NTIA Petition Asks the FCC for a Wireless Device Unlocking Rule

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently filed a petition for rulemaking asking the FCC to adopt a rule requiring mobile wireless providers to allow consumers to “unlock” any wireless device purchased from that provider. This would enable the customer to continue to use their device if they choose to obtain service from another provider.

If you own a mobile wireless device (cell-phone, smart-phone, tablet, etc.), chances are that you have at one time or another thought of switching providers. And chances are that you know that you can’t always take your device with you because it’s “locked”; in other words, you can’t take it to a new provider and obtain service using that device. It’s worth noting that a number of providers do sell unlocked devices and some will allow a consumer to unlock their phone, if their contract has expired. Read more

NTIA Report: U.S. Broadband Availability Nearly Ubiquitous

According to a newly-released NTIA report, in 2012 98% of all Americans had access to basic broadband availability, defined as service of at least 3 Mbps downstream/768 kbps upstream.

The NTIA report, entitled “U.S. Broadband Availability: June 2010-June 2012,” is the first in a series of Broadband Briefs that uses publicly available data collected by the Department of Commerce to examine broadband availability in greater detail.

The report also finds that just over 93% of Americans have access to wireline broadband at advertised speeds of at least 3 Mbps/768 kbps, and nearly 93% have access to at least 6 Mbps. Ninety-one percent have access to 10 Mbps, and 78% to 25 Mbps. Read more

VoLTE May Provide a Path to an Interoperable Nationwide Public Safety Network

Voice over LTE  (VoLTE)  is superior to equipment currently in use by first responders. The finding was made during laboratory tests conducted by the Institute for Telecommunications Sciences (ITS), a part of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

A panel of 15 public-safety practitioners from 14 agencies and jurisdictions compared two types of VoLTE technologies with speech intelligibility over both legacy analog radios and Project 25 digital land mobile radios. In only one of 14 cases was VoLTE intelligibility lower than that of current standard equipment, according to ITS.

Sppech intelligibility testing was conducted on the VoLTE Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) speech coder in seven different environments simulating emergency response conditions and especially fire-ground conditions.

The ITS lab in Boulder, Colo., is testing next-generation technology that will be used in the nationwide public-safety broadband network being planned by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

Brewster Represents Rural Carriers at APCO Conference

Last week in Minneapolis, Minn., the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials – International (APCO) held its annual meeting. The event was well timed, as it coincided with the announcement of the FirstNet board, the independent operating authority charged with holding the spectrum license and overseeing the build out and maintenance of the new public safety broadband network. (For more on FirstNet, see the August 30, 2012, issue of Washington Report.)

Justin Brewster, department manger of wireless infrastructure for Pioneer Cellular Cooperative, attended the event and represented Tier 3 carriers on a panel entitled “Partnership Opportunities with Commercial Service Providers.” Brewster’s fellow panelists included Stacey Black of AT&T; Donald Brittingham from Verizon; Richard Engelman at Sprint-Nextel; and Eric Hagerson of T-Mobile USA.

The commercial carriers were united in their messaging that they do not want FirstNet to construct a network that duplicates available commercial facilities. Read more

War Games

NTCA participated in a high-level planning session to examine initial steps necessary to prepare for the launch of the Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN). Hosted by Textron Systems Advanced Systems, on June 27 and 28, the session, titled “War Games 2,” focused on the roll of stakeholders in the reallocated 700 MHz D Block Spectrum.

In the Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2011, Congress reallocated the D Block spectrum for the creation of a national public safety network that will fall under the governance of the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA). NTIA is in the process of putting together a governing board titled, “FirstNet.”  NTCA nominated a member to represent rural telco interests on FirstNet. Read more

Public Safety Broadband: Creative Partnerships Needed

Earlier this week, I attended the Public Safety Broadband Summit & Expo, an event produced by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials – International.

The second annual summit was an opportunity for state and regional public safety communicators, international representatives, equipment vendors and other interested parties to discuss the status of public safety communications.

It’s widely anticipated that with the recent passage of H.R. 3630, a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network may finally come to fruition. Congress approved the landmark legislation in February 2012. Formally known as The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, H.R. 3630 contains comprehensive spectrum and public safety legislation.

The Act directed NTIA to establish a First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), a 15-member independent agency housed within NTIA that will oversee the design, construction, deployment and sustainment of the nationwide public safety broadband network based on a single network architecture. Read more

Sen. Grassley Lifts Hold on FCC Nominees

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) on April 27 released a hold he placed on two nominees for vacant commissioner seats at the FCC. Releasing the hold will allow the senate to proceed with its review and potential confirmation of the two applicants.

Sen. Grassley placed the holds on Ajit Pai (R) and Jessica Rosenworcel (De) four months ago after his request for information from the commission was rebuffed primarily due to Sen. Grassley not holding a leadership position on a committee with jurisdiction over the commission.

In a statement released by his office, Sen. Grassley said that he intends to pursue his inquiry into LightSquared. “The documents I’ve seen so far raise more questions than I had before,” he said. Read more

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