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Wishing a happy new year and a safe weekend for all readers of The Wireless Messaging News.
Every time I read a new article critical of Paging and making outrageous claims about the damage being done, the terrible added expense, and even the unnecessary deaths being caused by the use of pagers, I quickly look to see who is sponsoring the “research.” It is always a company trying to sell products and/or services that are [so-called] better.
One of the biggest flaws in human thinking is “jumping to conclusions” or a cognitive property that psychologists define as “what you see is all there is.” This powerful and persistent flaw of thinking leads us to a false sense of security when it comes to personal communications.
Our cellphones work almost perfectly—almost all the time, this gives us a false sense of security i.e. it makes you feel safe when you are not. This intuition tells us that our cell phones will always work when we need them and it is based on incomplete information.
An important design criteria for any shared service is building the system to support a certain percentage of the users of that service (not everyone) during its busiest time. Three examples come to mind.
At some time an educated guess was made at how many citizens would turn on their water faucets at the same time. The whole water supply system was designed to continue providing water at this peak usage time. If everyone in town should ever turn on all their water faucets at the same time, the system would be overloaded and water would only trickle out of the faucets.
The same applies to a city's electrical system. The size of the electric generators (on line) is carefully calculated so that everyone can use electricity during the peak load time. There have been many examples of “brown-outs” during very hot weather when the electrical system was overloaded because of too many air conditioners running at the same time. This is a serious problem because sometimes the only immediate solution is to turn off whole neighborhoods, otherwise the generators would burn up and that would be a BIG problem.
Now for the telephone system, and this applies to both wire-line telephones and wireless telephones. The critical design factor is called “busy-hour call attempts” or BHCA.
The BHCA is the total number of calls during the peak traffic hour that are attempted or received in the call center.
So a shared-service telephone system is designed to handle a certain percentage of the total number of users during the busy hour. The details of these calculations are interesting but not necessary to make this point. If you want to know more about this, check out the Wikipedia article Busy-hour call attempts and investigate the Erlang capacity calculations.
So the point is, if too many people try to make a telephone call at the same time the system won't work. It will either crash of slow down so that it becomes nearly impossible to make a phone call.
So maybe you are wondering if these factors apply to Paging Systems as well. Some of them do but please note these important differences:
If you are still not convinced, please read Jim Nelson's excellent article “Is Paging Going Away?”
We have never advocated that pagers be the only means of communication, but it is clear that for many critical message requirements, they definitely should be used—at least as a backup.
For Your Enjoyment on
My favorite music comes from an organization called “Playing For Change.” They go around the world recording different musicians—frequently street people—who are playing for a donation from the change you have in your pocket. “Playing For Change” now has now adopted a double meaning. They are also playing to change the world through music.
Following below is a new video featuring Afro Fiesta performing the song, "Young People." Recorded live at their Music is My Ammunition album release concert in Denver, Colorado, this song is an original written by band member Jason Tamba.
Now on to more news and views.
Wayne County, Illinois
A new issue of the Wireless Messaging Newsletter is posted on the web each week. A notification goes out by e-mail to subscribers on most Fridays around noon central US time. The notification message has a link to the actual newsletter on the web. That way it doesn’t fill up your incoming e-mail account.
There is no charge for subscription and there are no membership restrictions. Readers are a very select group of wireless industry professionals, and include the senior managers of many of the world’s major Paging and Wireless Messaging companies. There is an even mix of operations managers, marketing people, and engineers — so I try to include items of interest to all three groups. It’s all about staying up-to-date with business trends and technology.
I regularly get readers’ comments, so this newsletter has become a community forum for the Paging, and Wireless Messaging communities. You are welcome to contribute your ideas and opinions. Unless otherwise requested, all correspondence addressed to me is subject to publication in the newsletter and on my web site. I am very careful to protect the anonymity of those who request it.
I spend the whole week searching the Internet for news that I think may be of interest to you — so you won’t have to. This newsletter is an aggregator — a service that aggregates news from other news sources. You can help our community by sharing any interesting news that you find.
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AMARILLO, Texas — Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC (CNS) recently presented three Small Business Achievement Awards at the West Texas A&M Contract Procurement Center’s Focused and Fearless: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Texas event. CNS recognized paging carrier A-1 Wireless Communications for their commitment to excellence in safety and security for the Pantex Plant.
The CNS Pantex Plant is the primary site for assembly and disassembly of nuclear weapons for the United States and allies around the world. Pantex is responsible for maintaining the nuclear weapons stockpile and the high explosive materials required to detonate nuclear devices. The facility builds and delivers nuclear weapons, replaces parts and components to extend the lives of the weapons and dismantles retired nuclear weapons.
A-1 Communications has a 16-year working relationship with the Pantex Plant providing over 3,500 pagers for plant employees. With a network of transmitters covering the Texas Panhandle, A-1 gives CNS the ability to reach their employees not only at work, but wherever they live throughout the region. According to Pantex, the company is an integral part of the success of Pantex operations and emergency communications.
Due to security constraints, Pantex does not allow cell phones on the plant site. Cell phones can transmit voice, data and pictures, making cell phones a serious security risk in this highly secure facility. Because of the reliability of the A-1 Communications pagers, the in-building penetration of the UHF signal and the security of one-way communications, the pagers provided by A-1 Communications are the primary means of communications with the plant’s employees.
