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NO POLITICS HERE
This doesn't mean that nothing is ever published here that mentions a US political party—it just means that the editorial policy of this newsletter is to remain neutral on all political issues. We don't take sides.
A new issue of the Wireless Messaging Newsletter is posted on the web each week. A notification goes out by e-mail to subscribers on most Fridays around noon central US time. The notification message has a link to the actual newsletter on the web. That way it doesn’t fill up your incoming e-mail account.
There is no charge for subscription and there are no membership restrictions. Readers are a very select group of wireless industry professionals, and include the senior managers of many of the world’s major Paging and Wireless Messaging companies. There is an even mix of operations managers, marketing people, and engineers — so I try to include items of interest to all three groups. It’s all about staying up-to-date with business trends and technology.
I regularly get readers’ comments, so this newsletter has become a community forum for the Paging, and Wireless Messaging communities. You are welcome to contribute your ideas and opinions. Unless otherwise requested, all correspondence addressed to me is subject to publication in the newsletter and on my web site. I am very careful to protect the anonymity of those who request it.
TIME TO HUDDLE UP
Let's get together and share ideas. Our competitors are not other paging companies, they are other technologies.
I spend the whole week searching the Internet for news that I think may be of interest to you — so you won’t have to. This newsletter is an aggregator — a service that aggregates news from other news sources. You can help our community by sharing any interesting news that you find.
Editorial Opinion pieces present only the opinions of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of any of advertisers or supporters. This newsletter is independent of any trade association. I don't intend to hurt anyone's feelings, but I do freely express my own opinions.
$10M grant allocated to improve NY 911 response
New York City and 57 counties will receive a share of the grant to improve emergency response operations
August 24, 2018 at 9:57 AM
ALBANY, N.Y. — A $10 million grant was awarded to counties across New York to improve emergency response.
According to a press release, the Public Safety Answering Points Operations Grant, administered by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, will be allocated to 57 counties and New York City to allow them to improve dispatch operations and 911 response.
"It is critical that first responders have access to the services and technology they need to respond to situations where every second counts," Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "These grants will allow counties to continue to upgrade and improve their emergency communications and ensure that New Yorkers are getting the fastest, safest response in their moment of need."
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the grant will help “ensure the safety” of residents.
"This funding will help municipalities upgrade their 911 response and dispatch operations to increase public safety and enhance overall quality of life,” she said. “We're making sure that municipalities have the technology they need to improve emergency communications and operate efficiently."
The funds will help dispatch centers with their day-to-day expenses and help pay for upgrades in dispatch technology, such as implementing text messaging and improved geo-location of callers.
"These funds play an important role in helping counties to fund public safety communications initiatives including implementing next-generation 911 services such as text-to-911," DHSES Commissioner Roger Parrino said. "Our Office of Interoperable Emergency Communications will continue to work with counties to advise them on how to implement upgrades that meet national and state standards and answer related questions."
Paging Transmitters 150/900 MHz
The RFI High Performance Paging Transmitter is designed for use in campus, city, state and country-wide paging systems. Designed for use where reliable simulcast systems where RF signal overlap coverage is critical.
Built-in custom interface for Prism-IPX ipBSC Base Controller for remote control, management and alarm reporting.
Prism-IPX Systems LLC.
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Back To Paging
Still The Most Reliable Protocol For Wireless Messaging!
I would like to recommend Easy Solutions for Support of all Glenayre Paging Equipment. This Texas company is owned and operated by Vaughan Bowden. I have known Vaughan for over 35 years. Without going into a long list of his experience and qualifications, let me just say that he was the V.P. of Engineering at PageNet which was—at that time—the largest paging company in the world. So Vaughan knows Paging.
GTES is no longer offering support contracts. GTES was the original group from Vancouver that was setup to offer support to customers that wanted to continue with the legacy Glenayre support. Many U.S. customers chose not to use this service because of the price and the original requirement to upgrade to version 8.0 software (which required expensive hardware upgrades, etc.). Most contracts ended as of February 2018.
If you are at all concerned about future support of Glenayre products, especially the “king of the hill” the GL3000 paging control terminal, I encourage you to talk to Vaughan about a service contract and please tell him about my recommendation.
The Wireless Messaging News
The Board of Advisor members are people with whom I have developed a special rapport, and have met personally. They are not obligated to support the newsletter in any way, except with advice, and maybe an occasional letter to the editor.
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Solar flares disrupted radio communications during September 2017 Atlantic hurricanes
An unlucky coincidence of space and Earth weather in early September 2017 caused radio blackouts for hours during critical hurricane emergency response efforts, according to a new study in Space Weather, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. The new research, which details how the events on the Sun and Earth unfolded side-by-side, could aid in the development of space weather forecasting and response, according to the study's authors.
On September 6, three hurricanes advanced in a menacing line across the Atlantic Ocean. Category 5 Hurricane Irma ravaged Barbuda in the Caribbean's Leeward Islands in the early morning and churned onward to St. Marin, St. Barthelemy, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands, causing massive damage. Tropical Storm Katia hovered in the Gulf of Mexico and Tropical Storm Jose approached from the open ocean. Both were upgraded to hurricane status later that day.
