Sunday, October 6, 2013

NPSTC Assembling Broadband SoR Task Team

The National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) is assembling a new launch statement of requirements (SoR) task team on its Broadband Working Group (BBWG).

It announced multiple new task groups in June to contribute to Public Safety Broadband requirements, including Public-Safety-Grade and LTE console interface teams. 

NPSTC's Public Safety launch requirements document was finalized and delivered to FirstNet in December of last year, with qualitative requirements.  This new task team's job is to revisit that SoR, and add quantitative elements where necessary. 

The new group will begin meeting this month by teleconference, any interested participants should email by Oct. 15.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New FCC and FTC Commissioners Stand Before Commerce Committee

GOP FCC Commissioner-appointee Michael O'Rielly and Democratic Federal Trade Commission (FTC) appointee Terrell McSweeny faced the Senate Commerce Committee last week in anticipation of upcoming confirmation votes. 

The Sept. 19th hearing provided a glimpse into the somewhat divergent philosophies and priorities of the two appointees with regard to their respective regulatory agencies. 

O'Rielly spent more than 20 years as a Congressional staffer, and few have doubts that he will be confirmed as the newest FCC Commissioner.  His nomination comes preceded by that of new Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler, politically balancing the FCC leadership. According to his testimony, O'Rielly favors a "light hand" with regard to regulating quickly changing technologies, a sentiment questioned by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) as possible "code" for allowing an excess of unchecked new technology. 

Some key issues he cited were the need to review media ownership rules and taking a second look at the record of 1.4 million previously backlogged indecency complaints that were dismissed.  Upon Congressional confirmation, O'Rielly will fill the vacancy left by Republican Robert McDowell.

For more on McSweeny's more "activist" approach to regulations, visit

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why so many tower deaths in 2013?

Glenn Bischoff commented on the tough year in tower safety in Urgent Matters today, citing that while there was 1 death in 2012 (a record), there have already been 10 tower-related fatalities in the first eight months of this year.

Relative to past years, this is a somewhat high frequency of fatalities, and it is keeping pace to echo the 18 deaths in 2006, which caused OSHA to condemn the tower industry as the most dangerous in the nation.  Despite statistics and trends, in an industry as high-tech and safety-centric as telecommunications, even a single fatality is one too many.

A large tower toppled from a building, possibly during weekend storms, and was dangling Tuesday morning over a sidewalk.
NBC Chicago

Although there were no deaths, an aging communications tower fell on Chicago's West Side earlier this month, dangling over a sidewalk near a school zone. The tower, which was toppled by strong winds, did not belong to the City or County's Public Safety systems, and there is no word on whether it was being used or who owned the structure.

The safety of tower technicians is paramount, not only to their loved ones, but also to the first responders to whom they are providing the service. It's important to remember this is everyone's problem, and we must all strive to create a "culture of safety," as noted in Bischoff's column. If your agency is working on a new tower construction, please make sure your contractors are vetted (look for National Association of Tower Erectors [NATE] members) and your operations plans include tight safety protocols. 

We would love to hear about your tower build concerns, or provide you with services and advice on your next project. Contact EMR today to learn more about this important issue.

Friday, August 23, 2013

LightSquared Backer Admits Wrongdoing, Settles with SEC for $18 Million

New York-based hedge fund advisor Phillip Falcone and his firm Harbinger Capital Partners funding LightSquared, the company reponsible for the controversial planned nationwide mobile Broadband network that was blocked by the FCC in February of last year, settled this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for an admission of wrongdoing, debarrment from the securities industry for five years, and $18 million in penalties.

The SEC filed misconduct enforcement actions in June 2012 for Falcone's use of $113 million in fund assets to pay his personal taxes, secretive preference given to certain customer redemtpion requests over that of other investors, and the improper "short squeezing" of bonds issued by a Canadian manufacturing company. 