As well as contacting individual pagers, Pantex utilizes dozens of paging group numbers. The plant operations center can reach every employee simultaneously with one alpha page sent to a plant-wide all-call address. The flexibility and reliability of the group paging makes pagers perfect for reaching fire department personnel, hazmat teams, emergency response groups and many others with crucial, time-sensitive information. Some critical employees are members of as many as nine different groups.
“Our ability to partner and collaborate with small business plays an instrumental role in helping us achieve mission success,” said CNS Deputy Enterprise Manager Michelle Reichert. Pantex Small Business Program Manager Ryan Johnston said, “Small businesses are the backbone to our local and national economy. We are proud to recognize these businesses for their contributions and commend them for modeling the CNS values—integrity, trust, respect, teamwork and excellence.”
A-1 Wireless Communications has been in continuous operation since 1979 and serves hospitals, physicians and other members of the medical community. The company also provides services to first responders, the Pantex Plant and many other users throughout the Texas Panhandle.
Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC (CNS) operates the Pantex Plant, located in Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Complex, located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, under a single contract for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. Pantex and Y-12 are key facilities in the U.S. Nuclear Security Enterprise, and CNS performs its work with a focus on the performance excellence and the imperatives of safety, security, zero defects and delivery as promised.
(Left to right)
OMNI Messaging Server
MARS (Mobile Alert Response System)
STG (SIP to TAP Gateway)
The Motorola Nucleus II Paging Base Station is a great paging transmitter. The Nucleus I, however, had some problems.
One of the best features of this product was its modular construction. Most of the Nucleus' component parts were in plug-in modules that were field replaceable making maintenance much easier.
One issue was (and still is) that two of the modules had to always be kept together. They are called the “matched pair.”
Motorola used some tricks to keep people in the field from trying to match unmatched pairs, and force them to send SCM and Exciter modules back to the factory for calibrating them with precision laboratory equipment.
The serial numbers have to match in the Nucleus programing software or you can't transmit. Specifically the 4-level alignment ID parameter contained in the SCM has to match the Exciter ID parameter.
Even if someone could modify the programing software to “fudge” these parameters, that would not let them use unmatched modules effectively without recalibrating them to exact factory specifications.
So now that there is no longer a Motorola factory laboratory to send them to, what do we do?
I hope someone can help us resolve this serious problem for users of the Nucleus paging transmitter.
Please let me know if you can help. [click here]
With Help of Israeli Alert System, No Deaths in 7.6 Magnitude Chile Earthquake
by ISRAEL21c | 12.28.16 8:07 am
When a powerful earthquake shook southern Chile on Sunday, the potential for loss of life and damage was great. But thanks to eVigilo’s mass alert system, there were no immediate reports of deaths in the wake of the 7.6 magnitude quake.
eVigilo — an Israeli startup delivering and developing emergency mass-notification, multi-channel solutions for governments, municipalities, and businesses — was used to notify some 4,000 Chileans living near Chiloé Island, where the earthquake struck, to evacuate.
eVigilo SMART Broadcast delivers geo-targeted cell broadcast messages within seconds to millions of people. It is the only cell broadcast system worldwide that warns millions of people in less than 20 seconds in case of earthquakes, Tsunamis, and other imminent threats.
The Netanya-based startup has been working with Chile’s emergency authority ONEMI since 2010, following a devastating earthquake that resulted in a death toll of over 560 people. In 2014, eVigilo SMART Broadcast helped keep that year’s earthquake death count to six people.
“This project allows the people to receive a message in a timely manner when they are in an affected area,” said National emergency director Ricardo Toro.
“We feel immense satisfaction to have contributed saving the lives of millions of people,” eVigilo CEO Guy Weiss said following the 2014 earthquake in Chile.
(via Israel21c )
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NIST Debuts Dual Atomic Clock — and a New Stability Record
November 28, 2016
What could be better than a world-leading atomic clock? Two clocks in one.
Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have combined two experimental atomic clocks based on ytterbium atoms to set yet another world record for clock stability. Stability can be thought of as how precisely the duration of each clock tick matches every other tick that comes before and after.
This extraordinary stability makes the ytterbium lattice clock a more powerful tool for precision tests such as whether the “fundamental constants” of nature are really constant, and searches for the elusive dark matter purported to make up much of the universe. The experiment demonstrating the double-clock design is reported in Nature Photonics (link is external).
“We eliminated a critical type of noise in the clock’s operation, effectively making the clock signal stronger,” NIST physicist Andrew Ludlow said. “This means we can reach a clock instability of 1.5 parts in a quintillion (1 followed by 18 zeros) in just a few thousand seconds. While this only slightly beats the record level of clock stability we demonstrated a few years ago, we get there 10 times faster.”
NIST atomic clocks routinely perform at very high levels, but scientists continually tweak them to reduce slight imperfections. The new double-clock design eliminates a small but significant distortion in the laser frequency that probes and synchronizes with the atoms. The more stable the clock, the better its measurement power.
The new ytterbium lattice ‘double clock’ is the most stable clock in the world, although another NIST atomic clock, based on strontium and located at JILA, holds the world record for precision. Precision refers to how closely the clock tunes itself to the natural frequency at which the atoms oscillate between two electronic energy levels.
Both the ytterbium and strontium clocks tick at optical frequencies, much higher than the microwave frequencies of cesium atomic clocks used as time standards. An optical atomic clock operates by tuning the frequency of a laser to resonate with the frequency of the atoms’ transition between two energy states. This atomic ticking is transferred to the laser for use as a timekeeping tool. Any noise or uncertainty affecting this process disturbs the laser frequency and, thus, the timekeeping precision.
