Saturday, September 27, 2008

FCC proposes easing wireless spectrum bids: "The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday proposed halving the minimum opening bid on a piece of valuable wireless spectrum, but several commissioners expressed doubt that the plan would work, after an earlier auction failed to attract industry interest.

The five-member FCC approved a plan devised by agency Chairman Kevin Martin, cutting to $750 million a prior $1.3 billion minimum bid and easing other requirements."

Monday, September 22, 2008

Communications upgrades worked in Gustav, Ike: "As hurricanes Gustav and Ike swamped coastal communities and knocked out power to more than 1 million homes and businesses, phone and radio lines of first-responders largely held in the first true test of the communications grid developed after Hurricane Katrina. Police, search-and-rescue teams and emergency operations workers could talk to each other, radio-in damage assessments and call for help.

That's a far cry from 2005 when Katrina and Rita leveled communications systems. Portable radios and phones failed, isolating communities for days and making first-responders unaware of the scope of the devastation. The collapse prompted a $95 million upgrade in communications infrastructure.

The new system wasn't without disruptions, including failure of two radio towers for both Gustav and Ike. But backups were quickly dropped into affected areas. State officials said they never lost total communication with any parish."

Friday, September 19, 2008

FCC Plans New Auction for First-Responder Airwaves: "New details on a plan to create a national communications network for police, fire and other emergency first responders were announced yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission after an earlier effort to sell the network this year failed to produce a buyer.

Under the new proposal, the network would be auctioned as one national block of radio spectrum or, alternatively, as 58 separate regional airwaves licenses. The agency said that it prefers to sell the spectrum as a whole and that it would give priority to such a bid. But if no one meets the minimum reserve price for the national block, the commission would close the auction with a minimum of half of the 58 regional licenses sold."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Network That Builds Itself: "Building an on-the-fly wireless communications networks is a vital part of firefighting, handling hostage situations, and dealing with other emergencies. But it is difficult to build such networks quickly and reliably. Soon these emergency wireless networks could help build themselves. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently presented details of two experimental networks that tell emergency workers when to set down wireless transmitters to ensure a good signal."
New York Statewide Wireless Network Issues Letter Of Default To M/A-COM: "Albany, N.Y. (August 29, 2008) -- The New York State Chief Information Officer/Office for Technology (CIO/OFT) today announced it had issued a letter of default to M/A-COM, Inc. -- the primary vendor responsible for building the Statewide Wireless Network. Under the contract, M/A-COM has 45 days to remediate remaining problems with the system and recertify the system as ready for use"

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

FEMA Takes Steps for Common Alerting System: "The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) plans to adopt an alerting protocol similar to the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) 1.1 as the standard for the Integrated Public Alert and Warnings System (IPAWS). IPAWS is a network of alert systems through which FEMA is upgrading the existing Emergency Alert System (EAS). CAP 1.1 is a format for exchanging emergency alerts allowing a consistent warning message to be disseminated simultaneously over many different warning systems. Participants in the EAS, including broadcasters and state and local emergency managers, will be required to be in compliance with CAP 1.1 standard within 180 days of its formal adoption by FEMA.

FEMA will implement it in Q1 2009"
National Emergency Communications Plan: "[On July 31st, DHS released] the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) to address gaps and determine solutions so that emergency response personnel at all levels of government and across all disciplines can communicate as needed, on demand, and as authorized. The NECP is the nation's first strategic plan to improve emergency response communications, and complements overarching homeland security and emergency communications legislation, strategies and initiatives.

'This is a comprehensive plan designed to drive measurable and sustainable improvements to operable and interoperable emergency communications nationwide over the next three years. It emphasizes the human element and cross-jurisdictional cooperation, going beyond simply buying new equipment,' said Homeland Security Under Secretary Robert Jamison. 'We have recently approved Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans for all 56 states and territories. Aligning these plans with the NECP will move emergency communications forward and further promote a coordinated nationwide strategy.'

The NECP defines three goals that establish a minimum level of interoperable communications and a deadline for federal, state, local and tribal authorities:

1. By 2010, 90 percent of all high-risk urban areas designated within the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
2. By 2011, 75 percent of non-UASI jurisdictions can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within one hour for routine events involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies.
3. By 2013, 75 percent of all jurisdictions can demonstrate response-level emergency communications within three hours of a significant event, as outlined in the department's national planning scenarios."
FCC looks for public safety to push rebanding to completion: "Already more than one month beyond the scheduled completion date for 800 MHz rebanding, public-safety licensees operating in the band are expected to drive the monumental engineering project to substantial completion during the next year, FCC representatives said ... during the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference [in early August].

'Sprint [Nextel, the wireless carrier paying for rebanding] wants to get this finished. I think a lot of the burden will fall on public safety to get this done,' Derek Poarch, chief of the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau (PSHSB), said on Monday. 'Public-safety licensees need to push their consultants and vendors. If they’re having trouble, we’ll be happy to help them.'"
New York Statewide Wireless Network status unclear: "System kinks to the NY Statewide Wireless Network has the status of the full interoperability radio network unclear. [In June], a round of tests for the new emergency communications system - being evaluated in Erie and Chautauqua counties before it goes statewide - was postponed a month before state officials could decide the project's fate. The round of tests was delayed until the company running the project, M/A-COM, corrected problems in the system. The communication system has an Aug. 29 deadline for the state to decided whether the results of tests from the system are successful enough to launch statewide."