Federal Communications Commission
Home » Blog

Archive for April 2010

Why What the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Does Matters

Posted April 30th, 2010 by Susan McLean

I wanted to write something to inform you of the impact the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC has on the lives of millions of first responders and their families. This is especially relevant now, because May 9-15, 2010 is National Law Enforcement Week.

I am the Outreach Coordinator for the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, and I want to share with you some professional and personal insights on the importance of effective, efficient public safety communications.

So many times we get caught up in the day-to-day “to-do” lists at work, and we forget to think about why we do what we do.  Why is the work of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC so important?  Well, I want to remind you from a public safety practitioner’s viewpoint, why. 

I spent 18 years in the criminal justice field.  Six of those years were spent as an Intensive Probation/Parole Officer in NC; ten years as the director of a public safety training program in NC where we trained law enforcement officers, fire fighters, EMTs, crime scene technicians and telecommunicators; and two years were spent working for the NC Attorney General’s office as the Deputy Director for the division that certifies all the law enforcement officers, correctional officers, juvenile justice officers, radar operators and criminal justice trainers in the State.  Needless to say, I have spent most of my adult life in the first responder world.  I have many, many friends who put on a uniform every day and who do it because they love it, and they know they are making a difference in people’s lives.  I also have family members who have answered that same call.  Therefore, I have the professional experience to tell you why the actions of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau make a difference, and I also have the personal experience to tell you why it’s important to millions of first responder families. 

When I was a probation officer, I would begin my work day in the field by putting on my bullet-proof vest, my sidearm, my handcuffs and last, but definitely not least, my radio.  If someone had told me that I had to choose one of those tools and it was the only one I could take, there is no doubt it would have been my radio.  When I went out to do my home visits and curfew checks or to make arrests, my only line of communication with other officers and the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) was that radio.  It was the one thing that connected me to the rest of the world, and I knew that if something bad happened, my ability to use my radio to reach the PSAP and/or other officers could save my life. 

This is also true for law enforcement officers as they are making “routine” traffic stops or answering “routine” calls for service. (Keep in mind, in the criminal justice profession we don’t like to use the word “routine” because there really are no “routine” stops or calls for service.)  Officers rely on their radios to communicate their location, call in license tags and operators’ license numbers, check for warrants, and call other officers for assistance.  There are also ways in which officers can communicate with a PSAP just by pressing a button on their radio that automatically signals the PSAP that an officer is in trouble without him or her having to utter a word.  This is extremely important if an officer is unable to talk either because of circumstances or due to an injury.  This can be and has been a life-saving tool.

I have also had the unpleasant experience of knowing several officers who have died in the line of duty.  These were great officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, whose murderers were caught largely, in part, to the officers’ last radio transmissions.  For example, two officers from Charlotte, NC, Anthony Nobles and John Burnette, were viciously gunned down on October 5, 1993.  Both officers were in their 20s and had their whole lives ahead of them.  They were riding together that night on patrol, which was generally not the norm in Charlotte.  Early in their shift they pulled a car over that had been reported stolen and called in the tag and location of the stop. At that time, the driver jumped out and ran from the car into nearby woods.  Officers Burnette and Nobles followed.  Once they got into the woods, the subject, who was much larger than either of the officers, subdued one and took his service weapon from his holster.  At point blank range, the suspect shot and killed him. The other officer quickly approached the scene and the subject shot and killed him as well.

Because the officers were no longer answering their radios, the PSAP immediately sent other officers to where Officers Burnette and Nobles had called in their traffic stop and location.  The search for the suspect began from that location and, after a manhunt that lasted many hours, the killer was apprehended. 

I tell you this story not for the shock value, but because I want you to understand that because those officers had the ability to use their radios to call in their location and the description of the driver, and because their radios worked like they were supposed to, an arrest was made.  This ultimately ended up being a capital murder trial that resulted in a conviction. Had it not been for their radio transmissions, it is possible the suspect would not have been caught as quickly or may never have been caught and convicted. 

What PSHSB does matters.

Most stories aren’t as dramatic as the one I just told you.  Most officers begin and end their shift with very little drama and, many times, that’s because they have the ability to communicate with PSAPs and other officers so that if they need assistance they can get it quickly.  Most officers would agree that their radio is their most important tool and that they would not be nearly as effective or safe without it. 