Optical atomic clocks typically alternate laser probing of the atoms with periods of “dead time” during which the atoms are prepared and measured. During dead times, certain laser frequency fluctuations are not properly observed or compensated for in the laser tuning process. The resulting noise effects (first observed in the 1990s by G.J. Dick, then of the California Institute of Technology) has, until now, limited clock stability and precision.
NIST’s new double-clock design has zero dead time—and is, therefore, nicknamed the ZDT clock—and virtually no dead-time noise, because it probes atoms continuously by switching back and forth from one atomic ensemble to the other. The two ensembles of 5,000 and 10,000 ytterbium atoms, respectively, are each trapped in a grid of laser light called an optical lattice and probed by a shared laser.
Measurements of the responses of the two atom ensembles are combined to produce a single, combined correction to the laser frequency. These measurements and corrections are made twice as fast as in a single clock. Because there is no dead-time noise, the new clock attains record stability levels 10 times faster than before. Crucially, the performance is now limited by the atomic system of the clock rather than the laser, a long-sought goal in physics that Ludlow calls a “dream” for future applications.
This approach can ultimately reduce atomic clock size and complexity, so the apparatus could be made portable enough to use outside the laboratory. The physical package is currently larger than a single clock, but eventually both atomic systems could share a single vacuum apparatus and simpler laser systems, thus reducing the overall size, Ludlow said. Portable optical atomic clocks could be distributed around the world for relativistic geodesy (gravity-based measurements of the shape of the Earth) or carried on spacecraft for tests of general relativity.
Funding was provided in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Paper: M. Schioppo, R.C. Brown, W.F. McGrew, N. Hinkley, R.J. Fasano, K. Beloy, T.H. Yoon, G. Milani, D. Nicolodi, J.A. Sherman, N.B. Phillips, C.W. Oates and A.D. Ludlow. Ultra-stable optical clock with two cold-atom ensembles. November 28, 2016. Nature Photonics. DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2016.231
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The final minute of 2016 will have one extra second — here's why
By Mike Wehner Published December 29, 2016
It might feel like 2016 has already overstayed its welcome, but if you're counting down the seconds until 2017 shows up, you better add one more. 2016's final minute will be exactly one second longer than every other minute of the year, and it's all due to the speed of Earth's rotation not lining up perfectly with the ridiculously accurate atomic clocks that timekeepers use to tally every passing second.
It's called a "leap second" and it's not an uncommon occurrence. These extra seconds are added either at the stroke of midnight on June 30th or December 31st of any given year, depending on whether or not the adjustment is needed. The most recent leap second took place in June of 2015, and the most recent before that was June of 2012.
Sometimes an extra second is needed in consecutive years, like from 1992 through 1995, but there have also been long stretches of time in which no adjustment was needed, like from 1999 until the end of 2005.
So why do they exist? Well, astronomical timekeeping has always relied on the length of an Earth day as a standard. The length of a day is determined by the Earth's rotation, which isn't perfectly consistent. Our planet is spinning slightly slower with each passing year, and in order to keep our clocks as close to accurate as possible, an extra second needs to be occasionally added to balance things out.
2016's extra second will take place right at the very end; instead of ticking over from 11:59:59 PM to 12:00:00 AM, as would normally happen, 11:59:60 PM will sneak in between, keeping the world's clocks on schedule until an extra second is inevitably needed once again.
Disaster-Proven Paging for Public Safety
Paging system designs in the United States typically use a voice radio-style infrastructure. These systems are primarily designed for outdoor mobile coverage with modest indoor coverage. Before Narrowbanding, coverage wasn’t good, but what they have now is not acceptable! The high power, high tower approach also makes the system vulnerable. If one base station fails, a large area loses their paging service immediately!
Almost every technology went from analog to digital except fire paging. So it’s time to think about digital paging! The Disaster-Proven Paging Solution (DiCal) from Swissphone offers improved coverage, higher reliability and flexibility beyond anything that traditional analog or digital paging systems can provide.
Swissphone is the No. 1 supplier for digital paging solutions worldwide. The Swiss company has built paging networks for public safety organizations all over the world. Swissphone has more than 1 million pagers in the field running for years and years due to their renowned high quality.
DiCal is the digital paging system developed and manufactured by Swissphone. It is designed to meet the specific needs of public safety organizations. Fire and EMS rely on these types of networks to improve incident response time. DiCal systems are designed and engineered to provide maximum indoor paging coverage across an entire county. In a disaster situation, when one or several connections in a simulcast solution are disrupted or interrupted, the radio network automatically switches to fall back operating mode. Full functionality is preserved at all times. This new system is the next level of what we know as “Simulcast Paging” here in the U.S.
Swissphone offers high-quality pagers, very robust and waterproof. Swissphone offers the best sensitivity in the industry, and battery autonomy of up to three months. First responder may choose between a smart s.QUAD pager, which is able to connect with a smartphone and the Hurricane DUO pager, the only digital pager who offers text-to-voice functionality.
Bluetooth technology makes it possible to connect the s.QUAD with a compatible smartphone, and ultimately with various s.ONE software solutions from Swissphone. Thanks to Bluetooth pairing, the s.QUAD combines the reliability of an independent paging system with the benefits of commercial cellular network. Dispatched team members can respond back to the call, directly from the pager. The alert message is sent to the pager via paging and cellular at the same time. This hybrid solution makes the alert faster and more secure. Paging ensures alerting even if the commercial network fails or is overloaded.