On the surface of the Sun, 150 million kilometers (93 million miles) away, another storm was brewing. A class X-2.2 and major class X-9.3 solar flare erupted on the morning of September 6 at about 8 a.m. local time. NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center warned of a strong radio blackout over most the sunlit side of Earth, including the Caribbean.
Amateur radio operators assisting with emergency communications in the islands reported to the Hurricane Watch Net that radio communications went down for most of the morning and early afternoon on September 6 because of the Sun's activity, according to the new study. French civil aviation reported a 90-minute loss of communication with a cargo plane, according to the study's authors, and NOAA reported on September 14 that high frequency radio, used by aviation, maritime, ham radio, and other emergency bands, was unavailable for up to eight hours on September 6.
Another large class-X flare erupted from the Sun on September 10, disrupting radio communication for three hours. The disruption came as the Caribbean community coped with Category 4 Hurricane Jose's brush with the Leeward Islands and the Bahamas, and Irma's passage over Little Inagua in the Bahamas on September 8 and passage over Cuba on September 9.
"Space weather and Earth weather aligned to heighten an already tense situation in the Caribbean," said Rob Redmon, a space scientist with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information in Boulder, Colorado, and the lead author of the new study. "If I head on over to my amateur radio operator, and they have been transmitting messages for me, whether it be for moving equipment or finding people or just saying I'm okay to somebody else, suddenly I can't do that on this day, and that would be pretty stressful."
Bobby Graves, an experienced ham radio operator who manages the Hurricane Watch Net from his home near Jackson, Mississippi, said the flares caused communications to go down for hours. The Hurricane Watch Net is a group of licensed amateur radio operators trained and organized to provide communications support to the National Hurricane Center during storm emergencies.
"You can hear a solar flare on the air as it's taking place. It's like hearing bacon fry in a pan, it just all of a sudden gets real staticky and then it's like someone just turns the light completely off, you don't hear anything. And that's what happened this last year on two occasions," Graves said. "We had to wait 'til the power of those solar flares weakened so that our signals could actually bounce back off the atmosphere. It was a helpless situation."
The new study detailing the activity on the Sun and its effects on radio communications from September 4-13 serves as an overview to a collection of journal articles in Space Weather investigating the solar activity of September 2017. The collision of Earth and space weather in September delivered a reminder that solar events can happen at any time and may coincide with other emergencies, according to the study's authors.
The information in the study could help scientists improve space weather forecasting and response, according to the study's authors. By understanding how the events on the Sun and Earth unfolded, scientists can better understand how to forecast and prepare for future events, they said.
The new study shows the solar flares affected shortwave radio communications, which were being used by amateurs and professionals in emergency response efforts, although it does not detail how emergency efforts may have been affected by the radio blackout.
"Safeguards put in place to prevent dangerous disruption to GPS from solar events worked," said Mike Hapgood, head of space weather at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom, and a scientist not connected to the new study. "In many ways, we were ready. Some things that could have caused big problems didn't, but shortwave radio is always tricky to use during solar events. But good radio operators are aware of the events and will work hard to overcome problems."
"It's the Sun reminding us that it's there," Hapgood added. "The Sun's been very quiet for the last 10 years. It reminds people not to be complacent."
Unexpected space weather
The 2017 flares were the largest since 2005 and the best documented solar storm to date, observed from a fleet of spacecraft between the Earth and the Sun, in Earth's orbit, on Earth and Mars.
Solar flares release bursts of X-rays from the Sun that travel outwards in all directions at the speed of light. Strong flares can disrupt radio and aviation communications. Space weather forecasters have only minutes to broadcast warnings to spacecraft, aviation and other administrators before affects are felt on Earth.
X-rays from solar flares interact with Earth's atmosphere 50-1000 kilometers (30-600 miles) above the Earth, in a region called the ionosphere. Shortwave radio communication works by bouncing signals off the ionosphere and refracting them back to Earth. When the Sun releases a burst of x-rays, like the flares released in early September, the extra energy delivered to the ionosphere can cause it to absorb high frequency radio signals, like those used by ham radio enthusiasts.
The September 6 and 10 flares were also accompanied by bursts of high energy solar material explosively ejected from the Sun in an expanding bubble much larger than the Earth. Such coronal mass ejections, which arrive within one to three days, have the potential to wreck the most havoc on human technology. The geomagnetic storms generated by coronal mass ejections can damage power grids, confuse GPS systems and damage or disrupt communication with spacecraft, including weather satellites.
NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center issued warnings for potentially severe geomagnetic storms for September 7-9.
An unlucky coincidence
The unexpected burst of space weather coincided with high hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean.
Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record with sustained winds of 287 kilometers per hour (175 miles per hour), hit the tiny island of Barbuda at maximum intensity, razing 95 percent of its buildings. The storm destroyed most homes and much infrastructure on St. Martin, Anguilla, Great Inagua and Crooked Island in the Bahamas, and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. It caused power outages and damage in the Cuban Keys, Turks and Caicos and the southeastern United States. Wind and rain from the storm killed 37 people in the Caribbean and 10 on the U.S. mainland, according the National Hurricane Center.