The settlement has yet to be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  The penalties for Falcone include $6,507,574 in disgorgement, $1,013,140 in prejudgement interest, and a $4 million penalty fine.  The Harbinger companies are required to pay a $6.5 million penalty fine.  Falcone may reapply after his five years of debarrment, and the bar will allow him to assist in the liquidation of his hedge funds under the supervision of an independent third party monitor. His debarrment prohibits him from association with any broker, dealer, investment advisor, municipal securities dealer, municipal adviser, transfer agent, or nationally recognized statistical rating organization. 

Read more at Mission Critical Communications. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Checking the APCO Pulse Online

The 79th Annual Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International Conference & Expo is this week, and if you've ever attended the event, you know that companies and regulatory agencies love to make big announcements and roll out new initiatives at this yearly gathering. 

The conference is in Anaheim, CA this year, and if you weren't able to attend in person, be sure to check out APCO TV, the video clip hub that will keep you up to date on all of the biggest news from the event.

We hope you learn something and enjoy the conference this week, whether you're on the Exhibit floor or tuning in via APCO TV.

PSBB and FirstNet for Beginners

If you're entrenched in the world of Public Safety communications, the words FirstNet and LTE are commonplace in your vocabulary.  In fact, you have probably been following the FirstNet saga and keeping up with the many new devices coming into the market this year.  So it may be a bit of a surprise when speaking to Public Safety professionals who are not in communications, and who serve in the field or in supporting roles, to find that these concepts are brand new.

EMR is proud to supply a very brief and informative summary of FirstNet and the Public Safety Broadband revolution, intended as a beginner's guide, posted in our company website.

This page includes a summary of FirstNet, the law that created it, and the spectrum and funding which will allow the organization to design and implement the nation's first NPSBN.

Keep an eye out for more detailed and informative content on FirstNet and the NPSBN as the project develops, but in the meantime direct new hires and communications novices to the EMR Public Safety Broadband summary page, and watch the NTIA's FirstNet section for the most up to date and accurate information on what FirstNet is doing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FirstNet BTOP Negotiations Fail for 3 Agencies, New Mexico Agreement Signed

FirstNet voted to end spectrum lease negotiations with three of the seven Public Safety Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant recipients, Adams County, CO,  the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, and the City of Charlotte, NC. 

Despite having made significant investments into their LTE pilots, these two entities will not be allowed to move forward with their projects, for reasons Board Member Sue Swenson preferred not to divulge in detail, only citing, "governance issues with local jurisdictions, funding issues, and plan viability."

At yesterday's meeting, the FirstNet board announced the approval of its second Spectrum Lease Agreement with the state of New Mexico and voted to extend negotiations with the State of Mississippi and the Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications Systems Authority in San Francisco (BayRICS). 

The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS) became the first "early mover" BTOP recipient to sign their spectrum lease agreement in June.  The Spectrum Lease Agreements are the first step in lifting the NTIA's suspension of the LTE pilot projects.

Harris County, Texas did not receive a BTOP grant, however Firstnet is still working with them to pursue a Spectrum Lease Agreement with the agency, and if negotiations are successful, their LTE pilot will be considered one of the early deployers that will serve as an educational model for the NPSBN.

For more information, read the NTIA article, or the 700 MHz public Safety Project FAQs.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Harlin McEwen Weights in on LTE Voice

You may have noticed the piece by Harlin McEwen, Chair of FirstNet's Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), in Urgent Communications on his thoughts about LTE replacing Public Safety Mission Critical voice. 

The consensus among experts has been that it will be years before LTE can replace Public Safety Mission Critical land mobile radio, however the timelines being discussed range anywhere from 3 to 20 years. 

Although Mission Critical voice standards have been incorporated into LTE standards in preparation for such an endeavour, traditionally, commercial systems have been unable to support direct-mode talk-around. 

In the article, McEwen maintains that the experts who say that it is not yet time for this transition are not driven by the Land Mobile Radio (LMR) industry, but by the trends of the past and the facts of the present.

