Selected portions of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, a newsletter from the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP are reproduced in this section with the firm's permission.
FCC Seeks Comment On Impact of Derecho Storm
The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has issued a Public Notice requesting information relevant to the June 29 “derecho,” the storm that left millions of people from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic without electrical power and/or communications services (BloostonLaw Telecom Update, July 11). The FCC said that the storm had a significant adverse effect on communications services generally and 9-1-1 facilities particularly. From isolated breakdowns in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, to systemic failures in northern Virginia and West Virginia, the FCC said that it appears that a significant number of 9-1-1 systems and services were partially or completely down for several days. Comments in this PS Docket No. 11-60 proceeding are due August 17, and replies are due September 4.
The Bureau seeks comment on the background, causes, and restoration efforts related to communications services and facilities impacted directly or indirectly by the storm and after. It seeks to develop a complete and accurate record of all the facts surrounding the outages during this storm as well as outages resulting from natural disasters in order to evaluate the overall resiliency and reliability of our Nation’s 9-1-1 systems and services. It also seeks comment on the impact these outages had on the various segments of the public, including consumers, hospitals, and public safety entities.
The Bureau’s review is also intended to further develop the record in the Commission’s ongoing examination of issues in the April 2011 notice of inquiry (NOI) on the resiliency, reliability and continuity abilities of communications network, including broadband technologies, and comments received in response to this Public Notice will become part of the record of the NOI. In that proceeding, the Commission initiated a comprehensive examination of these issues with the goal of determining what action, if any, the Commission should take to ensure that the Nation’s communications infrastructure is as reliable as possible and able to continue to function in times of emergency. In its NOI, the Commission also focused on 9-1-1 reliability and stated that “[p]eople dialing 9-1-1, whether using legacy or broadband-based networks, must be able to reach emergency personnel for assistance; and when networks dedicated to public safety be-come unavailable, first responders must have access to commercial communications, including broadband technologies, to coordinate their rescue and recovery efforts.”
The Bureau now seeks comment on the following issues:
Causes of Outages. What were the specific causes of the outages that occurred during or after the storms? Which network elements and components, such as Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) trunks, Internet-Protocol (IP) broadband access lines, databases and PSTN switches, were out of service and for how long?
Effect on 9-1-1 Systems and Services . What could be done to improve the reliability of the 9-1-1 network when faced with storms like the derecho or other threats? Are there actions the FCC should take to improve the reliability of 9-1-1 services during strong storms like this? What actions should communications service providers take? Are there actions that communications service providers and/or PSAPs should take to improve the 9-1-1-restoration process? What, if anything, can the FCC do to better assist communications service providers and PSAPs in the restoration process?
Effect of 9-1-1 Outages. What impact did the 9-1-1 out-ages have on the public? For example, how were consumers affected? How did the outages affect the ability of public safety officials to perform their duties? How was the public alerted of the 9-1-1 outages and what alternatives were provided? How effective were these alternatives? To what extent was social media used to spread the word about the 9-1-1 outages and alternatives? What impact did the 9-1-1 outages have on other sectors of the user community, including businesses and providers of critical services, such as hospitals?
Effect of Communications Outages on Access to 9-1-1 Services. Outages in the 9-1-1 network itself are only one way that users can be denied access to 9-1-1 services. For example, if the PSAP is operational and the 9-1-1 network is functioning, users in a local area will still be unable to reach the PSAP if they lack access to the communications network due to a local outage. To what extent did users find that the general unavailability of communications service impaired their ability to access 9-1-1 service? In these instances, were multiple methods of reaching the PSAP available, like cell phones or other types of communications services? How effective were these alternative communications services in over-coming outages affecting one access platform? What should be done to improve the diversity of access to 9-1-1 services so that communications outages are less likely to result in an inability to access 9-1-1?
The 9-1-1 communications failures experienced as a result of the derecho also give rise to concerns and questions about the reliability and resiliency of the 9-1-1 communications networks nationwide, particularly in the event of a severe weather or other type of high-impact natural disaster. The Bureau seeks comment on how 9-1-1 communications have fared during other recent natural disaster events. Commenters are asked to describe any lessons learned from those events, in particular improvements that were recommended to improve 9-1-1 service reliability and survivability. Commenters should address the impact on communications relying on the PSTN- and IP-based communications, as well as fixed and mobile wireless communications.
The Bureau also seeks comment on the most common causes of failure in the 9-1-1 network that result in the following types of 9-1-1 outages:
i) complete isolation of the PSAP;
ii) failure to pass ALI and/or ANI;
iii) loss of the ability to reroute traffic to an alternate PSAP or administrative lines.
What could be done to reduce the incidence of outages in each category? What actions, if any, should the FCC take to address this problem?
President’s Tech Advisors Want Federal-Commercial Spectrum Sharing
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has released a report, Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth, concluding that the traditional practice of clearing government-held spectrum of Federal users and auctioning it for commercial use is not sustainable. In light of changes made possible by modern technology, PCAST recommends that the President issue a new Memorandum that states it is the policy of the U.S. government to share underutilized spectrum to the maximum extent consistent with the Federal mission, and requires the Secretary of Commerce to identify 1,000 MHz of Federal spectrum in which to implement shared-use spectrum pilot projects.