Swissphone sets new standards in paging:
Swissphone provides a proven solution at an affordable cost. Do you want to learn more?
Modernizing emergency communications for the 21st century
By Nelson Daza
This past September, millions of people in and around New York City and New Jersey received cell phone alerts from the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Emergency Alert system for three separate bombings in the area. While the WEA system has been used to assist authorities in past emergency events, including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, specific directives ( i.e., “shelter in place”) and safety updates were shared with recipients in this year’s emergencies.
In the case of the recent bombings, the WEA system was used to send a brief 90-character message to cellphone users in NYC alerting them to look out for a suspect, but the message had no additional links, photos or embedded media. It was essentially an electronic wanted poster with a giant question mark where the face would usually appear. While the suspect was captured relatively quickly, many people criticized the vague directive ( i.e., “see media for pic”) and the lack of a link or identifying information beyond suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami's name. In fact, many argued that the limitations of the WEA system caused unnecessary frustration and confusion.
The recent wildfires in Gatlinburg, Tenn., provided another example where messages sent via WEA could have been used to communicate to residents, visitors and travelers. While the citywide evacuation order was broadcast on TV and radio, it was never relayed directly to area mobile devices. The 90-character limitation for WEA messages did not provide enough space to give people crucial information on what to do and where to go during the evacuation.
Modernizing our federal alert systems to include multimedia messages and longer character counts is necessary to keep citizens informed and safe during severe weather, active shooter situations and other dangerous events. Given that these federal alerting systems are vital to our national security and public safety, updating outdated protocols to match today’s technological capabilities is crucial — at both the federal and state levels.
To have a truly robust emergency communications system, municipalities across the nation must make additional considerations to bring communications into our modern era.
A multimodal approach to crisis communications
An emergency can affect whole municipalities, counties, towns and numerous government agencies. Often, communication among these groups is limited by their disparate systems that have differing capabilities. The added chaos and stress of an emergency makes communications even slower, and these increased response times can put citizens in danger.
Equipping all state emergency managers with a shared, standardized system with WEA and emergency notification services capabilities allows for more comprehensive and coordinated communications between government officials and their communities during a crisis. Using the same system statewide allows communications to become more efficient and decreases the time it takes to issue a broadcast message because the same contact paths are shared among all municipalities and agencies. Additionally, a unified system ensures that consistent and complete messages are sent out per clearly defined policies.
Even with a standardized system, participating jurisdictions will be able to customize the categories of alerts available in their community based on each residents’ preferred language and method for receiving alerts, including SMS text, email, voice calls, mobile device apps or desktop alerts. Multimodal alerting is the only way to ensure a widespread message reaches a large population in the quickest way possible.
As an example, let’s say a tornado is set to impact three adjacent counties. Government officials in each county can broadcast public notifications to their residents that are relevant to their specific location — both leading up to and throughout the course of the storm — providing residents with critical alerts and instructions as needed. These officials can also publish alerts to each other, so that each county can stay abreast of the other’s activities. In addition, by standardizing on the same emergency notification system, officials can even serve as backup if one of their peers in the adjacent county is not able to distribute alerts in a timely fashion.
If the tornado veers off its projected path and looks to hit only one county, the other two counties can communicate updates to their residents. If people are trapped in collapsed homes and buildings in the tornado’s aftermath, counties that use a shared notification system can send automated cross-county communications to first responders in neighboring cities and towns. And because the counties use a common system, they have access to each other’s contacts and can request and receive aid much faster than by using manual or separate systems.
Taking the guesswork out of messaging
The success of emergency response depends heavily on preparation. When a crisis strikes, emergency managers must share clear, comprehensive information and instructions in a matter of minutes, leaving them little time to think about what should be communicated to the public and to other agencies. Planning communications ahead of time is essential to success.
Currently, there is no single source of communications templates for messages sent for the most critical and common events. This means that emergency managers, such as the team that sent the WEA message in NYC, are left to their own devices to write effective messages that clearly communicate what is happening, who is affected, what protective action individuals should take and who is sending the message. While emergency managers have all this information at hand, they are not messaging experts. Having message templates available for every type of event ensures that ambiguous alerts aren’t hastily shared with the public, which can unintentionally cause more harm than good.
During the recent shooting at Ohio State University, for example, the alert telling students, faculty and staff to “Run Hide Fight” drew some criticism and confusion. While the instructions came straight from the Department of Homeland Security, many did not understand what this directive meant. Protective actions included in an alert must be very clear and easily understood by the message recipients. For example, to where do the authorities want people to “run”? In any emergency event, it is wise to provide a link to an emergency information website listing important information to help people understand what they should do to keep safe.
No matter how sophisticated a notification system local or state agencies use, having templates at the ready is a critical component. Templates allow emergency managers to share timely, consistent messages in a limited space, while preventing confusion from spreading.
Building a resident opt-In base
Regardless of how state-of-the-art an emergency communications system may be, alerting citizens can be difficult without a sufficient number of community member contacts in a database. In an emergency, officials must be able to effectively communicate with residents who could be impacted — especially where safety is threatened. After all, it doesn’t do any good to have a cutting-edge, ultra-modern communications system that can’t reach anybody. That said, government agencies should make it their first priority to ask their residents for two key pieces of information in order to reach them in an emergency:
Agencies should also provide multiple opt-in methods, including those based on ZIP codes and event keywords, to ensure critical information reaches the right people. A multimodal approach allows government officials to establish connections with as many people, groups and organizations as fast as possible and helps fuel the spread of news and directions more quickly in a crisis.