According to McEwen, new communications tools usually supplement their predecessors, being used side by side (often indefinitely) rather than fully replacing them, and McEwen does not give a timeline, however he agrees with the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) statement that "Local, tribal, state, and federal public officials are urged to not abandon or stop funding their public-safety voice LMR systems until such time as it can be demonstrated that broadband can safely and adequately provide public safety with mission-critical requirements currently provided by LMR." 

In other words, we shouldn't be holding our breath, or making any plans to make such a transition in the conceivable future, but it is just over the next horizon.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Money Talks: $13.1 Million Released in SLIGP Grants to Five States

Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Ohio have been awarded $13.1 million in grants through the State and Local Implementation Grant Program for FirstNet. 

All 56 states and territories will be receiving with funding, with a 20% matching requirement, for the planning and building of the nationwide Public Safety Broadband network (NPSBN).

Monies will be released in two phases: the first intended to help states establish governance, consult with FirstNet, engage all relevant stakeholders in education and outreach, as well as identify potential users of the NPSBN; and the second will focus on collecting data requested by FirstNet in preparation for the network buildout, as well as continuing to perform activities undertaken during the first phase of funding. Whether they opt in or opt out, states will not be permitted to use the funding for "activities related to site preparation, broadband deployment, installation, construction, lobbying costs, contingency fees, or the acquisition of equipment used to provide wireless broadband services," according to NTIA.

NTIA is making awards on a rolling basis, and the award amounts are as follows: $2.5 million in Colorado, $1.4 million in Connecticut, $724,613 in Delaware, $4.86 million in New York, and $3.6 million in Ohio. 
Wordcloud by Tagxedo

FirstNet has been embroiled in controversy these past months, even before Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald's shocking allegations at the April 23rd board meeting, wherein he aired concerns of lack of transparency and Public Safety input, among other issues.  His motion and statement spurred an (internal) Special Review Committee, which is responsible for addressing his concerns, but is still out conducting the investigation (of its own practices).  Many were disatisfied with this remedy and posed that an objective, independent review committee would have been more appropriate, however it is a step in the right direction.  Meanwhile, NTIA and FirstNet have continued on with their assuaging outreach message, but no actions have been taken to visibly include the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), or to address the concerns over transparency.

“The input of states, tribes, and local governments will be critical as FirstNet develops its plans for this historic network,” said Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Information and Communications and NTIA Administrator. “NTIA’s State and Local Implementation Grant Program will give states the resources they need to consult with FirstNet on deployment of a nationwide public safety broadband network.”

Still have some questions about FirstNet funding?  EMR created a visual interpretation for you of where the money will come from and where it's going according to the law, here.  Please note the $135 million that was promised has been reduced to $121.5 million, and may further be reduced due to sequestration.

Contact EMR Consulting today to find out how we work to keep politics out of the equation, and how we can assist your Public Safety agency, or your state, in preparing for FirstNet.

Monday, July 22, 2013

APCO P25 Steering Committee Releases Trunking Standards

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) TR-8.10 Engineering Committee on Trunking and Conventional Control issued three separate calls for interest for trunking documents earlier this month, resulting in a new set of standards being approved for release by the APCO Project 25 (P-25) Steering Committee. 

To view the complete list of standards addressing trunking procedures, trunking control channel messages, and link control word formats and messages, click here.

Read more at MissionCritical.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Bright Future of UAVs

There was a great column on the homepage of Urgent Communications yesterday regarding the growing use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

UAVs have traditionally been used for military combat, law enforcement, and security applicaton, however, Glenn Bischoff touched on some new life-saving and life-enhancing uses of drones.

Some of these new applications include a field study of the behavior of wildfires by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks last year, a trial by the New Mexico State University on how utilities can use UAVs to assess storm damage, as well as a research mission into the Bering Sea to accurately count wildlife populations. 

UAVs often get pigeon-holed as a combat or surveillance tool, for which they are highly effective, however the myriad applications for this technology are diverse, and will continue to grow in coming years. 

