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Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. IX Issue 46

Date: Nov 12, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Poses Challenges as Narrowband Deadline Approaches

Private land mobile and public safety licensees that have not completed planned transitions to narrowband technology may find it more challenging to meet the upcoming narrowbanding deadline following Hurricane Sandy. The FCC's narrowbanding deadline requires Private Land Mobile radio licensees operating in the 150-174 MHz (VHF) and 421-470 MHz (UHF) bands to be operating on narrow (12.5 kHz) or equivalent channels by January 1, 2013. Penalties for non-compliance may include license cancellations and/or monetary forfeitures of up to $16,000 for a single violation. Hurricane Sandy has required several critical infrastructure companies on the east coast to divert resources to focus on storm response efforts instead of narrowband compliance. The FCC has reiterated its commitment to enforce the narrowbanding rules, however the Commission staff has indicated it will take a flexible approach to waiver requests required because of the recent storm. For more information, please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4296).

FCC Proposes to Reserve White Spaces as Part of Incentive Auctions

FCC Wireless Bureau Chief Ruth Milkman explained the FCC's white spaces proposal at a recent FCC workshop focused on rules for the incentive auction of broadcast spectrum. The Commission has proposed to provide unlicensed spectrum in three areas, including TV white spaces and the guard bands separating broadcasters from mobile broadband licensees. The Commission's proposal would provide at least 12 MHz of spectrum and possibly as much as 20 MHz depending on how much spectrum is sold by the broadcasters. The Commission plans to sell paired 5 MHz channels and TV channels currently are licensed for 6 MHz. The Commission plans to reserve the 1 MHz not sold for the guard band. For more information, please contact Greg Kunkle (kunkle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4178).

FirstNet Schedules Open Meetings

Last week, FirstNet announced it would hold a series of public meetings in Washington, D.C. over the next several months. The first meeting will be held on December 11, 2012, at 9 a.m. A detailed agenda for the meeting will be posted online in the next few weeks. Sam Ginn, Chairman of the FirstNet Board, also announced last week that Harlin McEwen was appointed Chairman of the Board's Public Safety Advisory Committee. Mr. McEwen served as chairman of the Public Safety Spectrum Trust Corporation. 

PHMSA Releases Studies on Improving Pipeline Leak Detection Systems and Shutoff Valves

Pursuant to a mandate in the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) commissioned two studies analyzing the "constraints and implications" for expanding the use of leak detection systems and automatic and remote control shutoff valves in pipelines. The September 28, 2012 report generally found that additional leak detection systems, particularly in natural gas pipelines for which there are no relevant best practice standards, could have reduced the consequences of past incidents, and that returns on investments in such equipment are typically very high over a system's lifetime. With regard to automatic and remote control shutoff valves, the October 4, 2012 report concluded that these controls effectively mitigate the consequences of unintended pipeline releases and that their installation in new pipelines is technically, operationally and economically feasible. These reports may trigger amendments to the pipeline regulations requiring the installation of additional leak detection systems and shutoff valves under the Act. Please contact Keller and Heckman Partner Trent Doyle (doyle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4161) with questions.