There is actually something other than the 800 MHz interference proceeding which is occupying the time of the public-safety industry. Voice over IP has become the next hot spot. Beyond just learning the bringing the benefits of VoIP for communications, figuring out the impact of VoIP on E911 services — as well as defining the jurisdictional boundaries between the states and federal government in regulating VoIP — has been a major debate.

Many see VoIP as the ultimate solution to an increasingly hostile local exchange service environment in the telephony sector. The ability to bypass the LECs is more attractive every day. As a result, VoIP educational seminars are extremely popular.

Everyone recognizes the importance of E911 services, and there is certainly no intention of harming the E911 system just so a user can avoid paying some ridiculous LEC charge. However, figuring out how E911 services can operate within a VoIP environment, as well as determining whether control should reside in the states or the federal government, has become a thorny issue.

Presently, there is significant activity on Capitol Hill to create VoIP/E911 legislation. The Senate is presently marking up Senate Bill 2281. Recent amendments address the issue of state and local jurisdiction over 911 services, including the ability of states and local jurisdictions to require providers of all VoIP-type applications to collect fees to support the provision of 911 or E911 services. The amendment would also require the FCC to adopt rules to ensure that VoIP provides E911.

Perhaps by the time you read this column a vote will have been taken. But then again, this is Washington, D.C.

And speaking of votes, no doubt you are aware of the FCC's vote on the 800 MHz matter. While the actual Report & Order has not yet been issued, it most likely will be by the time this issue finds its way into your hands. From a regulatory standpoint, the next steps are as follows:

  1. Petitions for Reconsideration (and oppositions and replies) must be filed within 30 days of publication of the order in the Federal Register.

  2. Once the FCC rules on those petitions, a whole new cycle begins with Applications for Review (again at the FCC).

  3. Parties dissatisfied with the commission's response(s) will also have the option of appealing to the United States Court of Appeals.

What is important about this process is that the filing of a petition or court action does not stop new rules from taking effect. For that to happen, a stay must be issued. Obtaining a stay is not impossible, but the requesting party has an extremely high hurdle to overcome (including showing irreparable harm if the stay is not granted).

Primedia, publishers of Mobile Radio Technology, will be putting on a series of “Road Shows” across the country to discuss the 800 MHz item. These Road Shows will feature a complete set of educational sessions for every part of the industry impacted by the decision, from licensees in the band to two-way radio dealers that will be an integral part of the rebanding effort. If you are an 800 MHz or 900 MHz licensee, or a two-way radio shop without spectrum, but with the ability to perform retuning services, I urge you to attend.

Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio, Internet and entertainment industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker, and can be reached at atilles@srgpe.com.