For more on UAVs, visit Urgent Communications.

Monday, July 15, 2013

FirstNet Reaches Out to Vendors with 10 RFIs

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), tasked with building the first ever nationwide Public Safety Broadband network (NPSBN) issued ten requests for information (RFI) last week. 

These requests, formally submitted through, require vendors to supply information regarding ten important components of the NPSBN:
  • Network partnering and RAN provisioning
  • Antenna systems
  • Microwave backhaul equipment
  • Deployables, or portable network equipment
  • Satellite service
  • Enhanced packet core
  • Core network transmission and transport
  • Data centers
  • Network management centers or operations management centers
  • Network service platforms
These RFIs are another great step forward for FirstNet, with the latest milestones being their regional consultation "listening tour" workshops for state and local stakeholders across the country, as well as the first spectrum lease approved for a Public Safety "early deployer" BTOP recipient.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Free Money: SLIGP grants are coming!

The State and Local Implementation Grant Program is facing a July 15th deadline to award the $121.5 million promised in grant money set aside for all 56 states and territories to implement the First Responder Network Authority's nationwide Public Safety Broaband network (NPSBN). 

Each state will be notified in writing with a Department of Commerce Pre-Award Notification of their award amount and the requirements the grant money carries, as well as any Special Award Conditions.  Each state is required to designate a "coordinator of implementation of grant funds," who must, by law, involve local governments in the build-out of the NPSBN. 

SLIGP funding will be issued in two separate phases:  the first to establish a governance structure with a single point of contact for FirstNet, and the second phase will focus on gathering information to enable the state to effective collaborate with FirstNet.  The funding is also intended to help states develop procedures to ensure local and tribal representation, conduct education and outreach for stakeholders, identify potential public safety users, develop a standard memorandum of agreement for the sharing of infrastructure, and prepare a comprehensive plan as part of the Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP), to describe the public safety needs for FirstNet to address. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

First BTOP Spectrum Lease Approved by FirstNet

Last week the FirstNet Board of Directors took another stride forward in approving a Spectrum Lease Agreement in a Special Meeting on June 27th, 2013.  This milestone will enable the nation's first early deployer, the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS), to move forward with the nation's first Public Safety LTE pilot program. 

The lease agreement, which took 60 days longer than expected to negotiate and approve, is the first of 8 agreements which are expected to move the 7 Public Safety BTOP programs forward, with an additional LTE pilot in Harris County, Texas, negotiating an agreement parallel to the BTOPs. 

The next step is FirstNet's recommendation to the NTIA to waive the LTE suspension and BTOP funding freeze, which was put into place last year in preparation for a nationwide LTE architecture, for these agencies.  FirstNet has been very clear that their approval of lease agreements and their recommendation to the NTIA does not guarantee a lift of the freeze, but that the final decision still rests with the NTIA once they receive individual requests from the agencies. 

Curious about the contents of this agreement?  Read it here, with the enabling resolution on the NTIA's website. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

FirstNet RFIs on RAN and Core Network

In a big step toward the first ever nationwide Public Safety Broadband network (NPSBN), FirstNet will be issuing multiple requests for information (RFI) in the coming weeks, specifically regarding deployment options for the radio access network (RAN) and core network.  These two components are critical for the NPSBN.  General Manager Bill D'Agostino encourages all respondents to be creative and detailed in their submissions.  In a statement he reiterated that "achieving our mission will require an unprecedented amount of public and private partnership, and these RFIs will help lay the foundation for that to happen."

The RFIs will be posted at They are expected to be released in August, and will be used to inform FirstNet's implementation plan for the NPSBN.

The FirstNet board of directors will be holding a special meeting today via teleconference to vote on approving the spectrum lease for the first BTOP recipient agency to resume their LTE project in Los Angeles.  The BTOP negotiations have been extended twice, and only after spectrum leases are approved will the NTIA allow the "early deployers" to resume their LTE projects.