To make a start on the substantial changes that PCAST proposes, the report recommends formation of an Executive Office of the President Spectrum Management Team (SMT), led by the White House Chief Technology Officer, to work with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on carrying out the President’s Directive. In particular, the SMT should create an accounting and incentive system to promote more effective Federal spectrum use.
PCAST also recommends beginning a pilot program involving spectrum sharing, supported by early release of funds from various sources, with three key elements: immediate sharing by new low-power devices in two existing Federal spectrum bands; formation of a Spectrum Sharing Partnership Steering Committee (SSP) of industry executives ( e.g. CEOs) to advise on a policy framework to maximize commercial success; and creation of an urban Test City and a Mobile Test Service that can support rapid learning in spectrum management technology and practice.
AT&T and CTIA — The Wireless Association did not care for this “shared-spectrum” approach. Specifically, CTIA said: "Cleared spectrum and an exclusive-use approach has enabled the U.S. wireless industry to invest hundreds of billions of dollars, deploying world-leading mo-bile broadband networks and resulting in tremendous economic benefits for U.S. consumers and businesses. Not surprisingly, that is the very same approach that has been used by the countries that we compete with in the global marketplace, who have brought hundreds of megahertz of cleared spectrum to market in recent years."
OMB Approves New E911 Requirements, Effective July 25
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved, for a period of three years, the information collection associated with the FCC's Wireless E911 Phase II Location Accuracy Requirements adopted in the Third Report and Order. These rules become effective today, July 25. The PS Docket No. 07-114 Third Report and Order provides that new Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers, meeting the definition of “covered” CMRS providers and deploying networks subsequent to the effective date of the Third Report and Order that are not an expansion or upgrade of an existing CMRS network, must meet the handset-based location accuracy standard from the start. Consequently, the rule requires new CMRS providers launching stand-alone networks (during the eight-year implementation period for handset-based CMRS wireless licensees) to meet the applicable handset-based location accuracy standard in effect at the time of deployment. Therefore, new CMRS providers must comply with the location accuracy requirements for handset-based carriers.
All new CMRS providers, in delivering emergency calls for Enhanced 911 service, must satisfy the handset-based location accuracy standard at either a county-based or Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP)-based geographic level. Thus, in accordance with the new rule, new CMRS providers must meet the following initial benchmark for the specified handset-based location accuracy requirements: two years from January 18, 2011, 50 meters for 67 percent of calls, and 150 meters for 80 percent of calls, on a per-county or per-PSAP basis. Similarly, new CMRS providers may exclude up to 15 percent of the counties or PSAP areas they serve due to heavy forestation that limits handset-based technology accuracy in those counties or areas.
VERIZON WANTS TO DUMP RURAL CUSTOMERS?: According to Phillip Dampier, who writes for several Internet sites, including Competition and Consumer News, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam recently told a Wall Street investor audience that Verizon’s future earnings and focus should be primarily on the wireless side of the business, because that is where there is serious money to be made. Dampier says that McAdam’s leadership challenges the long-standing telephone company philosophy of earning a stable, predictable profit as Verizon did when it was a regulated monopoly. Instead, McAdam shifted the work culture towards an obsession with shareholder value. Some of the most revealing commentary from McAdam came in response to questions about what Verizon plans to do with its enormous landline phone network, dominant in the northeastern United States, Dampier said. He added that: “In comments sure to alarm rural Verizon customers from Massachusetts to Virginia, McAdam clearly signaled the company is laying the groundwork to abandon its rural phone network (and DSL broadband) as soon as regulators allow. ‘In [...] areas that are more rural and more sparsely populated, we have got [a wireless 4G] LTE built that will handle all of those services and so we are going to cut the copper off there.’ McAdam said,. “We are going to do it over wireless. So I am going to be really shrinking the amount of copper we have out there and then I can focus the investment on that to improve the performance of it.”
FCC ADOPTS ORDER ON ASSESSMENT, COLLECTION OF FY 2012 REGULATORY FEES: The FCC has adopted a Report and Order (R&O) regarding the assessment and collection of $339,844,000 in regulatory fees for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. In this annual regulatory fee proceeding, the FCC retained many of the current methods, policies, and procedures for collecting in prior years. The FCC expects to collect these fees during a September 2012 filing window. In the R&O, the FCC addresses the following issues:
(1) incorporating 2010 Census data into its broadcast population data,
(2) assessing a regulatory fee for each broadcasting facility operating either in an analog or digital mode (but not both) for Low Power, Class A, and TV Translators/Boosters,
(3) maintaining the FY 2012 Interstate Telecommunications Service Provider (ITSP) fee rate at the same level as in FY 2011,
(4) using an online filing system for the filing of requests for a refund, waiver, fee reduction, or deferment of payment of an application or regulatory fee,
(5) maintaining the Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) Messaging Service at the rate of $.08 per subscriber, and
(6) the Commission will continue to promote greater use of technology (and less use of paper) in improving its regulatory fee notification and collection processes.