During the September crisis, the Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net logged many "radiograms" relaying survival notes between anxious family members on the islands and the mainland via ham radio operators, Redmon said.
"Seeing that logbook really brought home to me the human dimension of the storm," Redmon said. "It put the humanity in the science."
Ham radio hobbyists routinely volunteer to disseminate hazard information from the National Weather Service to island communities and ships during major storms, report real-time ground conditions and damages back to the National Hurricane Center, and assist the Red Cross with communications.
Graves, the ham radio operator, said many people trapped by storms appreciate hearing a friendly voice over amateur radio relaying the latest weather update, even if they are not able to reply. During a storm, ham radio volunteers strain to listen for lone stations in the affected area that may still be transmitting, Graves said.
"A lot of folks in the area were asking us: We heard there's Jose coming behind Irma, what's this thing going to do?" he said.
Materials provided by American Geophysical Union . Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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Internet Protocol Terminal
The IPT accepts Internet or serial messaging using various protocols and can easily convert them to different protocols, or send them out as paging messages.
An ideal platform for hospitals, on-site paging applications, or converting legacy systems to modern protocols.
Prism-IPX Systems LLC.
11175 Cicero Dr., Alpharetta, GA 30022
Concern Rising within Amateur Radio Community over WWV-WWVH Shut Down Proposal
ARRL members and Amateur Radio clubs are expressing increased concern over the inclusion of WWV and WWVH on a list of proposed cuts in the White House’s National Institute of Standards and Technology ( NIST ) Fiscal Year 2019 budget request. The proposed cuts also would include the Atomic Clock signal from WWVB used to synchronize specially equipped clocks and watches. Online petitions soliciting signatures include one established by Tom Kelly II, W7NSS, of Portland, Oregon, who would like to see funding for the stations maintained. At this point, the budget item is only a proposal, not a final decision. That would be up to the Congress to decide.
ARRL is among those worried over the possible loss of WWV, WWVH, and WWVB and is suggesting that members of the Amateur Radio community who value the stations for their precise time and frequency signals and other information sign Kelly's petition and/or contact their members of Congress promptly, explaining how the stations are important to them, beyond government and military use.
Kelly’s petition, which may be signed by US residents, notes that WWV is among the oldest radio stations in the US, having been established in 1920. “The station has transmitted the official US time for nearly 100 years, and is an instrumental part in the telecommunications field, ranging from broadcasting to scientific research and education,” his petition says. “Additionally, these stations transmit marine storm warnings from the National Weather Service, GPS satellite health reports, and specific information concerning current solar activity and radio propagation conditions. These broadcasts are an essential resource to the worldwide communications industry.”
NIST’s full Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request to Congress calls for the agency to “discontinue the dissemination of the US time and frequency via the NIST radio stations in Hawaii and Fort Collins, Colorado.” The agency noted, “These radio stations transmit signals that are used to synchronize consumer electronic products like wall clocks, clock radios, and wristwatches, and may be used in other applications like appliances, cameras, and irrigation controllers.” The specific cut, which would come from the NIST Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science, and Measurement Dissemination budget, would amount to $6.3 million.
In its budget request, NIST said that it plans to consolidate and focus work on its efforts in quantum science while maintaining essential core capabilities in measurement science research and measurement dissemination, as well as eliminate “efforts that have been replaced by newer technologies, measurement science research that lies outside NIST’s core mission space, and programs that can no longer be supported due to facility deterioration.”
WWV and WWVH broadcast time and frequency information 24/7, including time announcements, standard time intervals, standard frequencies, UT1 time corrections, a BCD time code, geophysical alerts, and marine storm warnings. Transmissions are broadcast from separate transmitters on 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz. An experimental 25 MHz signal is also currently on the air. WWVB transmits standard Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) signals on 60 kHz to appropriately equipped timekeeping devices.
NIST Public Relations Director Gail Porter told Tom Witherspoon, K4SWL — editor of The SWLing Post , which has been tracking developments — that NIST “is proud of the time and frequency services we provide through our radio stations, and understands that these services are important to many people.”
NIST Director Walter Copan has supported the overall budget request. “This budget request ensures that NIST can continue to work at the frontiers of measurement science by preserving investment in core metrology research,” Copan said. “Through its constitutionally mandated role, NIST performs work that only the government can do, and produces enormous return on US taxpayers’ investment. Translating measurements into technically sound standards across all industries enables effective international trade and US competitiveness.”
Paging Data Receiver PDR-4
The PDR-4 is a multi-function paging data receiver that decodes paging messages and outputs them via the serial port, USB or Ethernet connectors.
Designed for use with Prism-IPX ECHO software Message Logging Software to receive messages and log the information for proof of transmission over the air, and if the data was error free.
Prism-IPX Systems LLC.
11175 Cicero Dr., Alpharetta, GA 30022
Wireless Network Planners
Remote AB Switches
ABX-1 switches are often used at remote transmitter sites to convert from old, outdated and unsupported controllers to the new modern Prism-IPX ipBSC base station controllers. Remotely switch to new controllers with GUI commands.
