Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. VII Issue 47

Date: Nov 29, 2010

Wireless Coalitions Take Action Over "Intrinsically Safe" Issue

The upcoming proposed shift in standards for Intrinsically Safe (or "IS") radio equipment certification by Factory Mutual has created an uproar in the portable and mobile radio community. Factory Mutual has submitted a revision of the standards for IS devices, which are used by workers in hazardous environments such as nuclear power plants and firefighting scenarios, that is set to take effect in January of 2012. Critics of the revision say that the new standards are not addressing safety concerns but are only being done to bring the United States standard in line with European regulations. In addition, the new standards come at a particularly difficult time for mobile users already attempting to meet the Federal Communication Commission's upcoming deadline for the transition to narrowband emission requirements.

The Land Mobile Communications Council, Enterprise Wireless Alliance, and National Public Safety Telecommunications Council recently expressed strong concern that a rush to the proposed new Intrinsically Safe standard could have significant adverse operational impacts for critical infrastructure industries and public safety entities. Industry representatives assert that revisions to Standard 3610 by Factory Mutual would dramatically decrease mobile system output powers and lead to substantial re-engineering and investment to maintain existing areas of operation. In response to the outcry, Factory Mutual has been meeting with potentially affected users to discuss a resolution. The outcome of these discussions cannot be projected for a substantial period. For additional information, please contact K&H attorney Greg Kunkle (202.434.4178; kunkle@khlaw.com).

Upcoming FCC Meetings to Address Spectrum Issues, Perhaps Net Neutrality

Last week, the FCC announced that its December Open Meeting will be delayed from the 14th to the 21st, increasing speculation that Chairman Julius Genachowski will make "net neutrality" the centerpiece of the meeting. The Agenda should be finalized within the next week or so, which would allow the Chairman time to seek additional support for the decision among the other Commissioners. Meanwhile, the FCC has released the agenda for its Tuesday, November 30th Open Meeting, which includes two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking. One seeks comment on rules to promote efficiency in the UHF and VHF television bands through white space usage and channel sharing. The other focuses on steps to promote innovation and efficiency in Part 5 Experimental Radio Service as a follow-up to the Biennial Review of Telecommunications Regulations in 2006. In addition to these two NPRMs, the meeting will include a vote on a Notice of Inquiry seeking to promote the development of dynamic spectrum technology to increase spectrum efficiency.

Broadband 9-1-1 a Priority for FCC

During a speech at the Arlington County Emergency Center on November 23rd, FCC Chairman Genachowski called for advances in the nation's 9-1-1 system, including the ability for mobile users to text 9-1-1 and to send pictures and videos to first responders. According to Chairman Genachowski, the FCC will vote on a Notice of Inquiry on "next generation" 9-1-1 at the December meeting. The NOI will ask questions about the transmission of data to public safety responders, and the delivery of emergency signals by non-phone devices such as security systems, personal medical devices, and in-car electronics systems.

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