Member organizations of the 4.9 GHz Coalition (Coalition) today filed a joint response to the Public Safety Spectrum Alliance’s (PSSA) ex parte recommendation that the FCC award the FirstNet Authority (FirstNet) a nationwide 4.9 GHz license and the right to select the 4.9 GHz band manager. The PSSA organization has been labeled by some as simply a proxy for FirstNet and, by extension, for AT&T. Coalition member organizations include the American Petroleum Institute, Enterprise Wireless Alliance, Forestry Conservation Communications Association, International Municipal Signal Association, National Sheriff’s Association and the Utilities Technology Council.
In its response to PSSA’s filing, the Coalition reminded the FCC of the Coalition’s recommendation that the national band manager responsibility be assigned to the four public safety frequency advisory committees given their technical knowledge, spectrum management acumen, relationships, and decades of experience. This would also eliminate the need to establish a multi-step, and certainly a multi-year selection process that would be plagued by various challenges and appeals.
The Coalition noted in its response that there are a number of major licensees and organizations on the record that oppose the PSSA’s approach on the grounds that integrating the 4.9 GHz band within AT&T’s broadband network would be incompatible with current and future non-broadband public safety operations. Illustrative samples of comments from respected public safety licensees and organizations include the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District that has noted its opposition to shifting control of the use of public safety spectrum away from public safety entities to control by commercial service providers with incompatible systems. The Major Cities Chiefs Association has stated that FirstNet’s presence could drive local public safety systems from the band. The Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT) noted that integrating 4.9 GHz into a public safety broadband network could undermine existing public safety applications and the development of innovative public safety and critical infrastructure applications in the future. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has commented that, “PSSA bills itself as ‘an alliance amongst the nation’s leading public safety officials and associations.’ However, PSSA appears to represent the corporate interests of FirstNet and AT&T.”
The Coalition also noted that both Verizon and T-Mobile have voiced legal concerns. Verizon has asserted that the Commission “must reject FirstNet’s request that the Commission grant it access to the 4.9 GHz band for the National Public Safety Broadband Network as there is nothing to indicate that it was Congress’ intent for FirstNet to access additional spectrum whenever it sees an opportunity.” T-Mobile has advised that “the Commission lacks authority to simply license the spectrum to FirstNet. When the FCC first issued FirstNet’s 700 MHz license, it did so pursuant to explicit Congressional directive. That authority is decidedly absent here, and FirstNet provides no evidence suggesting otherwise.”
Mark Crosby, spokesperson for Coalition member EWA, remarked that “awarding FirstNet and by association AT&T such monumental responsibilities and spectrum assets would be an epic spectrum management debacle. PSSA has repeatedly claimed that they are attempting to save the 4.9 GHz band for public safety. From whom we ask. The public safety industry doesn’t need to be saved – except perhaps from PSSA.”