ABX-3 switches are widely used for enabling or disabling remote equipment and switching I/O connections between redundant messaging systems.
Prism-IPX Systems LLC.
11175 Cicero Dr., Alpharetta, GA 30022
JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY
‘Patchwork’ System Leaves Some Californians Out of Emergency Alerts
Increased wildfire activity in the state has called attention to gaps in the systems that deliver wireless emergency alerts to residents in harm’s way.
BY ANITA CHABRIA, RYAN SABALOW, TARYN LUNA, THE SACRAMENTO BEE / AUGUST 14, 2018
(TNS) — Before the flames appeared, Sandie Freeman thought the sky above her Redding home looked especially beautiful.
The evening was golden hued and still; pretty enough that she took a picture. Minutes later, a light wind picked up and leaves from her oak tree began falling like rain, she said.
It was the only warning she received that something was amiss.
The breeze turned into heavy gusts, then a roar that sounded “like a locomotive in your front yard,” she said. The Carr Fire shot up behind the house across the street, leaving her and her husband mere minutes to grab their dogs and make a dash for the road, only to find a line of cars stuck in a slow-motion crawl to safety.
A family of deer with three fawns came up to her car bumper. A long-time animal rescuer, she tried to think of a way to save them. But she didn’t know if she was even going to save herself.
“I honestly thought the fire was going to come up over us,” she said.
Before the Carr Fire gutted the western edge of Redding, causing eight deaths and leveling more than a thousand homes, local emergency services in the Northern California region sent out 59 “Code Red” evacuation warnings to various areas, including at least three aimed at pinging 31,979 nearby cell phones with urgent alerts, according to the Shasta Area Safety Communications Agency.
Some of those critical messages missed people living in the Redding neighborhoods hit first as fire blew across the Sacramento River on July 26 — a fatal lack of effective communication that is disturbingly common during California disasters.
While multiple systems exist for governments to warn people in urgent times — including broadcast TV, radio and Internet messages — none is instantaneous and all are hit-or-miss in whom they reach and when they reach them. It is a reality at odds with what many people expect during a disaster.
“There is a huge gap between what the public thinks the government is going to provide in terms of warnings and notifications, and what the government is capable of providing,” said Dianna Bryant, director of the Institute for Rural Emergency Management at the University of Central Missouri.
This is especially true of cell phone alerts that appear like text messages. These Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are increasingly one of the most common methods of warning those in danger, but they can be unreliable, according to researchers and emergency professionals.
Technological barriers mean wireless carriers can’t always get them to the right audience, and emergency communicators may lack standardized training and protocols on how to use them. There is also a lack of testing, leaving officials to guess how quickly and effectively the messages can be distributed.
In multiple instances in recent California disasters, including the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties last year and mudslides near Santa Barbara earlier this year, some warnings didn’t arrive in time to be useful, or didn’t arrive at all.
“Right now we are letting down Californians because we have a patchwork of emergency alert systems,” said state senator Mike McGuire, who represents a Northern California district spanning from Sonoma to the Oregon border. His territory in recent years has been devastated by dozens of wildfires and currently is under siege from the Mendocino Complex fires, the largest wildfire in state history.
“This is simply unacceptable,” McGuire said. “This state has been caught flat-footed. The era of mega-wildland fires is here, and we have to make sure residents are prepared to keep themselves safe.”
On Harlan Drive in Redding, hit hard by the Carr Fire, many residents interviewed said their first inkling of trouble was the sight of flames on a nearby hill and frantic knocks on front doors from neighbors and police. Only one resident said she received a text alert, which arrived after fire had already reached the area.
Steve and Sandy Harp, who live on the east end of Harlan at the far end of the street from where the fire crossed the river into the city, care for an adult daughter who is in a vegetative state after a fight with anorexia. Steve Harp said they received no alerts and didn’t know there was danger until he went outside to find the street jammed with cars of neighbors trying to escape.
“Did you get a mandatory evacuation?” he began asking. No, but it’s not worth it to wait, his neighbors said.
Minutes later, with flames visible and the power out, the couple grabbed diapers and medications from the dark rooms of their ranch home before putting their daughter in their van without time to buckle her in, he said.
A hundred yards down Harlan from the Harps, Mike Horan’s emergency alert was the sound of a helicopter above his house. He came out to his front yard and within the time for a “what’s happening” conversation with his neighbor, saw flames tear over a nearby hill. He ran inside for the keys to his pickup and left with nothing, he said.
Almost directly across from the burning ridge, Sandy and Tony Trujillo were watching fire coverage on the television but said nothing in the broadcast mentioned their own danger and no message reached her phone. A police officer “came running” to their door, yelling, “‘You have to evacuate now. Now,’” said Sandy Trujillo. She and her husband grabbed some clothing and they fled.
By then, the two-lane street was at a near standstill from traffic, and the 140-mile-per-hour winds of the fire engulfed Sandy Trujillo in her just-bought Kia Stinger. She lost sight of her husband in his truck as trash bins swirled through the air, chimneys were ripped off houses and chunks of burning embers thudded onto her windshield. She thought they were going to die, but eventually they made it off the street and into the flat areas where the fire had not reached.
