With FCC narrowbanding deadline fast approaching, it’s time to get cracking
It's now October, and there are just a few scant months until the FCC's VHF/UHF narrowbanding mandate takes hold (except for licensees operating sytems on T-Band spectrum). For those that were convinced that the FCC was kidding and was going to back off, it looks like you were wrong. For those that were convinced that the FCC would grant every waiver request submitted, you also were wrong.
The honor of the first denial goes to the city of South Lake Tahoe, Nev. Essentially, the city said that it didn't have the funds to narrowband at this time. The FCC said on Aug. 10, 2012, that the city had plenty of time to complete its planning and that lack of funding wasn't a valid sole consideration for an extension. However, the FCC left the door open for a more detailed showing by the city to make its case.
This decision makes at least two things clear: (1) lack of funding by itself won't get you an extension; and (2) you really need to address all of the items in the FCC's 2011 narrowbanding public notice when you file. Given the lateness of the date, any entity filing an extension now probably will want to be prepared to discuss why the filing was not made earlier.
It was interesting how some folks took the FCC's T-Band extension as an indication of a broader extension to come. Users that relied on this bad advice and subseuqently delayed the narrowbanding of their systems now are facing a potential penalty — including FCC fines up to $112,500. Coupled with the previously reported intention of frequency coordinators to ignore — for coordination purposes in 2013 — waiver-free, non-complaint wideband systems, this could be a costly decision.
Having said that, it would seem that the FCC is fairly readily granting extensions where the public notice criteria are met. (See my article in the August 2011 edition for details on this criteria.) Thus, there is now a fairly bright line in figuring out who will and won't get waivers. It would seem like the line is drawn where licensees have made a sincere effort to meet the deadline and are on their way to being compliant, but they are just a little late.
Licensees who have made this threshold showing and received extensions include the city of New York, King County, Wash., Pittsylvania County, Va., Delta Air Lines, University of Iowa Hospitals, Arizona Water Company, Monterey County, Calif., and a host of others. These entities are large and small, urban and rural, public safety and business. What they share in common is the effort to meet the FCC's extension criteria.
At this point, we understand that the FCC intends to continue to put extension requests on public notice for comment, but to do so in one public notice that entails numerous requests, instead of one public notice per request. This should (hopefully) speed up the waiver process. In fact, we're not aware of a single case where a party filed an objection to any of these requests (although the one filed by the city of St. Louis did receive some significant comments). Thus, there's no reason to delay, and licensees have every reason to get cracking on getting the work done.
Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and Internet industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @landmobilelaw.
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