Government agencies and municipalities with unified, multimodal emergency communications plans can share potentially life-saving information more efficiently and effectively with residents during critical situations, from severe weather disasters to man-made emergencies. While a crisis can never be predicted, having standardized systems and processes in place provides much-needed guidance to both government officials and their communities during an otherwise chaotic event.
About the Author
Nelson Daza is director, product management, at Everbridge.
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The Upcoming BlackBerry Mercury Could Get An Exclusive Release With Verizon
By Darryl Hart
As BlackBerry recently announced, it is transitioning its handheld devices strategy to focus on continued software innovation - ultimately providing the most secure and comprehensive software for devices around the world, while working with third parties to develop hardware and distribute and market the BlackBerry handset brand. Just below the display screen, the phone will feature the classic non-sliding keyboard from the likes of the other Blackberry handsets, namely the BlackBerry Curve and Bold, unlike the Blackberry Priv, which has a slide-out physical QWERTY keyboard.
In a few days, the tech community will descend upon Las Vegas to take part in the mother of all tech trade shows, CES 2017, which kicks off on January 5 and runs through January 8, 2017.
Mercury is a lot like a traditional BlackBerry phone, then. We also have a better idea on what we can expect in terms of specs for the BlackBerry Mercury.
Cistulli also promised that the Irvine, California-based company will reveal more about their plans in pursuing BlackBerry's direction in the smartphone industry at their CES 2017 presentation.
Other than the carrier, Quandt didn't specify details of the exact release date of Blackberry Mercury . The latest one comes from well-known tipster Roland Quandt and he says that the device which will be called BBB100 (no relation to BB8 from the Star Wars universe) will be released in the United States through the Verizon carrier. Also likely on board is a 3 GB of RAM paired with a 32 GB of built-in storage. Another Blackberry phone - Priv - is now offered by Verizon, so Mercury is assumed to be the company's second Blackberry phone running on an Android operating system. A 3,400 mAh battery pack is also expected, which could have the phone running for two days straight.
One interesting feature, according to the leaked poster above, is a fingerprint scanner that's embedded in the Mercury's space bar.
The relationship between TCL Communication and BlackBerry builds upon their respective leadership positions in mobile communications, as well as existing work together on the DTEK50 and DTEK60 handsets.
It was not very long ago that several images of the BlackBerry Mercury had allegedly shown up. The smartphone will run powered by Android 7.0 Nougat.
Selected portions of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, and/or the BloostonLaw Private Users Update — newsletters from the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP — are reproduced in this section with the firm’s permission.
Chairman Wheeler to Leave FCC on January 20, 2017
As is customary with a change in Administrations, Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, has announced that he will be resigning effective January 20, 2017 — the date that the new President is inaugurated. This resignation will provide President-Elect Trump the opportunity to appoint a new chairman who is more aligned with his Ad-ministration’s goals. While no names have been officially floated regarding the tentative selectee for Chairman or for any other vacancies that exist on the Commission, there is media speculation that Commissioner Ajit Pai (a current Republican Commissioner), David Fellows (former CTO at Comcast and AT&T, and co-founder of Layer 3 TV) or Jeffrey Eisenbach (a consultant to Trump’s transition team) could be leading contenders for the Chairman’s seat at the FCC. There is also speculation that Phil Wiser, a law professor at the University of Colorado and an ex-White House advisor, could be a potential candidate for Chairman or a Commissioner’s seat.
According to a New York Post report, “sources are unanimous . . . that the new FCC will be pro-business and firmly in the corner of cable companies and telecom operators.”
REMINDER: Sending Junk Faxes Can Get You in Big Trouble With the FCC
Kohll’s Pharmacy and Homecare (“Kohll’s”) recently filed a Request for Waiver and Declaratory Ruling that certain faxes that it sent concerning flu shots were not advertisements, as defined by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) and therefore did not violate the TCPA’s prohibition against unsolicited fax advertisements. Essentially, the material that Kohll’s faxed to various recipients, advertised “corporate” flu shots at only $16 – $20 per vaccination; that having 10 sick employees would cost the employer $877.10; and that each flu infection results in 3 – 5 missed work days and up to 2 weeks of low work productivity. The fax then urged the recipient to protect its “assets” and vaccinate its employees.
In denying the waiver request, the Commission found that Kohl’s facsimile transmissions constituted “advertisements” under the TCPA since they advertised the “commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services” and were not a non-advertising fax, which is designed to provide the recipient with information without “advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods or service.” The Commission also allows faxes which contain “ de minimis advertising” as falling outside the scope of the TCPA’s prohibitions, but did not apply this exception to Kohl’s situation. Thus, while it may be permissible to have an informational fax with a company’s logo or business slogan on an account statement, this small amount of advertising information does not convert the communication into an unsolicited advertisement if, for example, the primary purpose is to relay account information to the fax recipient. In determining whether an advertisement is incidental to an informational communication, the Commission may consider the amount of space devoted to advertising versus the amount of space used for information or transactional messages. Thus, an incidental advertisement contained in what would otherwise be an informational fax (such as a newsletter), does not, in and of itself, convert the entire communication into an advertisement.