“There was no order (to evacuate) or anything,” said Ashley Crumb, who escaped from a cul-de-sac off Harlan with her two daughters before her house was destroyed. “It was just here.”
THE HUMAN FACTOR
Wireless Emergency Alerts are administered nationally by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with local governments signing up to take part. It’s not the same system that does reverse 911 calls, which requires individuals to opt in to receive alerts. The WEA system is meant to blanket cell phones in a given area with texts.
WEA carries the expectation that those creating the messages know how and when to use them. But McGuire and others said uniform training may be lacking across the state. It’s also a problem across the country.
“Awareness and understanding of how WEA works is still generally low,” said Elizabeth Petrun Sayers, a social scientist with the RAND Corp. who studies emergency communications. She pointed out that WEA missives can be only 90 characters long, and pushing people to quick action in a short sentence requires understanding what messages work in an emergency.
The WEA system also is not quick enough when minutes matter, experts said — another training factor that may lead some agencies to wait too long before issuing them. After a message is created locally, it’s sent to a FEMA processing center in Virginia for verification. From there, it’s distributed to wireless service providers. They in turn have to transmit it back to the relevant cell towers and satellites.
The process can take somewhere between 10 and 12 minutes, and sometimes longer, said Sayers and others. But few tests have been done on the system, making it hard to know how long messages can take under different circumstances and what prevents them from being delivered in some cases.
“The exact timing of this whole process is not well known,” Sayers said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also recommends regular drilling on the system and creating a “decision tree for originating an alert, the specific approvers who authorize the alert, and time considerations or maximums for completing the process relative to the anticipation, onset, or conclusion of” an emergency. Places with small law enforcement departments, many already stretched thin by budget cuts, may not have the resources or time for ongoing training on a system that is rarely used, and communication duties can be shared among a variety of people with other responsibilities.
In Redding, Sheriff Tom Bosenko, who also oversees the county’s Office of Emergency Services, said his department conducts general annual emergency trainings, but no set person on his staff handles evacuation orders. He said the designated person can change day to day in a critical situation such as a fire, or even minute to minute.
“It could be, ‘tag, you’re it’ today,” Bosenko said.
Bosenko said the Carr Fire was unpredictable and fast moving, leaving emergency responders little time to issue evacuation orders — regardless of what method was used. Bosenko said his agency relies on Cal Fire to help determine the timing of evacuations.
Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean said that if the fire had behaved in a predictable fashion, evacuations would have been more orderly. Instead, he said, the fire exploded and took everyone by surprise.
“Everything just happened so quickly,” he said. “And I’m not trying to gloss over this. I’ve seen one other time (in 21 years as a firefighter) when there was a fire tornado like this. ... It definitely roared through there with a vengeance.”
Despite the ferocity of the fire, the lack of advance notice has left some residents frustrated.
Donald Kewley, a family friend of Melody Bledsoe’s, who died in the fire with her two grandchildren , said he believed evacuation orders could have been given sooner when it became clear the fire was moving toward the city limits. He said he watched the fire approach the river for hours from the roof of his house a few miles from the Bledsoe property before it jumped across, but he never received an alert of any type. He decided to leave when the smoke got so bad a baby woodpecker fell out of the sky at his feet.
“By six o’clock (when the fire was close), the fact that anyone was out there was just not fair,” Kewley said.
Freeman, who lives three houses down from the Bledsoe home and up the hill from Harlan Drive, said she also didn’t receive an alert and thinks she should have. She thinks authorities may have been tentative about issuing warnings. Earlier in the day, an erroneous evacuation order had been sent out, she said. She believes there may have been a hesitancy to make another mistake.
“I think they really waited too long because they were afraid of making a bad call,” Freeman said.
Wireless Emergency Alerts also are hampered by outdated technology. Not all wireless carriers can send them, and not all phones are set to receive them.
In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules meant to upgrade the system by allowing for longer messages and requiring cell phone carriers to provide the infrastructure to support extra information like embedded links in the alert, among other changes. Some critics of the system said the industry has been too slow to make improvements.
“Some of it is there is no financial benefits,” said Bryant, the rural emergency management expert.
Wireless trade group Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association disputes carriers aren’t working to better WEAs.
“The wireless industry works hard to continuously enhance this proven life-saving tool, most recently supporting the ability to embed links to public safety websites,” Matt Gerst, a regulatory affairs executive with CTIA, said in a statement.
The FCC rules also require participating wireless providers to make the alerts more geographically targeted, giving emergency communicators the ability to send alerts to only those in an affected area. When the system first came online in 2012, alerts could only be delivered to entire counties, forcing emergency communicators to choose between sending broad messages to people who weren’t in danger and potentially causing unnecessary evacuations or fear — or not sending a message at all.
Last November, FCC rules narrowed the alerts to a geographic area that “best approximates” the zone in crisis. But that is still imprecise. The alerts are sent to specific cell towers, which then broadcast them out to any phone in a given radius, again likely including people not in immediate danger and potentially causing traffic jams, panic or leaving some residents too fatigued to react from unnecessary alerts.
