Communications pathway refugees?

 - 
03/24/2011

I got an email from Lou Fiore recently and got right on the horn with him. He told me all about some rumblings in Congress about auctioning off a certain section of the radio spectrum to help pay for a Public Safety Network.

No big deal, right?

Wrong... Unfortunately, the section of the spectrum they're looking at invading has an indigenous population already... The security industry.

Lou told me that back in the day in the late 60s, the security industry began using the frequencies in question, between 450 MHz and 470 MHz and that particular stretch of spectrum has become home to a lot of big players.

"We first got access to the 400s in the late 60s and we got frequencies set aside for us. And we were using them through the 70s and 80s, but with cell phones, many alarm companiess switched over and abandoned the 400s," Fiore said. "But then we started using the 400s for data. Then AES came along and really hit it hard with a solid application. And now this."

Mace CSSS' Morgan Hertel agreed open auction of the 400s would have a big impact.

"This will effect systems ... that have been using UHF radio frequencies," Morgan said. "It’s a big deal since this is the area where those that didn’t want to use GSM are and have been using successfully for a decade or more."

Lou said every alarm dealer needed to get involved and write to the appropriate folks in Congress. 

Here's Lou's email in full:

CONGRESS MAY AUCTION ALARM RADIO SPECTRUM TO PAY FOR PUBLIC SAFETY NETWORK

THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW!

Several bills have been introduced in Congress, both in the House H.R. 607and Senate S. 28 and S. 455 which could result in the auctioning of our valuable spectrum to the highest bidder. In the case of the House, the bill calls for the auctioning of the 450 to 470 MHz spectrum within which frequencies we use to transmit alarm signals from homes and businesses to our central stations. In the case of Senate, S. 28 and S. 455, these bills call for the auctioning of spectrum which could finance either the public safety network or raise money for other purposes.

ACTION NEEDED NOW: It is time to react and react aggressively to let our Representatives and Senators know that our industry and the service we provide will be seriously harmed and our businesses are at risk if our frequencies are auctioned.

Radio has become an important and growing component on how we move data either from sensors to control equipment or from premises equipment to central stations. In this current world where mobile cellular and broadband are invading our lives, the appetite for radio spectrum has become insatiable to the point where there is a high probability that Congress will attempt to invade our most important frequencies.

At risk are frequencies in the business band, namely 450 to 470 MHz, and the frequencies we use for short range devices in the 300 to 350 MHz band (Part 15 devices) and perhaps even at about 900 MHz (additional Part 15 devices). These short range devices are used for on-premises communications such as sensors and PERS devices. A comprehensive list is being compiled and will be presented to Congress.

Below is a link to two letters, one for Senators and the other for Representatives. You, your colleagues and employees should send the appropriate one to your Representative and your Senators. Personalize these letters as you see fit, but keep the basic message the same. Then place them on your letterhead or stationary. Make sure that your office or home address (whichever places you in the targeted members district) is on the letter. Below is also a link to a list of Members on the House and Senate Commerce Committees with jurisdiction over telecommunications issues.  The letter to the Representatives addresses H.R.607, while the Senate letter addresses broader spectrum issues.

*  If there is a member of the House or Senate from your state who sits on the Committees of jurisdiction, it is imperative that you send them the appropriate letter.

* BUT you should also send one to your Congressman and both Senators whether or not they sit on these Committees.

YOU WILL FIND LINKS TO SAMPLE LETTERS AND THE COMMITTEE LISTS AT:

http://www.ltfiore.com/Spectrum_Defense.html

If you do not know the names and addresses of your Representative and Senators, a search at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov respectively will yield their names and addresses.

Because of lengthy screening and security delays for the delivery of  US mail to congressional offices, the AICC asks that  letters supporting the AICC’s position on legislation be sent to CSAA at the address below so that we can hand deliver them to your senators and representatives.

Please send your SIGNED letter addressed to the appropriate member of Congress as follows:

By UL Mail:

Monique C. Silverio

Director of Marketing and Communications

Central Station Alarm Association

8150 Leesburg Pike, Suite 700

Vienna, VA22182

By FAX to:

703-242-4675

By email to:Communications@csaaintl.org

CSAA will collect the letters and deliver them to Congress.

Please contact Lou Fiore at ltfiore@aol.com if you have any questions.

So much has been happening in the industry as far as communications pathways are concerned. The FCC sunsetted AMPS, they're sunsetting POTS, there's been talk of GSM technologies phasing out, AT&T is buying T-Mobile, narrowing the competative field in the world of GSM (which may or may not be a big deal depending on who you talk with), and now this. As Lou said to me, "It was three years ago that we lost AMPS to a shutdown and many people migrated to these radio frequencies in order to not be beholden to a cellular carrier in hopes of getting away from future sunsets. It's like there's no port in the storm, here."

I also had a chance to speak with AES Intellinet president and CEO Mike Sherman. Avid readers of this blog will remember I've spent some time in the past talking with Mike about communications pathway alternatives as POTS has begun to go away, and GSM 2.0 has threatened to dwindle and broadband has had its problems.

Mike agreed with Lou that absolutely now was the time to get informed and contact your congressmen. However, he also said the magnitude of the suggested auction was so great that he couldn't imagine it happening any time soon. Here's a bit of our conversation:

I guess in theory it could be a big deal, but I don’t really believe it will be ... If the government does this—auctions off this section of the spectrum—the purchasers will probably have to pay to relocate the occupants of the bandwidth they bought ... That is what nobody in Congress really understands ... They're making sweeping statements not really understanding what it would take to do what they want to do. Even if they do do this, their timeline is over the next 10 years ... Let’s take a look at the 450-470—that’s where the security industry is. It’s where the vast majority of Intellinet radios are. This is the people’s frequency. There are millions and millions of radios on those frequencies owned by everyone from your local flower shop to McDonalds. When you pull up to McDonalds or Burger King or Dunkin Donuts and they have these wireless radios they’re wearing in a headset when you pull up to get your coffee at the window? Those are all on these frequencies. If the government sells these frequencies, somebody is going to have to replace all these millions and millions of radios. Who can pay to dot that? And it goes on and on. In these frequencies, you’ve got the forestry service, you’ve got all the railroads. Are they going to replace every radio in every railroad in the United States? Are they going to replace every radio in every ranger station in every park in the United States? Not only that, it’s the petroleum industry, too. These users are entrenched. They’ve been here since 1960 and before. To move them would take billions and billions of dollars.

Get in the know and get involved.