Here, the FCC found that the primary purpose of the Kohll’s fax transmissions was to sell flu vaccinations to businesses and not provide information. The advertisements were not a de minimis or incidental portion of the faxed message. Rather, the faxes contained information that was intended to cause the recipient to purchase a service from Kohll’s, and Kohll’s obtained the fax numbers from a marketing company. As such, to the extent that these facsimiles were sent without the express consent or invitation of the recipient, they constituted unsolicited advertisements in violation of the TCPA.
Office clients should be aware that the FCC takes violations of the TCPA extremely seriously and that violations can subject you to both private causes of action as well as significant fines from the FCC. Earlier this year, the FCC fined three companies $1.84 million for sending 115 unsolicited advertisements to the facsimile machines of 26 consumers.
FCC issues Inquiry into Security of 5G Networks and Devices
The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau has issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking information about the security of communications sent using 5G networks and devices. As the “Internet of things” (IoT) is expanding the use wireless devices that may collect personal information, there is growing concern that such devices can be hacked. Such hacking may allow bad actors to open garage doors, hijack cars that have remote access systems, and even use baby monitors and fit bit-type devices to obtain personal information of consumers.
The NOI is intended to protect the principles of confidentiality, integrity, and availability (“CIA”) that should govern the security practices of networks, service providers, and equipment developers. The FCC believes that communications providers and manufacturers are generally in the best position to evaluate and address security risks to network operations. The NOI asks several questions about current practices, possible vulnerabilities, prior experiences with security problems, and methods for mitigating risks:
Comments will be due 90 days after publication of the NOI in the Federal Register (in PS Docket No. 16-353), and reply comments will be due 120 days after publication.
Changes to Maritime Radio Services Rules Effective January 17
As we previously reported, the FCC has adopted an Order which updated its Maritime Radio Services Rules. With the recent publication of the Order in the Federal Register, these changes will be effective January 17, 2017.
The Maritime Radio Service Rules were designed to enhance safety on the high seas and inland waterways by creating a series of rules and safety standards for vessels in order to ensure that vessels can be located and rescued in the event of an emergency. In particular, the FCC has amended its rules to:
These changes are designed to make the FCC’s rules consistent with today’s technology, while ensuring the safety of life and property on the high seas and inland waterways.
FCC Seeks Comment on NC Highway Patrol Waiver Request to License 800 MHz B/ILT Channel
The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (the “Bureau”) has requested comment on an application filed by the North Carolina Highway Patrol in order to add an 800 MHz to its base station at Hilbriten Mountain, NC. Included in the application is a request for rule waiver in order to permit inter-category sharing of a channel from the Business/Industrial/Land Transportation (B/ILT) Pool. Comments are Due January 17, 2017 while Reply Comments are Due February 1, 2017.
While the NC Highway Patrol did not request, the Bureau is seeking comment on whether it should grant the NC Highway Patrol a waiver of the freeze on inter-category sharing so that it may license an 800 MHz frequency from the B/ILT Pool at the Hilbriten Mountain site.
The NC Highway Patrol states that its Hilbriten Mountain base station serves a number of public safety agencies throughout the state, but is unable to handle the volume of radio traffic with the current number of channels. As a result, users from nearby Catawba County were recently denied access to this facility because it could not handle the additional radio traffic. As a result, the NC Highway Patrol is seeking an additional frequency at this location so that it can meet the current demands for public safety communications and return the site to normal operations. The NC Highway Patrol notes in its application that it was unable to locate an available frequency in the 800 MHz Public Safety Pool, and is therefore seeking to utilize spectrum from the B/ILT Pool through inter-category sharing since there allegedly is no 800 MHz spectrum in the Public Safety Pool.
In making this request, the NC Highway Patrol has provided a letter of support from the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (“APCO”) stating that its search for available channels at the Hilbriten Mountain site revealed “there are no public safety or vacated spectrum frequencies that can be assigned due to incumbents being less than 88 km away and/or short spacing issues.” The NC Highway Patrol’s request also included a letter form the Utilities Technology Council (“UTC”), an FCC certified frequency coordinator, stating that it concurred with the proposed coordination of the B/ILT 800 MHz frequency at the Hilbriten Mountain site.
FCC Amends FOIA Rules
The FCC recently issued an Order updating its rules in order to implement changes to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”).
On June 30, 2016, President Obama signed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 into law. This law requires federal agencies, such as the FCC, to review their FOIA regulations and issue new rules in accordance with the substantive provisions of the new law. These provisions include providing 90 days for requesters to file appeals of FOIA requests, ensuring that requesters are informed of avenues for FOIA dispute resolution and providing for the public posting of materials that are requested multiple times.
The FCC has indicated that the amendments to its FOIA process can generally be grouped into two categories:
FCC Extends Temporary Waiver of Certain Rules Regarding the Importation of Radio Frequency Devices for Six Months
The FCC has extended through June 30, 2017, the temporary blanket waiver of Rule Sections 2.103 and 2.105, which were originally granted on October 19, 2015. Rule Section 2.103 states that no RF device may be imported into the United States unless the importer (or ultimate consignee) declares that the device meets the conditions of entry as set forth in the FCC’s Rules. Rule Section 2.105 provides the two methods that this declaration can be made (either electronically with the US Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) or where not available, on paper, using FCC Form 740 and attaching a copy of the customs import papers). Prior to the waiver grants, nearly all submissions were being made through CBP’s Automated Commercial System (“ACS”).
