How Will Politics Affect the Industry?
Monday, March 13, 2017 | Comments

A new U.S. president has been in office about a month and a half. The Washington political scene has changed dramatically, and how those changes will affect the mission-critical communications industry is still playing out.

Along with a flurry of activity in his first weeks in office, President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the new chairman of the FCC. With former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler gone and FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel not reappointed, the FCC is left with two Republicans, Pai and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, and one Democrat, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

As a commissioner since 2012, Pai has been generally supportive of the industry. Pai supported the FCC’s efforts that made available 500 megahertz of federal and nonfederal spectrum for broadband use, but he encouraged the FCC to do more to promote infrastructure deployment. He has said the federal government controls too much spectrum, which could mean the FCC could take steps to make more spectrum available for private enterprises, such as critical infrastructure industries (CII) entities, under his leadership.

Pai has been a friend to 9-1-1, taking the lead on ensuring multiline telephone systems (MLTS) — often used in hotels and office buildings — can access direct 9-1-1 lines without having to dial 9 or another number before accessing a line that will reach 9-1-1. He also supported the FCC’s 2015 location accuracy rules aimed at improving wireless 9-1-1 location accuracy for indoor environments.

In a separate stand for 9-1-1, Commissioner O’Rielly last week took to task states that divert 9-1-1 fees for purposes other than 9-1-1 in a blog post. O’Rielly offered three “nonmutually exclusive” ideas for the FCC to increase the pressure and force states to end the practice of diverting 9-1-1 fees.

Some of the decisions that affect mission-critical communications that we should see this year from the commission include reworking the 4.9 GHz band, 800 MHz expansion and guard band access, the 900 MHz broadband realignment proposal from the Enterprise Wireless Alliance (EWA) and pdvWireless, 800 MHz interstitial final rules and hopefully guidance for UHF T-band licensees.

Beyond the FCC, it is still too soon to tell how the new presidential administration will affect other industry initiatives such as the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). A House hearing on reauthorizing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) was held Feb. 2. FirstNet is an independent authority within NTIA. Legislators’ views of NTIA and FirstNet’s progress were generally positive during the hearing.

In addition, Wilbur Ross was confirmed as secretary of Commerce and is likely to make appointments to FirstNet’s board of directors in coming weeks. The Commerce Department also houses the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and its Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) division. PSCR received $100 million from the legislation that created FirstNet to conduct public-safety communications research and development. FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said Ross named FirstNet as one of his top three priorities during a speech to Department of Commerce employees shortly after being confirmed.

The next few months and years will be a time of change, and we’ll do our best to bring you the latest news and analysis from Washington, D.C., and around the industry.

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