need for these out-of-area first responders to obtain individual STAs to operate mobiles on VTAC11 and VTAC12. This will save valuable time in deploying assets, as well as increase the capacity for interoperable communications traffic among first responders assisting in recovery efforts.

One business licensee, Amgen Manufacturing, is licensed to operate in Puerto Rico on VTAC11 under call sign WQVK951. Amgen concurred in the proposed use of VTAC11 for first responder interoperability.

The 60-day waiver authorizes mobile use of VTAC11 and VTAC12 by public-safety eligibles on a blanket licensing basis in Puerto Rico and the USVI. To avoid potential interference on VTAC11, public-safety use of VTAC11 in Puerto Rico will be on a co-primary basis with Amgen, and both public-safety users and Amgen must follow a listen-before-transmit protocol.

Public-safety operations under this waiver are confined to mobile and portable units.

The full order is here.

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