McGuire said the geographic rules played a part in the 2017 Santa Rosa fires; emergency communicators were unaware of the then-new ability to broadcast to smaller areas and decided against sending one.
“There was concern based off of old data that if they were to deploy on the WEA system, the alert would go out countywide,” McGuire said.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said the location issue also caused problems in Santa Barbara in January when flash floods and mudslides followed wildfires. Jackson said wide-spread alerts sent to unaffected areas eventually made some residents stop heeding them altogether.
“We need to be serious about this because what happened in the debris flow in my district is people were tired of evacuating for no reason and they didn’t take it seriously,” she said.
Even with the narrower targeting now in effect, emergency communicators worry too many people still receive unnecessary alerts. By November 2019, the FCC will require wireless providers to improve location accuracy further, pinpointing phones within one-tenth of a mile of the emergency. Until then, the problems will persist.
“That’s one of the reasons that system is rarely used,” said James Divis, director of the Shasta Area Safety Communications Agency, which sends out alerts in that county. “No matter what the message, people hear ‘evacuate’ and react, which sometimes compounds the issue when it’s going out in a 360-degree circle for a mile or more.”
Both McGuire and Jackson have legislation pending that would address problems with emergency communications in California. Gov. Jerry Brown said last week he would consider fixes to the system.
Jackson’s bill would end the requirement that consumers opt-in to reverse 911 calls, allowing those to be sent out to all targeted cell phones.
McGuire’s bill would increase training around alerts and push them out over more mediums, including television, radio and eventually online platforms like social media.
Legislation is also moving forward on the federal level, prompted by an accidental and false warning of an incoming missile in Hawaii in January, that would put stricter training and protocols in place for FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, which includes the WEA system.
With California’s fire season expected to exceed 200 days this year, both Jackson and McGuire said better state oversight of emergency communications is vital.
More than a million homes in California now are in “very high fire hazard severity” zones and another 3.6 million are in residential borderlands where urban areas abut high-fuel forests and chaparral-covered scrub lands, putting one in three California homes in a fire-risk zone.
“It’s a real conundrum in terms of where people want to live and how to educate the public about the risk they face,” said Bryant, the rural emergency expert. “The public is not (always) going to be notified by the government. That is not a realistic option. ... The burden is on the individual, that you individually are going to have to have some access to information. You are going to have to seek out warnings.”
©2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
FCC Chairman Gets a New Perspective on Towers
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai now has tower-climbing cred. He climbed all the way up a telecommunications tower near De Beque, Colorado yesterday, wearing the appropriate safety gear. The more than 130-foot self-support tower is owned by SBA Communications . The site is off I-70, and on the travel route between Aspen and Grand Junction, according to the National Association of Tower Erectors, which helped organize the activity. Pai Tweeted the structure “felt like Everest.”
Before his ascent, Pai received safety instruction and fall protection equipment from EasTex Tower . They discussed the work they do each day, building, maintaining and deploying communications tower sites and associated wireless infrastructure. Their tower technicians accompanied the Chairman on his climb and EasTex safety and SBA personnel were on-hand to help. EasTex Tower is a NATE Star Initiative participating company. The STAR Initiative site safety audits and program documentation requirements have enabled participants to proactively identify and correct hundreds of job site hazards and deficiencies since the program’s inception, according to NATE.
EasTex Tower President/CEO Jim Miller, who’s also Vice Chair of the NATE Board, applauded Pai’s initiative to get out in the field and “experience first-hand the safe work practices, diverse skill sets, knowledge base and work-ethic that are required of today’s tower technicians to conduct safe and successful wireless deployments.”
“The Chairman’s site visit served to reinforce the prominent role communications tower owners, contractors and technicians continue to play in enabling connectivity to all sectors of our diverse economy,” stated David Sams, Vice President of Risk Management at SBA Communications. He’s also Chairman of the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program.
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) recently asked Pai when he was going to climb a tower, noting that his colleague, Commissioner Brendan Carr, has now scaled two structures, Inside Towers reported. Pai committed to climbing a small tower, acknowledging Carr’s youth and fitness.
The Chairman is visiting Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah this week to highlight how closing the digital divide can create jobs and increase digital opportunity.
|Source:||Inside Towers newsletter||Courtesy of the editor of Inside Towers.|
Selected portions [sometimes more — sometimes less] of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update and/or the BloostonLaw Private Users Update — newsletters from the Law Offices of Blooston, Mordkofsky, Dickens, Duffy & Prendergast, LLP — are reproduced in this section of The Wireless Messaging News with kind permission from the firm. The firm's contact information is included at the end of this section of the newsletter.
Form 477 Due September 4
Normally due September 1, this year’s filing falls on a federal holiday, pushing the deadline back to the next business day. FCC Form 477 collects information about broadband connections to end-user locations, wired and wireless local telephone services, and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Territories and possessions. Data obtained from this form will be used to describe the deployment of broadband infrastructure and competition to provide local telecommunications services. Four types of entities must file this form: (1) facilities-based providers of broadband connections to end user locations; (2) providers of wired or fixed wireless local telephone services; (3) providers of interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service; and (4) providers of mobile telephony services.
