FCC activity demands scrutiny
Helping you keep up with the latest news is the important mission of magazine such as Mobile Radio Technology. However, sometimes items that might at first glance appear minor in nature slip under the readers’ radar screens.
Given some recent incidences, a couple of these items bear repeating. Plus, a recent rash of Orders from the Commission means that there is so much more to be aware of, and to be ready to be involved with.
FCC Form 499
Do you operate a private carrier or common carrier radio system (regardless of whether it’s Part 90 or Part 22 licensed)? If so, you are obligated to complete and file FCC Form 499, the Telecommunications Reporting Worksheet. Yes, even if you are not interconnected, you must still file the Form.
If, for example, you are a non-interconnected SMR with a radio signal that doesn’t traverse a state line, your income will be all intrastate. In such an event, your completed form will be quite sparse, but it is still required.
Form 499 is used to calculate a carrier’s obligation to the Universal Service Fund, the North American Numbering Plan Administration, the Telecommunications Relay Service and the shared costs for implementing Local Number Portability. It is unlikely that many readers of MRT will have Universal Service obligations (at least as its presently construed), but you will most likely have a small NANPA and LNP obligation.
Specifically, Section 52.17 of the Commission’s Rules provides that all telecommunications carriers must contribute to NANPA, and Section 52.32 provides that telecommunications carriers must contribute to LNP in their region. Interstate common carriers (for example, an interconnected SMR) would also have a TRS obligation. A Universal Service obligation is limited to interstate carriers with an obligation (after calculation on the Form 499 Worksheet) of $10,000 or more.
However, with regard to Universal Service, there is ample reason for all operators to be concerned. There is a significant review of the fund under way, and many questions being asked about funding (in an era when “free long distance” means declining interstate revenue contributions to the fund) and eligibility for payments by rural wireless carriers. The $10,000 de minimus exemption could go by the wayside if carriers do not actively participate in the proceeding.
Part 90 Construction Notice
Part 90 licensees, not just 800 MHz licensees, have been required to file a construction report on FCC Form 601, Schedule K since early 2001 for construction dates that fell after the relevant dates. Unfortunately, despite Public Notices from the FCC and various information items by magazines and associations, many licensees have ignored the requirement. As a result, these licensees face license revocation.
If you have not yet filed Schedule K, and you are past your deadline, you must also include a Waiver Request. All waivers filed to date are still pending. A couple of organizations have requested that the waiver requirement be eliminated, but this issue remains pending.
In order to ensure that your license is not revoked, we urge you to file. To determine whether your license requires a notification, you can go to your license on the FCC’s Universal Licensing Service website. Go to the “Frequencies” portion of your license, and then click on “Buildout” under “Define View.” If you see a date in the “Buildout Deadline” column, congratulations, you must file.
“Offset” frequency freeze extended
You may recall that the FCC had a freeze on the high power use of 450 MHz former “offset” frequencies, while medical telemetry users moved off of these channels. The freeze was lifted for 450-460 MHz frequencies in 2001.
However, the FCC issued a Public Notice in October extending the freeze for the 460-470 MHz channels, and the FCC is requesting comments on a proposal put forth by the American Hospital Association (AHA). In September, AHA reported that there had been no migration of wireless medical telemetry systems off of the 460-470 MHz channels. AHA proposed a 30 month transition period. Comments were due by Oct. 30.
You may recall that high power use of these channels is permitted, if the applicant pledges to protect medical telemetry operations. A number of applicants have done this, and we are unaware of any interference problems thus far. The Public Notice did not propose a change to this policy.
Confusion over MURS
You may recall that the FCC created a new Radio Service, the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) in Part 95. These frequencies were originally allocated in Part 90 and known as the “color dot” frequencies. Unfortunately, in the Government Printing Office publication of the recent Part 90 Narrowband Order, the frequencies were put back into Part 90.
When work got around the industry, many people were confused. Be assured that this was an inadvertent error that the commission will address.
FCC Adopts 70/80/90 GHz Order
The FCC adopted a Report & Order establishing service rules for spectrum at the 70, 80 and 90 GHz spectrum bands for “millimeter wave” technologies. The FCC expects this to be used for high-speed, point-to-point wireless local area networks and broadband Internet access. Because of the “pencil-beam” technologies to be used in this band, no frequency coordination will be used, but instead each path will be registered in a database, and entitled to interference protection based upon the date of registration.
The 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz bands will be divided into four unpaired 1.25 gigahertz segments (a total of 8), with aggregation permitted.
The 92-95 GHz band will be divided into two segments. The FCC will issue an unlimited number of non-exclusive, nationwide licenses authorizing use of the entire 12.9 gigahertz of spectrum in these three bands.
Unlicensed indoor use of the 90 GHz band also will be permitted under Part 15 of the Rules.
Through the years, applicants in private radio have traditionally relied on their service providers to complete FCC forms on their behalf.
However, it must be recalled that having a service provider complete an FCC Form does not relieve the applicant from the responsibility for the information contained in the Form. Applicants should closely review FCC Forms completed on their behalf by others for completeness and accuracy, particularly in a ULS world where pen signatures are no longer required.
There are also many consultants in this industry who perform similar services. While the rudimentary completion of FCC Forms has been commonplace for many years, it seems that an increasing number of consultants are engaged in preparing Waiver Requests, and “advising” applicants on items such as eligibility rules. Applicants should continue to be aware that they bear the obligation of compliance with the FCC Rules, and not the consultant. Further, as these consultants are often not attorneys, their provision of advice on FCC Rules and preparation of Waiver Requests may be considered the practice of law, and thus run afoul of state laws.
In any event, applicants should be cognizant of the limits of the relationship, and discuss with the consultant questions of liability insurance and whether there is a duty of confidentiality on the part of the consultant (you may even wish to get it in writing).
After all, you don’t necessarily want all of your competitors to know your business plans.
Alan S. 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 [email protected].
FCC Adopts 3G Order
The FCC adopted a Report and Order allocating so-called “3G” spectrum. This concerns the 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz bands.
The pairing of the channels is as follows:
Block A — 20 MHz of total spectrum — Pairing is 1710-1720 and 2110-2120 MHz – Licensed in Economic Areas
Block B — 20 MHz of total spectrum — Pairing is 1720-1730 and 2120-2130 MHz – Licensed in Regional Economic Area Groups (REAG)
Block C — 10 MHz of total spectrum — Pairing is 1730-1735 and 2130-2135 MHz – Licensed in REAG
Block D — 10 MHz of total spectrum — Pairing is 1735-1740 and 2135-2140 MHz – Licensed in Cellular Market Areas
Block E — 30 MHz of total spectrum — Pairing is 1740-1755 and 2140-2155 MHz – Licensed in REAG
The licenses will be issued via auction, with a 15 percent discount for small business and a 25 percent discount for very small business. Co-channel and adjacent channel government operations will need to be protected.