Telecom Business Alert – 900 MHz, Pole Attachments, FirstNet, Towers, and More - Vol XII, Issue 20

Date: May 18, 2015

FCC Seeks Further Comment on 900 MHz Reallocation

Last week, the FCC issued a Public Notice seeking comment on a supplement to the Petition for Rulemaking filed jointly by Pacific DataVision, Inc. (“PDV”) and the Enterprise Wireless Alliance seeking to repurpose the 900 MHz (896-901/935-940 MHz) Private Land Mobile band. PDV proposes to create a paired 3 MHz segment in the band for critical infrastructure broadband operations. Narrowband operations on those frequencies would be relocated by PDV to a paired 2 MHz allocation. A number of critical infrastructure entities and their trade associations expressed concerns with the proposal and argued the initial Petition lacked sufficient detail (See, Feb. 2 Telecom Alert). The supplement responds to these types of criticism and proposes certain technical standards and other rules for the band. Comments are due June 29 and Replies must be filed by July 14. For additional information, please contact Greg Kunkle (Kunkle@khlaw.com; 202.434.4178).  

Pole Attachment Rate Calculations

The FCC’s is seeking to “refresh the record” on a petition for reconsideration or clarification filed in June of 2011 by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), COMPTEL, and tw telecom inc. requesting an amendment to the Commission’s rules governing the calculation of pole attachment rates charged to telecommunications providers. A Public Notice regarding the petition was published in the Federal Register last week, starting the clock on comments and replies.  Comments are now due by June 4 and Reply Comments by June 15.  For more information, please contact Tom Magee (magee@khlaw.com; 202.434.4128).

FirstNet Update

In its Third Notice, FirstNet proposed limiting a “public safety entity” entitled to priority access under the statute to a “sub-group” of a utility rather than the utility as a whole. Under this proposal, many communications services of a utility might need to be purchased from a wireless carrier that leases spectrum rights from Firstnet.  Comments on the Third Notice are due June 4. The organization also held an Industry Day last week to discuss the draft Request for Proposals (RFP) released with the Third Notice last month. The draft RFP focuses on ensuring the financial sustainability of the network primarily through the $7 billion Congressional grant and user fees paid for access to excess capacity on the network. FirstNet discussed how its state consultation process will help it develop maps detailing coverage objectives in each state. Questions on the draft RFP are due May 27 and responses to the draft RFP are due July 27. Please contact Al Catalano (202.434.4207; catalano@khlaw.com) with questions.

800 MHz Interstitial Proposal

A dozen parties filed comments in response to the FCC’s proposal to create full power, 12.5 kHz channels offset between currently allocated 25 kHz channels in the 809-817/854-862 MHz band. The comments generally supported the proposal as a way of providing additional spectrum in the 800 MHz band for critical infrastructure entities, but urged the FCC to adopt appropriate safeguards to protect existing operations from interference. The Utilities Telecom Council, however, urged the FCC to refrain from adopting the proposal because of concerns that licensing interstitial channels would create interference to existing operations in the 800 MHz band.  Reply comments are due May 26. Please contact Wes Wright (wright@khlaw.com; 202.434.4239) with questions.

USDA Awards $100M for Infrastructure and Smart Grid Upgrades

The US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service announced last week that it is providing more than $100 million in loans to build or improve 1,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines.  The loans include $9 million to support improvements to smart grid technology.  The funds were awarded to rural electric cooperatives in four states – Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Carolina.  Please contact Doug Jarrett (202.434.4180; jarrett@khlaw.com).

OSHA Seeks Tower Safety Information by June 15

On April 15, 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") published a Request for Information ("RFI"), seeking data and information to help the agency evaluate hazards in working on communications towers. The RFI poses more than three dozen questions and seeks information from tower owners, engineering firms, maintenance companies, and field personnel. Comments are due by June 15, 2015. Keller and Heckman attorneys discussed the RFI and its implications in a webinar that can be viewed here. For additional information, please contact Mike Fitch (Fitch@khlaw.com; 202.434.4264) or David Sarvadi (Sarvadi@khlaw.com; 202.434.4249).

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Keller and Heckman LLP's Telecom Business Alert is a complimentary weekly electronic update created by the Telecommunications and the Business Counseling and Transactional practice groups of Keller and Heckman LLP.  All articles, videos, and quotations are on topics of general interest and do not constitute legal advice for particularized facts.  Keller and Heckman LLP's Telecom Business Alert © 2015.  All rights reserved.  Articles may be copied with attribution.  To sign up for our weekly alert, please send us an email at telecomalert@khlaw.com and provide us with your name and email.  Please follow us on twitter at @KHtelecom.