Carriers with questions about Form 477, including whether and how they have to file, should contact the firm for more information.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, Mary Sisak, and Sal Taillefer.
Year End Reminder: Ownership Changes May Require FCC Approval
We want to remind our clients that many types of reorganizations, estate planning and tax savings activities and other transactions require prior FCC approval; and given the frequent need to implement such transactions by the end of the year, companies engaging in such transactions should immediately determine whether they must file an application for FCC approval, and obtain a grant, before closing on a year-end deal. Transactions generally requiring prior FCC approval include (but are not limited to):
Fortunately, transactions involving many types of licenses can often be approved on an expedited basis. But this is not always the case, especially if bidding credits and/or commercial wireless spectrum licenses are involved. Also, in some instances Section 214 authority may be required, especially in the case of wireline and other telephony services. Clients planning year-end transactions should contact us as soon as possible to determine if FCC approval is needed.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and John Prendergast.
FCC Announces Effective Date of Dialing Parity/Number Portability Database Query Rules
On August 21, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing that the modified requirements for conducting queries of the number portability database and extended forbearance from toll inter-exchange dialing parity rules to competitive local exchange carriers, which the FCC adopted in July, will be effective September 19.
Specifically, the following provisions will take effect:
The Report and Order eliminated the last vestiges of the “dialing parity” rule, which was intended to ensure that consumers could choose and access a stand-alone long-distance provider without dialing extra digits. However, the FCC found that stand-alone long-distance service is disappearing with the rise of all-distance plans, VoIP and wireless, and the FCC in 2015 eliminated the rule for most local providers. It also eased the “N-1” rule that requires the next-to-last carrier in a call – typically the long-distance provider – to query the number portability database. The adopted modification allows other carriers in the chain to query the database.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, Mary Sisak, and Sal Taillefer.
FCC Extends Mobility Fund Phase II Challenge Window to November
On August 21, the FCC released an Order, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Memorandum Opinion and Order in which it extended deadline for the close of the Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II) challenge window by an additional 90 days. Accordingly, challengers will have until November 26, 2018, to submit speed test data in support of a challenge. In light of the extension, the FCC also proposed to make modifications to the speed test data specifications regarding the relevant time-frames for valid speed tests. The comment window is not yet established but will be short, with comments due 10 days after Federal Register publication, and replies due five days after that.
In order to ensure that the extension of the challenge filing deadline does not inadvertently create hardships for those challengers that have already conducted speed tests, and to provide similar testing parameters for both the challengers and the challenged parties, the FCC proposes to accept speed test data in support of challenges collected at any time on or after February 27, 2018. The FCC also proposed to make a corresponding change to afford respondents at least the same amount of time as challengers to collect data. Accordingly, respondents would have at least nine months to collect speed test data of their own network, and respondent speed tests collected on or after April 29, 2018, would be considered valid.
BloostonLaw Contacts: John Prendergast and Cary Mitchell.
Law & Regulation
Petitioners’ Briefs Filed in Net Neutrality Appeal
On August 20, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood filed a new brief in the lawsuit to block the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality, urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to vacate and reverse the FCC’s order. As we reported in a previous edition of the BloostonLaw Telecom Update, Attorney General Underwood leads a coalition of 23 Attorneys General in the lawsuit, which was filed at the beginning of the year.
According to Reuters , the States argue the FCC’s order will harm consumers, and could harm public safety, citing electrical grids as an example. They argue “the absence of open Internet rules jeopardizes the ability to reduce load in times of extreme energy grid stress. Consequently, the order threatens the reliability of the electric grid.” The states also suggested the FCC failed to identify any “valid authority” for preempting state and local laws that would protect net neutrality, and failed to offer a “meaningful defense of its decision to uncritically accept industry promises that are untethered to any enforcement mechanism.”
A coalition of tech companies led by Mozilla Corporation, maker of the popular Firefox browser, also filed, arguing that the FCC violated the statutory definitions of “telecommunications” and “information service” on their face when they reclassified broadband Internet access service as an information service. “On the FCC’s theory, BIAS becomes an information service, not because it is bundled with information services as part of a unified “offer” itself, but because it connects to services and content provided by Hulu, Skype, Snapchat and millions of others.”
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens, Gerry Duffy, and John Prendergast.
Court of Appeals Denies Requests to Stay Wireless Siting Order
On August 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied motions to stay the March 2018 Second Report and Order that amended and adopted new rules to streamline the wireless infrastructure siting review process under NHPA and NEPA. According to the court, the petitioners have not satisfied the requirements for a stay pending court review.
In a statement, Commissioner Carr said, “[The] court decision is good news for U.S. leadership on 5G. The FCC’s common-sense reforms to our wireless siting rules help ensure we’re 5G Ready, and they’re already accelerating the buildout of next-gen networks. I look forward to continuing our efforts to bring more broadband to more Americans.”