On a very personal note, my son-in-law is a sheriff’s deputy in NC.  He is married to my 25 year old step-daughter and they have a precious one year old daughter.  I have a vested interest in his safety and the future of my step-daughter and my granddaughter.  It matters to me that all of his equipment works properly, especially his radio.  I want to know that if and when he is on a SWAT call out, he can talk to his commanders or the critical incident negotiator.  I want to know that when he’s out making a traffic stop on a country road, with no help in sight for 20 miles, that he can at least communicate with his PSAP and other deputies. I want them to know where he is so that if he needs assistance he can get it.  It matters to me on a professional level, but it matters to me even more on a personal level.  He is part of my family, and I want him to be safe.  I want him to go home to his wife and daughter and hug them both and say “I’m home.” 

What PSHSB does matters.  We never forget it.


Posted in Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments

An Opportunity Knocks for Broadcasters

Posted April 29th, 2010 by William Lake - Chief of the Media Bureau

The Commission’s proposal to invite voluntary participation by TV broadcasters in a spectrum exchange is an opportunity knocking at their door.  Broadcasters who are strapped for capital may find that answering that knock will be just what they need to kick their performance up to the next level. 

Many – though not all – broadcasters find themselves today to be capital constrained as they contemplate taking advantage of the many potential benefits of the DTV transition.  Whether they seek to develop new digital content, expand their new media platforms, or exploit new technologies that enable transmission of two HDTV streams on a 6 MHz channel, these broadcasters may find that they are “spectrum poor” – their scarcest resource is not spectrum but the capital needed to make those improvements.  To help broadcasters be all that they can be, ways need to be found to help them get that capital. 

A voluntary spectrum exchange offers these broadcasters a chance to get the needed capital infusion to make the investments that will position them to serve their communities even better going forward.  The Commission has yet to work out the details of such a voluntary program, and broadcasters’ input to that process will be key.  But a broadcaster is likely to have the option of contributing half of a 6 MHz channel and sharing spectrum with another station that has done the same, or – Congress willing – to contribute a 6 MHz channel to an incentive auction in which the broadcaster will share in the auction proceeds.  Either way, a broadcaster will be able to use the capital thus generated to jump to an improved business model in its continued broadcast activities, making it a stronger contender in the multimedia ecosystem that is evolving daily.  Innovative spectrum-sharing arrangements should create new opportunities for minority and niche broadcasters to prosper.

Done right, these steps can truly be a “win-win-win”… for broadcasters, consumers, and broadband users alike.  I will spend the next few months working with the other members of the Commission’s Spectrum Task Force to try to make that happen.  We’ll have many operational and procedural features to work out.  I hope we can continue the many constructive dialogues that have begun with all of the affected parties.  Broadcasters who want to explore opportunities to position themselves for greater success in the future will find that we want to help them do just that.

Posted in Media Bureau
1 Comment

Help Update the Spectrum Dashboard

Posted April 22nd, 2010 by James Brown - Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

This week the FCC announced that a public forum will be held on May 12, 2010, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm to discuss potential enhancements to the Spectrum Dashboard in anticipation of release 2.0 of the Spectrum Dashboard in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Anyone interested in providing feedback on the list of potential enhancements below, suggesting additional potential enhancements, or participating at the forum by sharing your experiences with using the Spectrum Dashboard should contact me by April 30, 2010 at James.Brown at FCC dot gov or (717) 338-2621.  Final details of the forum will be announced approximately one week before the forum on this blog and in a public notice.

Potential Enhancements to the Spectrum Dashboard

Enhance license information:

  • Add spectrum leases, including the common name for lessees.
  • Modify how cellular licenses are depicted in the Spectrum Dashboard by cutting off Service Area Boundaries (SABs) at the Cellular Market Area (CMA) boundaries.
  • Update broadcast data to include more current information for full power TV stations and to add data for low power TV stations.

Add search capabilities:

  • Identify spectrum licensed on federally-recognized Tribal Lands.
  • Add additional types of licenses that can be searched and add additional search options.
  • Expand the range of spectrum bands where information is available (currently the Spectrum Dashboard encompasses 225 MHz – 3700 MHz).

Improve search results:

  • Modify maps to include information such as FCC market boundaries and third-party data from sources such as the Census Bureau.
  • Identify the percentage of geography covered and total population included for counties where a license area does not cover an entire county.

