In a public notice released last week, the FCC clarified its plans to enforce the narrowbanding mandate for radio systems operating on spectrum below 470 MHz, although almost 900 licensees have received extensions to bring their networks into compliance with the agency's rules.

As expected, the public notice reiterated that failure to follow FCC rules or license terms are subject to enforcement action, which "may include admonishments, license revocation, and/or monetary forfeitures of up to $16,000 for each such violation or each day of a continuing violation, and up to $112,500 for any single act or failure to act," according to the public notice.

Licensees that have wideband designators and systems that have not been narrowbanded must cease operations or immediately seek a waiver from the FCC, according to the public notice. However, seeking a waiver now does not mean the licensee will be immune from potential enforcement action.

"A licensee requesting a post-deadline waiver should not assume that the waiver request will be granted, and grant of a waiver request does not insulate a licensee from possible enforcement action for the period of unauthorized wideband operation after January 1, 2013," the public notice states. "However, the enforcement bureau may consider the length of unauthorized operation when evaluating the severity of the violation of the commission's rules, as well as the appropriate sanction."

Mark Crosby — president/CEO of the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) and secretary of the Land Mobile Communications Council (LMCC) — said that he believes the FCC's public notice is a step in the right direction.

"This is helpful," Crosby said during an interview with Urgent Communications. "I love the point of contacts [at the FCC included in the public notice], and I love the statement that [FCC officials] are going to come out and verify stuff. And they said they're going to do another public notice, which is good — every time they do one, they give us information that's important."

One request the LMCC made to the FCC was that a procedure be established that would identify quickly the cases in which licensees have stopped operating systems in the UHF and VHF bands, which would allow other users to utilize the spectrum for new networks or to expand existing systems. This matter was not resolved in this public notice, but the FCC indicated that it does plan to address the issue in the future.

"Frequency coordinators may bring to the commission's attention stations that they believe are either operating in wideband mode in violation of the commission's rules or that have discontinued operations," the public notice states.

"The bureaus intend to take steps to verify the status of all stations with active licenses that include wideband emission designators, to confirm that such stations remain operational and are in compliance with the narrowbanding rules. The bureaus will provide more details on this verification process in a subsequent public notice."

Meanwhile, the FCC has shared a list of 5,688 call signs and 888 licensees that have been granted extensions to meet the narrowbanding mandate, Crosby said. Of this total 4,053 of the call signs are associated with 514 public-safety licensees, while the rest apply to industrial-business systems, he said.

"That's a lot [of extensions]," Crosby said.