BloostonLaw Contacts: John Prendergast and Cary Mitchell.
Verizon Throttles Firefighters’ Data … During a Fire Emergency
Verizon Wireless recently throttled a fire department’s use of data during the ongoing Mendocino Complex Fire (the largest in California history), even though the County had selected a government contract with Verizon that provided unlimited data.
In an addendum to a brief filed by 22 state attorneys general (see the article above for more), the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission, County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden stated that “[t]he Internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires which require the rapid deployment and organization of thousands of personnel and hundreds of fire engines, aircraft, and bulldozers.” Chief Bowden stated that “[t]his throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services.
Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire's ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services.” During active fire operations, it was discovered that the data connection to the fire department’s mobile command vehicle was being throttled by Verizon and that data rates had been reduced to 1/200 or less of the previous speeds. As a result, Bowden stated that the throttled speeds severely hampered the capabilities of the mobile command vehicle — which is set up with computers and other technology to monitor the progress of a major incident. Despite being notified of that data speeds had been throttled and that it was adversely impacting the fire department’s ability to fight this wild fire, Verizon refused to lift the throttling for “public safety purposes.” Bowden stated that while Verizon admitted to the throttling, it would not lift it until the fire department contacted the department that handles billing and switched to a new plan – at more than double the cost. Bowden pointed out that this harmed public safety and that personnel were forced to use other agencies’ Internet access or personal cell phones in order to function.
While Verizon has admitted to the throttling, it asserts that this is not a Net Neutrality issue or related to the ongoing court proceeding. Rather, Verizon chalks this up to an error by its customer service department, since Verizon claims that has “a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations. . . . In this situation, [Verizon] should have lifted the speed restriction when [the fire department] reached out to us.”
AUGUST 29: COPYRIGHT STATEMENT OF ACCOUNTS . The Copyright Statement of Accounts form plus royalty payment for the first half of calendar year 2018 is due to be filed August 29 at the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office by cable TV service providers.
BloostonLaw Contact: Gerry Duffy.
SEPTEMBER 4: FCC FORM 477, LOCAL COMPETITION AND BROADBAND REPORTING FORM. Normally due September 1, this year’s filing falls on a federal holiday, pushing the deadline back to the next business day. Three types of entities must file this form.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Ben Dickens and Gerry Duffy.
OCTOBER 1: FCC FORM 396-C, MVPD EEO PROGRAM REPORTING FORM. Each year on September 30, multi-channel video program distributors (“MVPDs”) must file with the FCC an FCC Form 396-C, Multi-Channel Video Programming Distributor EEO Program Annual Report, for employment units with six or more full-time employees. Because September 30 falls on a Sunday this year, the filing will be due the following business day on October 1. Users must access the FCC’s electronic filing system via the Internet in order to submit the form; it will not be accepted if filed on paper unless accompanied by an appropriate request for waiver of the electronic filing requirement. Certain MVPDs also will be required to complete portions of the Supplemental Investigation Sheet (“SIS”) located at the end of the Form. These MVPDs are specifically identified in a Public Notice each year by the FCC.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Gerry Duffy and Sal Taillefer.
OCTOBER 15: 911 RELIABILITY CERTIFICATION. Covered 911 Service Providers, which are defined as entities that “[p]rovide 911, E911, or NG911 capabilities such as call routing, automatic location information (ALI), automatic number identification (ANI), or the functional equivalent of those capabilities, directly to a public safety answering point (PSAP), statewide default answering point, or appropriate local emergency authority,” or that “[o]perate one or more central offices that directly serve a PSAP,” are required certify that they have taken reasonable measures to provide reliable 911 service with respect to three substantive requirements: (i) 911 circuit diversity; (ii) central office backup power; and (iii) diverse network monitoring by October 15. Certifications must be made through the FCC’s portal.
BloostonLaw Contacts: Mary Sisak and Sal Taillefer.
Messaging | 2018-08-22
Source: The Critical Communications Review | Gert Jan Wolf editor
ASTRID Validates New Swissphone Pager
The s.PAGE X05 is a basic model with the functional design of the high-end s.QUAD X35, a high-resolution display for up to 200 characters per message, intuitive operation and a loudness of over 95 dB (AT). It resists without problem to a fall of a height of two meters.
Unlike the reference model, the more powerful s.QUAD X35, which offers more than 64 addresses and selection profiles in addition to the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) interface, the entry-level model s.PAGE X05 has the basic functions of a Swissphone pager with 8 addresses in total.
S.PAGE X05 is compatible with all s.QUAD accessories such as chargers, programming interfaces and leather covers. It can be powered by standard AA alkaline rechargeable batteries.
The Critical Communications Review
|THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK|
“Parents and schools should place great emphasis on the idea that it is all right to be different. Racism and all the other 'isms' grow from primitive tribalism, the instinctive hostility against those of another tribe, race, religion, nationality, class or whatever. You are a lucky child if your parents taught you to accept diversity.”
— Roger Ebert
|VIDEO OF THE WEEK|
|Source:||YouTube||To learn more about the work of the PFC Foundation, visit http://www.playingforchange.org|
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