FCC issues deadline for feedback on FirstNet grant proposal

The FCC released a statement Nov. 30 instating a Dec. 9 deadline for comments on a proposal by FirstNet, the organization designated to set up a nationwide public safety network, which asks to relocate incumbent first responder systems currently using its Band 14 spectrum.

The deadline issuance came as a follow-up to the FCC's Nov. 5 notice detailing FirstNet's proposal. FirstNet is asking for a Federal Funding Opportunity in early 2016 which would create a grant program -- recently approved by FirstNet's board -- to assist incumbent public safety responders in "frequencies 758.00 to 769.00 MHz and 788.00 to 799.00 MHz" of Band 14 that are unable to relocate themselves.

"A number of incumbents around the nation continue to operate narrowband systems on the FirstNet-licensed Band 14 frequencies under previously issued FCC authorization," said FirstNet's Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance filing. "They must relocate their communications operations from Band 14 to ensure unencumbered (clear – free of interference) spectrum which is necessary for successful [public safety network] development, deployment and operations."

According to FirstNet, incumbents that receive the Spectrum Relocation Grant Program funding would need to meet eligibility requirements demonstrating need. Those incumbents would then be able to use federal funding grants to retune and reprogram existing equipment to the incumbent's newly designated frequency, or to purchase new equipment compatible with that frequency.

In addition to its proposal to clear existing users off of Band 14 frequencies, FirstNet has also asked "that the continuation of Commission licenses or other authorizations under Band 14 by any incumbent be conditioned upon the requirement that no operation on Band 14 be permitted without the express consent of FirstNet after July 31, 2017."

Additionally, FirstNet requested a regulation that all incumbents using Band 14 cease using those frequencies within 90 days written notice from FirstNet that network deployment will be beginning in that incumbent's state.

The issue is not new to the FCC and FirstNet. In its 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC asked for comment on when and how Band 14 users would be transferred out of their incumbent frequencies. The commission's Nov. 5 filing said it had received responses but encouraged feedback tailored to FirstNet's more specific request.

Anticipation of clearing Band 14, FirstNet's allotted spectrum, is the latest in years of preparation for the network, which is expected to roll out in 2017 following a long-awaited final Request for Proposals at the end of this year and the selection of a commercial carrier partner in 2016.

For more:
- see the FCC's Nov. 30 deadline statement
- see the FCC's Nov. 5 notice
- see FirstNet's program proposal

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