From Harold Hurtt, chief of police, Phoenix
If police officers were asked to rank the importance of the tools we provide them to do their jobs, a functional police radio would be at or near the top of most lists. Our police radios function as lifelines for our officers and the public we are sworn to protect.
The 800MHz spectrum that my department and several others have converted to has, unfortunately, been seriously compromised by commercial carrier interference, the largest being Nextel. The City of Phoenix has spent nearly $500,000 on additional infrastructure and other improvements without regaining an acceptable level of performance.
Due to the continuing 800MHz interference problems and our need to obtain additional bandwidth for future applications, we have been anxiously awaiting the availability of the 700MHz spectrum that has been allocated for public safety. We did not anticipate interference being a problem in the 700MHz spectrum because the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the accompanying conference report clearly state that “public safety service licensees will operate free of interference from any new commercial licensee.”
Recent engineering studies indicate that the emission protection rules currently established by the FCC are inadequate to protect public safety users from commercial carrier interference. The FCC standards established will not be sufficient to protect public safety from third- and fourth-generation commercial digital technologies, including time-division duplex (TDD) applications. Current FCC plans call for auctioning the 700MHz spectrum to commercial services on March 6, 2001.
The National League of Cities’ Local State Government Advisory Committee (LSGAC) has summarized the 700MHz issue as follows:
“With the greater and accelerating use of spectrum it is absolutely essential that the 700MHz portion of the spectrum that has been set aside specifically for public safety uses have its complete functionality protected from the beginning. Attempting to fix problems after they occur will impose needless costs on the public and private sectors for litigation and less-than satisfactory retrofits. Public safety needs deserve the highest possible priorities from the commission.”
The LSGAC has made the following recommendations:
The FCC should remove the TDD digital transmitters from the commercial (CMRS) band adjacent to public safety base station receivers.
The out-of-band-emission standard should be reduced from 246 dBm to a lower value of 280 dBm. Trapping noise before it is transmitted benefits all users by keeping the “noise floor” lower in this spectrum.
Please join the City of Phoenix, the Phoenix Police Department and myself in supporting the LSGAC recommendations. Support should be expressed by calling your elected representatives in Washington and by writing the FCC. Since the FCC’s rulemaking process for the 700MHz spectrum seems to have run its course, we believe it will take an expression of concern from Congress to get anything changed. We believe it will also be valuable to let the FCC know that we are dealing with an issue of extreme concern to public safety. Please expedite your calls and letters. We must modify the FCC’s current position on the 700 spectrum prior to the auction on March 6, 2001.
In my many years in law enforcement, I cannot recall a single issue with greater impact on our ability to do our job. Please lend your support!
The Honorable Michael Powell, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
Editor’s note: On Jan. 31, the FCC acted to postpone the auction that Chief Hurtt mentions until Sept. 12, 2001. Related information appears on page 20.