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FCC will protect public safety frequencies.

In a victory for cities and towns, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is specifically protecting public safety and emergency channels in new rules issued on future spectrum allocation.

In a decision last week, the FCC proposes to allocate a small portion of the spectrum for emerging technologies such as personal communications systems (PCS). The Commission noted that in recent years, technological advancements in the area of over-the-air or microwave services, and the development of products such as mobile telephones, have created a growing need for "airwave space" or spectrum.

The spectrum is finite, however, and PCS industry representatives complain that the only thing keeping Americans from owning phones "small enough to carry in [their] purses or pockets", is finding room on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Finding alternative space on the spectrum has been an issue for growing cities and towns across the nation who are discovering that their police, fire and safety channels are being crowded out by static from a multitude of new users on their radio frequencies. The National League of Cities, along with the Associated Public-Safety Communications Officers (APCO), have been lobbying the FCC and Congress to ensure that municipal channels are protected from the sale, reallocation or auctioning of spectrum.

Directly related to that lobbying effort, the FCC exempted from their decision police, fire and emergency medical agencies across the nation. The Commission proposal contains specific language permitting state and local government fixed microwave facilities to continue to operate on a primary basis "indefinitely."

The FCC and Congress have attempted in recent months to provide space for new products without crowding out incumbent owners and users. This incumbent group includes America's cities and towns who use the frequencies that are most in demand, for public safety channels. Proposals for reallocation considered by Congress have included the sale or auctioning of spectrum. Municipalities oppose these options.

Last week's decision by the Commission took a marketplace approach to the problem, allowing those companies who offer the new products to buy space on the spectrum from some "bedrock" infrastructure industries such as railroads, utilities and oil pipelines. Leonard Raish, representing the Association of American Railroads, said in a Washington Post article that the result could be "devastating" if these industries are lured by large sums of money to sell off their microwave communications systems.

For more information on the spectrum issue, contact NLC's Center for Policy and Federal Relations at (202) 626-3020
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Title Annotation:the Federal Communications Commission issues new spectrum allocation rules to protect public safety and emergency channels
Author:Ferrera, Anna Pulido
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 27, 1992
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