Because CPB was in the process of deploying a new electronic filing system, CBP had indicated that it would no longer accept the FCC filings as of July 1, 2016 – the date that the old system was to be decommissioned. Because the FCC had an ongoing rule making proceeding that could potentially eliminate, modify or retain this process altogether and because upwards of 20,000 manual filings could be received weekly, the FCC had originally found good cause to waive the provisions of Rule Sections 2.1203 and 2.1205 through December 31, 2016. The FCC does not believe that it will have this rule making proceeding finished prior to December 31, 2016; and absent an extension of the temporary rule waiver, manual filings would be required, which would cause the same significant burdens that it sought to avoid with the original waiver grant. As such, the FCC has extended the rule waiver for a six month period through June 30, 2017.
Motorola Seeks Partial Reconsideration to Delay Effective Date of Public Safety 700 MHz Rule Change
Motorola has filed a petition for partial reconsideration of the FCC’s order which amended service rules governing public safety narrowband operations in the 769-775/799-805 MHz band. Oppositions to the Motorola petition are due December 28, 2016 while replies from Motorola will be due on January 9, 2017.
In its petition, Motorola is requesting that the Commission delay the effective date of its amendments to Rule Sections 2.1033(c)(20) and 90.548. In particular, Motorola is urging the Commission to either postpone the effective date or, in the alternative, suspend enforcement of its new rule provisions, until complementary proposals affecting Rule Section 90.548 in the Further Notice are resolved by the Commission in a future order.
In the order now under reconsideration, the Commission modified the language of Rule Section 2.1033(c)(20) to “eliminate any ambiguity regarding the timing of CAP testing or the equivalent and whether CAP testing applies to the equipment certification process.” Motorola states that Rule Sections 2.1033(c)(20) and 90.548 were intended “to require equipment manufacturers to either obtain or develop documentation confirming compliance with the interoperability standards proscribed in Section 90.548 before the equipment can be marketed or sold in the U.S.” Motorola noted that while these modifications were to become effective on October 31, 2016, they cannot go into effect until ultimately approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), due to information collection requirements – which approval could take months or years.
Motorola also notes that while Rule Section 2.1033(c)(20) is subject to OMB review before becoming effective, the proposed amendments to Rule Section 90.548 is under consideration in a Further Notice that was released earlier this summer. Motorola asserts that based upon a review of the record in connection with the Further Notice, it is likely that the Commission will amend Rule Section 90.548 in order to “further refine and better detail the interoperability baseline feature sets necessary for operation on the defined 700 MHz interoperability channels.” As a result, Motorola believes that delaying the effective date of the amendments to Rule Section 2.1033(c)(20) until any amendment to Rule Section 90.548 is finalized and effective is in the public interest because it would “provide manufacturers with greater certainty on what features should be tested prior to commencing sales.” Additionally, Motorola asserts that a delay would ensure that “users . . . receive equipment with a more complete set of interoperability features necessary to ensure compatibility across all vendor product lines.”
FCC Proposes Modifications to 218-219 MHz Service License to Facilitate PTC in the Northeast Corridor
The FCC has issued an order proposing the modification of the license for 218-219 MHz Service station in order to facilitate Positive Train Control (“PTC”) by New Jersey Transit (“NJ Transit”), the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (“SEPTA”) and various freight railroads operating in the corridor.
The installation of PTC by December 31, 2018 is mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, as amended by the Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015. PTC systems are designed “to reduce the risk of human-error rail accidents by ‘prevent[ing] train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and the movement of a train through a switch left in the wrong position.” The PTC mandate was enacted by Congress shortly after a 2008 major rail accident in Chatsworth, California in which a commuter train collided head-on with a Union Pacific freight train, killing 25 passengers and injuring scores more. The urgency for PTC was exacerbated by the recent collision outside of Philadelphia in 2015.
In proposing the modification of the Philadelphia are PTC license, the FCC noted that station KIVD0007 currently includes 500 kHz of spectrum (218.00 – 218.500 MHz) in eight counties where NJ Transit and SEPTA must deploy PTC. Additionally, NJ Transit and SEPTA must likewise deploy PTC in eight additional counties that border the current licensed service area for station KIVD0007.
PTC-220, the current licensee, has requested modification of the license for station KIVD0007 to permit the use of 250 kHz of spectrum from the Commission’s 218 – 219 MHz band inventory in the eight additional counties, in exchange for the return of 250 kHz of spectrum from each of the eight counties that currently make up station KIVD0007’s licensed service area. In order to facilitate the deployment of PTC by NJ Transit and SEPTA, the FCC has also proposed to grant a limited waiver of the Effective Radiated Power (“ERP”) limits in Rule Section 95.855, to allow increased power up to 8 watts ERP for mobiles and 30 watts ERP for fixed and base station operation. Likewise, the FCC is proposing to grant a waiver of Rule Section 95.815(b), which requires 218-219 MHz licensees to notify the FCC when certain base stations are modified, and Rule Section 1.955(a)(3), which states that authorizations will automatically terminate if service is permanently discontinued.
BloostonLaw Contact: John Prendergast.
FCC and Treasury Dept. Warn of IRS Impersonation Scam
The FCC and the US Treasury Department took the unusual step of issuing a joint Public Notice to warn consumers of an IRS Impersonation Phone Scam that has cost unwary consumers tens of millions of dollars.
In a release issued on December 19, 2016, the FCC and US Treasury stated that “[t]elephone fraudsters posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents have bilked tens of thousands of American consumers out of millions of dollars. This scam, the largest scam in the history of the IRS, has cost victims more than $50 million.”
