FCC considers AMPS sunset extension

Thursday, January 25, 2007

WASHINGTON--Alarm industry advocates are eagerly awaiting word from the Federal Communications Commission about whether the regulatory agency will agree to extend the AMPS sunset beyond the February 2008 deadline.
The good news for the alarm industry is that the FCC is considering the request, something that was not a guarantee when ADT and the Alarm Industry Communications Committee on Oct. 4, 2006, asked for the extension.
Over the past three months, representatives from ADT and the alarm industry have met with and provided information to FCC officials.
On Jan. 19, AICC attorney John Prendergast filed comments with the FCC in response to several questions posed by the FCC (called a public notice) to the alarm and cellular industries. The AICC's 29-page filing furnishes supporting facts and figures about the obstacles facing the alarm industry in trying to replace existing analog equipment before the sunset.
"All interested parties have until Feb. 6 to review and respond to the documents," said Phil McVey, vice president/business operations at ADT. The FCC will take some action following that date. Prendergast expects the FCC to act within "the next several weeks."
Gathered from a December AICC survey of alarm companies, the AICC comments include statistics about issues such as the number of businesses, households, and critical infrastructure facilities using AMPS service as primary and secondary communications paths.
Asked if there was one set of facts that the FCC may find particularly compelling, Steve Shapiro, ADT's director of strategic program planning, said the information expands upon a Nov. 30 AICC filing.
"I can't speak for the FCC, but ... ADT and AICC provided answers to all the questions and there are now more [numbers and statistics] for the FCC to look at and we have hopefully satisfied their request."
In addition to extending the deadline, AICC and ADT also want the FCC to ensure that the cellular companies keep the AMPS infrastructure fully operational until the sunset date. "There have been limited instances where the AMPS service was disabled or not fully working in some parts of the country," said Prendergast. Though in these instances, the cellular carriers have restored service, AICC wants the FCC to "gently remind the cellular carriers that they've got to keep the service in place and adequate until the sunset date," he explained.
On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, Prendergast, Shapiro, McVey and Lou Fiore of the AICC, met with one of the five commissioners of the FCC and counsels for the other four commissioners. McVey said he was encouraged by those meetings and by the fact that the process, exchange of information and debate has progressed this far.
However, Shapiro and McVey did not want to make any predictions about the outcome and McVey said that ADT is operating with what it does know right now: "There is a current deadline of February 18, 2008."