Public-safety officials encouraged by FCC consideration of new 4.9 GHz proposal
Public-safety representatives are expressing optimism that 4.9 GHz rules passed late last year could be halted or reversed, as FCC commissioners are considering an amendment that many sources believe is stay order suspending the 4.9 GHz rules that would let states lease the longtime public-safety airwave to commercial entities.
Last week, the FCC posted that an amendment to its 4.9 GHz order—docket 07-100—is being circulated among commissioners in preparation for a potential vote on the matter. Last fall, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines—Republicans held the majority at the time—to let states lease 4.9 GHz spectrum to commercial entities, although the airwaves had been designated for public-safety use for almost two decades.
Several public-safety organizations opposed the move at the time of the vote. Public Safety Spectrum Alliance (PSSA) in late December filed petitions asking the FCC to reconsider the 4.9 GHz order. That petition did not generate any new responses opposing the reconsideration in the FCC’s online filing system.
Given the party-line vote in the fall, many Beltway sources have anticipated that 4.9 GHz order would be reversed or altered significantly by an eventual Democratic majority at the FCC. However, that Democratic majority does not exist yet, as the FCC remains 2-2 on a partisan basis, with Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel serving as acting chairwoman. President Joe Biden has not nominated anyone to fill the fifth seat on the commission.
Public-safety representatives like Jeff Johnson—one of the leaders of the PSSA—said they are encouraged by the fact that FCC has a 4.9 GHz item on circulation.
“The public-safety community is appreciative of how the commissioners have engaged public safety to hear our needs and our concerns,” Johnson said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications, citing recent public-safety webinars conducted with Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington.
“We’re optimistic that the commission will grant the stay to public safety and give us an opportunity to re-create a record that reflects our needs.”
This sentiment was echoed by Ralph Haller, chairman of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC)—a federation of public-safety organizations that also filed a petition for reconsideration with the FCC about the 4.9 GHz order approved last fall.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Haller said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “I believe the commission was going in the wrong direction in trying to license it by marketplace forces, basically. It’s never been a way to license or allocate public-safety spectrum in the past, and I don’t believe it was the right thing to do here. So, I’m pleased that the commission is revisiting it.”