Expand the information available for downloading:

  • Provide access to the “shape files” used to create maps.

Posted in Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Spectrum Dashboard
No Comments

Growing FCC.gov/data

Posted April 20th, 2010 by Gray Brooks - FCC New Media

Since the launch of FCC.gov/data earlier this year, the FCC has stayed busy adding further information and increasing the number of available data sets.  Though /data originally contained scores of data downloads, several dozen search engines, and over 50 XML feeds, we hold to the pledge that new data sets will be regularly added to FCC.gov/data, and the work to present the data in more functional and easily accessible formats will be ongoing. The FCC remains committed to become a more open and data-driven agency and indeed to become a model agency in government transparency. 

The FCC shares the understanding that all public data should be easily browsable, strongly searchable, and available via bulk download and syndication, for free and in open formats.  There is much progress to be made, but the role and the mission of FCC.gov/data will continue to be the online clearinghouse for the data of the Federal Communications Commission.  In addition to the 'Featured Data Sets' that were recently added to the sidebar of Reboot.FCC.gov, we also wanted to begin highlighting some of the new additions to FCC.gov/data. 

The Office of Engineering & Technology: 

The Office of the General Counsel:

International Bureau:

Office of the Managing Director:

Just as importantly as adding new data, we will also continue striving to improve the existing data offerings so as to offer them in more useful and open formats.  Throughout FCC.gov/data and Reboot, you can join the discussion on both general and specific agency reform.  Whether your insight is on how CGB can improve its data offerings or more broadly, how the FCC can better employ data, delve deeper into FCC.gov/data and take part in improving the FCC.

Posted in Reform - Data Office Of Managing Director
No Comments

FCC Reform of Procedures

Posted April 14th, 2010 by Austin Schlick - General Counsel

I’m pleased to report that the FCC has begun two formal proceedings on ways to reform its procedures. 

The first Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes rule changes to make the Commission’s decision-making processes more open, transparent, fair, and effective.  The major proposals in the Ex Parte NPRM include:

  • Requiring the public filing of a summary of every oral ex parte presentation
  • Requiring the filing of a notice that summarizes all data and arguments presented and allowing cross-references to earlier filings where appropriate 
  • Establishing a preference for electronic filing of all notices of ex parte presentations 
  • Requiring faster electronic filing (within four hours) of notices of permitted ex parte presentations made during the “Sunshine Period,” which typically begins a week before a public Commission Meeting, for those items on the Meeting agenda
  • Starting the Sunshine Period prohibition on ex parte presentations at midnight after a Sunshine notice has issued to enhance predictability.

The Commission is asking for public comment on all these proposals.  In addition, the Commission is seeking comment on other topics, such as revisiting our current exceptions to the Sunshine Period prohibition on ex parte presentations, requiring disclosure of ownership or other information about organizations making filings at the Commission, sanctions and enforcement for violations of the ex parte rules, and how the ex parte rules should apply in the context of new media, such as this blog.

Second, the Commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes some changes to our procedural and organizational rules.  The major proposals in this Procedures NPRM include:

  • Expanding the use of docketed proceedings and maximizing electronic filing through the Commission’s improved Electronic Comment Filing System
  • Delegating authority to the staff to serve parties to FCC proceedings electronically
  • Delegating authority to bureau and office chiefs to dismiss or deny defective or repetitious reconsideration petitions that do not warrant consideration by the full Commission
  • Making our rules clear that when an FCC rule or order requires action by the Commission on a weekend or holiday, the action must be taken by the next business day
  • Adopting a default effective date for new rules when the FCC does not specify an effective date in the relevant rulemaking orders.

We look forward to receiving public input on all these proposals.  Because the Commission has begun formal proceedings on these matters, we are closing this blog to further public comment and are instead requesting that comments be filed directly in the Commission’s formal record.  Brief comments on the Ex Parte NPRM can be filed at ECFS Express, and brief comments on the Procedures NPRM can be filed here.  Longer comments, including those with attachments, can be filed at ECFS and should refer to GC Docket No. 10-43 (Ex Parte NPRM) or GC Docket No. 10-44 (Procedures NPRM).  Comments are due on May 10, and reply comments are due on June 8.

Thank you for your interest in reforming the FCC.  Please let us know what you think of these proposals, and suggest some of your own.  We look forward to having you participate.