How the Scam Works
The scam starts with an automated/robo or live phone call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent or employee of the US Treasury Department. The caller will generally use a common name or fake IRS badge number in order to make the call appear to be legitimate. Additionally, the caller may also have the victim’s personally identifiable information (PII), including social security number and date of birth. Likewise, the caller may spoof a Washington, DC phone number or have the Caller ID on the victim’s phone make the call appear as it is coming from the IRS itself.
The caller will advise the victim that it owes the IRS taxes, which must be paid immediately in order to avoid arrest or a law suit, loss of driver’s, business or professional licenses, etc. The victim may also be threatened with immediate arrest, grand jury indictment or deportation.
The caller usually demands payment in the form of credit card, debit card, iTunes gift card, wire transfers, Western Union money orders or MoneyGram. Likewise, the caller may keep the victim on the phone in order to direct the victim to purchase multiple cash/gift cards from multiple stores in order to circumvent purchase limits. The victim is then directed to read off the account numbers on the various cards so that the caller can then defraud the victim.
It is important to note that if the IRS needs to contact a business or an individual taxpayer, the initial communication will be via letter and not phone call. Further, the IRS will never ask for payment in these forms or request personal or financial information by e-mail, text or any other social media.
Fraudsters engaging in this sort of activity are subject to criminal charges as well as fines and forfeitures from the FCC.
US and Mexico Agree on Protocol to Share 220-222 MHz Band in Border Region
The United States and Mexico have entered into a protocol which will allow the deployment of Positive Train Control (PTC) on the American side of the US – Mexican border area. PTC is an outgrowth of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required freight, commuter and passenger rail to implement an interoperable positive train control (PTC) system by December 31, 2018 on all US mainline track where passenger and commuter rail operate as well as along rails that carry certain hazardous material.
Many of the PTC systems in the United States operate in the 220-222 MHz band, while others operate in the 218-219 MHz band. These systems are designed to “reduce the risk of rail accidents by enabling real-time information sharing between trains, rail wayside devices, and control stations. PTC technology is designed to automatically slow or stop a train in order to avoid a train-to-train collision or derailment.” Having cross-border agreements is critical, since trains travel between the United States and Mexico and will be using PTC in the border area.
The FCC noted that a similar agreement was previously reached between the US and Canada.
FCC Grants Waiver to Permit Sale of Internet-enabled Set-Top Box and USB Component Television Tuner
In response requests for waiver of Rule Section 15.117(b), the FCC has granted waivers which will allow EchoStar Technologies to import, market and sell an Internet enabled set-top box and Hauppauge Computer Works to import, market and sell a USB component television tuner that do not include analog television tuners.
Pursuant to the All Channel Receiver Act of 1962, the Commission adopted Rule Section 15.117(b), which requires all TV receivers shipped in interstate commerce or imported into the United States to “be capable of adequately receiving all channels allocated by the Commission to the television broadcast service.” The rule’s purpose was to “ensure that television broadcast receivers receive all television broadcast channels irrespective of the channel’s place in the broadcast spectrum.” As a result, TV receivers must be able to receive both analog and digital signals until August 31, 2017, when this rule section is set to expire or sunset.
In granting the rule waiver, the FCC determined that the public interest would be served. As pointed out by EchoStar and Hauppauge, digital only devices have several advantages over dual analog/digital mode equipment, since digital only receivers “involve less design complexity, avoid substantial operating costs that are generally associated with additional hardware and software, and consume less energy.” As a result, digital only equipment should be less costly to manufacture, which savings can be passed onto consumers.
|This newsletter is not intended to provide legal advice. Those interested in more information should contact the firm. For additional information, please contact Hal Mordkofsky at 202-828-5520 or email@example.com.|
|Friends & Colleagues|
Wireless Network Planners
|LETTERS TO THE EDITOR|
I thought the attached press release [appears above — near the top] would be relevant for your great newsletter.
As a result of the award described in the attached press release, we were contacted today by a local television station to be interviewed for the 6 and 10 pm news slots in Amarillo. The TV interview gave me an opportunity to talk about the difference between important communications, such as calling a family member on their cell phone, versus critical communications that involve life and death situations. I stressed that many consumers do not know paging is still very strong, because the typical consumer has no need for critical communications. A cell phone call to a family member may be important, but not every cell phone call involves life and death. On the other hand, every page to a hospital code blue team involves life and death (critical communications).
If you have any questions after reading the press release please let me know. I can send a clean version of the picture if you need it, but I figured attaching it to the Word document would probably work for you. Thanks!
Brad, Ira and I worked on a simulcast paging system being staged at Motorola. My memory is attached as a Word.doc.
I first met Ira Wiesenfeld circa 1995 – 1999? at the Motorola CCSI systems integration facility in Schaumburg, Illinois. I believe Motorola hired him to ensure the system was configured correctly.
We were staging a simulcast paging system for a county-wide Public Safety (Fire/EMS) Paging System. I brought from our shop a Unipage M15 terminal to generate the keying and the tones, and an Alphamate to put some pages into the system via serial port for the Motorola Nucleus paging transmitters. Ira was a very good mentor to me as we aligned the system for perfect distortion-free simulcast operation.
Ira showed me the results of forced simulcast misalignment and then perfect alignment. Never forgot those lessons.
Gerald L. Griffith
|UNTIL NEXT WEEK|
|THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK|
—Brad Dye (2016)
|PHOTO OF THE WEEK|
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