Posted in Office of General Counsel Reform - Rules And Processes
No Comments

Customer Feedback for the Spectrum Dashboard

Posted April 14th, 2010 by James Brown - Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Last week, a customer feedback questionnaire was added to the Spectrum Dashboard.  The questionnaire should take a couple of minutes to complete and will help determine how the Spectrum Dashboard is being used, and how to shape future enhancements. 

After feedback from the questionnaire is collected and analyzed, a workshop will be held to discuss the feedback received, listen to public views on desired upgrades, and discuss ways to expand and improve the information and analyses contained in the Spectrum Dashboard.  The workshop will be announced in a Public Notice as well as through a blog.

To access the questionnaire, click on the “Give us your opinion” link located at the top right corner of any of the Spectrum Dashboard searches (Browse Spectrum Maps, Browse Using a Map, Search by Name, and Search by FCC License Categories).

We look forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Spectrum Dashboard
1 Comment

Is Your EEO Public File Report On Your Website?

Posted April 8th, 2010 by Lewis Pulley - Assistant Chief, Policy Division, Media Bureau

Broadcast stations with five or more full-time employees, and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), including cable and satellite TV companies, with six or more full-time employees, are required by FCC rules to maintain an EEO recruitment program.  They must also create a report each year providing information about the program and place it in their public files.  Requirements for EEO public file reports are outlined in the EEO rules for broadcast stations (Section 73.2080(c)(6)) and MVPDs (Section 76.1702(b)).  Those stations and MVPDs that have websites are also required to post the current year's EEO public file report on their websites.  Failure to create the report with all required information, to place it in the public file, or to post it to the station's or MVPD's website are violations of our rules and may result in enforcement action.  The Commission has issued forfeitures for these violations in the past.  All forfeitures released by the Commission for violations of EEO rules, as well as all EEO regulations and other EEO information, may be viewed on the EEO page on the FCC website.  In addition, if you have questions about the FCC's EEO rules, please contact the Media Bureau's EEO Staff, at (202) 418-1450.

Posted in Media Bureau
No Comments

Reliable Wireless Public Safety Communications Is Vital to Serving and Protecting our Communities

Posted April 8th, 2010 by Robert Kenny - Director of Media Relations and Healthcare Outreach

Last October, my family and I enjoyed a day of community-related events in our hometown in Virginia. One of the biggest thrills for my two sons and me was climbing up into the fire truck for hook and ladder company number one. We were impressed with all of the bells and whistles in the driver and passenger compartments, particularly the radio system. The local sheriff's patrol car was equally impressive and certainly had brighter flashing lights.

We all recognize and appreciate the dedication and daily sacrifices that America's first responders and hospital emergency departments make on a daily basis to keep the communities they serve healthy and safe. As public safety moves to implement more robust and reliable communications using the 700 MHz band, we must all do our part to help support broadband services for police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and hospitals.

Beginning on June 12, 2010, the FCC will prohibit the use of wireless microphones and similar devices in the 700 MHz band so that public safety and commercial licensees will be better protected against potential interference to their operations by wireless mic users, such as for sporting events and various other forms of entertainment -- even karaoke.

The FCC is not saying that the public must cease using wireless mics, but rather that they must not use wireless mics that operate in the 700 MHz band -- and there are a number of options available to the public. Continuing to operate illegally after June 12th could cause harmful interference to public safety voice and data communications in the 700 MHz band and negatively affect the ability of first responders to serve and protect our communities.

It is absolutely essential that public safety have crystal clear communications. Imagine scenarios where a police officer needs to communicate with a 9-1-1 dispatcher who has details of a home burglary and potential hostage situation; a firefighter needs to receive blueprints via broadband services for a burning commercial building before entering so they know the structural make-up and location of hazardous materials; or a paramedic needs to transmit a heart attack victim's EKG to a nearby hospital so that an emergency medical team can be assembled and ready to treat the patient before he or she arrives by ambulance.

These are all real life situations that demonstrate the need for effective communications that are free from interference and which protect first responders and provide vital help to those in need.

Please keep in mind that someone in the general public who operates a wireless microphone or similar device on the 700 MHz band after June 12th will be in violation of FCC rules, could face enforcement action by the Commission and most importantly could negatively impact the outcome of an emergency situation.

For more information on the FCC's rules regarding wireless microphones, click here

Posted in Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
No Comments