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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.
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.
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(Images are typical units, not actual photos of items offered for sale here.)
SOLAR FLARES AND RADIO COMMUNICATIONS — HOW PRECARIOUS ARE OUR ELECTRONICS?
by: Al Williams
On November 8th, 2020 the Sun exploded. Well, that’s a bit dramatic (it explodes a lot) — but a particularly large sunspot named AR2781 produced a C5-class solar flare which is a medium-sized explosion even for the Sun. Flares range from A, B, C, M, and X with a zero to nine scale in each category (or even higher for giant X flares). So a C5 is just about dead center of the scale. You might not have noticed, but if you lived in Australia or around the Indian Ocean and you were using radio frequencies below 10 MHz, you would have noticed since the flare caused a 20-minute-long radio blackout at those frequencies.
According to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the sunspot has the energy to produce M-class flares which are an order of magnitude more powerful. NOAA also has a scale for radio disruptions ranging from R1 (an M1 flare) to R5 (an X20 flare). The sunspot in question is facing Earth for the moment, so any new flares will cause more problems. That led us to ask ourselves: What if there were a major radio disruption?
SOL VERSUS IONOSPHERIC PROPAGATION
This happens more often than you might think. In October, AR2775 set off two C flares and while plasma from the flare didn’t hit Earth, UV radiation caused a brief radio outage over South America. The X-ray and UV radiation travel at the same speed as light, so by the time we see a flare, it is too late to do anything about it, even if we could.
The effects are mostly related to the propagation of radio waves via the ionosphere. In the 1700s, who would care? In the mid 20th century, though, lots of things relied on this property of high-frequency radio waves. Today, it might not matter nearly as much.
If you own a shortwave radio, you may have noticed there isn’t as much to listen to broadcast-wise as there was decades ago. Broadcasters that want to reach an international audience use the Internet to do that now unless they are targeting a part of the world where Internet is rare or restricted. Even the AM radio band isn’t the mainstay it used to be. Many people listen to FM (which propagates differently), satellite radio, or they stream audio from the Internet. Sure, that uses radio, but not ionosphere propagation.
Perhaps the biggest commercial users of the radio bands now are transoceanic aviation and ships at sea, but even then, many of those uses are now using satellites and much higher frequencies. Ham radio operators are still there, of course, as are some time and frequency standard stations like WWV. While there were some radio frequency navigation systems like LORAN and Gee, these are nearly all gone in favor of GPS.
Would a disruption of these services be a big deal? Probably not, although if you are on a plane or at sea, you might get a little tense. Then again, it just depends on how important that radio device is to you and how many alternatives you have.
Then again, truly big events — so-called Carrington events — can affect a lot of electronics directly. The insurance industry thinks it could run up to $2.6 trillion in damages. Worried? Maybe keep an eye on the space weather channel. If you are interested in what the United States government would do if we had another Carrington-level event, they have it all written out. Honestly, though, the plan seems to be, in summary, do better forecasts and develop new technology. FEMA has an info-graphic that asserts that a solar flare could affect your toilet, although it seems like it would take quite a while for that to happen. It is a bit more interesting to read their excellent but unreleased memo on the topic. The maps on page 16 and 17 showing where the power grid is vulnerable to geomagnetic storms is particularly interesting.
Get an On-Screen Windows Key Shortcut Guide on Windows 10
BENJ EDWARDS @benjedwards
Windows 10 features a rich collection of Windows key shortcuts that can make using a PC speedy fast—if you remember them. Luckily, thanks to PowerToys, you can quickly see a convenient pop-up guide to many of the most useful ones. Here’s how to use it.
The Secret Is Microsoft PowerToys
With a PowerToys module called Shortcut Guide, you can hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and see an on-screen overlay that shows you partially context-aware windows key shortcuts. You can use it as a reference whenever you forget some major shortcuts.
To get this handy pop-up shortcut guide, you’ll first need to install PowerToys, a collection of useful Windows 10 utilities from Microsoft. You can download it for free from Github.
Once you have PowerToys installed, run PowerToys Setup and click “Shortcut Guide” in the sidebar. Then make sure that “Enable Shortcut Guide” is turned “On.”
This is optional, but while you’re in PowerToys Settings, you can change the Shortcut Guide’s opacity, whether it appears in dark or light coloration, and the length of time you have to hold down the Windows key before you see the guide.
Once you’re satisfied, close PowerToys Settings. The Shortcut Guide will still be active in the background. Any time you need a handy reference for Windows Key commands, just hold down the Windows key for roughly a second, and it will pop up.
Here are some of the shortcuts shown when you bring up Shortcut Guide, conveniently listed in alphabetical order:
Bonus Windows Key Shortcuts
There are also listings that reference virtual desktop Windows key commands, how to snap windows to portions of the screen with the keyboard, and more. Overall, there are at least 30 essential Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts that most users would find useful, and this guide covers most of them.
The coolest thing of all is that, with the Shortcut Guide, recalling those shortcuts is now just a keypress away if you ever forget. Have fun exploring and learning more powerful ways to use Windows 10.
|Source:||How To Geek|
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.
11175 Cicero Dr., Alpharetta, GA 30022
The Wireless Messaging News
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They spent 12 years solving a puzzle. It yielded the first COVID-19 vaccines.
Long before anyone knew of SARS-CoV-2, a small band of government and university scientists uncovered a prototypical key that unlocked life-saving immunizations.
JASON MCLELLAN WAS wandering around a ski shop of Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort, waiting for his new snowboarding boots to be heat-molded to his size-nine feet, when his smartphone rang. It was Barney Graham, deputy director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center.
Two days earlier, the World Health Organization had announced that several unidentified pneumonia-like cases had been reported in Wuhan, China. People were fatigued and feverish, with dry coughs and headaches. These symptoms weren’t unusual for early January, but some people were short of breath, and a few felt like they’d been hit by a train.
Graham told McLellan, a structural virologist at the University of Texas at Austin, that the ailment appeared to be a beta-coronavirus, meaning it fell into the genus of viruses that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). He asked McLellan: “Are you ready to get back in the saddle?”
This duo was part of a small band of government and university scientists who had spent more than a decade cracking a complex viral puzzle—and their skills were needed once more. Their years of sleuthing and innovating ultimately contributed a microscopic but critical piece to the most promising candidates for COVID-19 vaccines. Two already authorized in the U.S. use their discovery, as do at least two other top contenders.
Their solution? Tweaking a shape-shifting protein to make it sit still.
Stabilizing the trickster
By the time McLellan landed in 2008 at the Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland as an early-career researcher, Graham had been working on a little known but highly contagious disease caused by respiratory syncytial virus for more than 20 years. Both the cold-causing RSV and the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, feature genomes made of RNA. Although the two sit on distant branches of the evolutionary tree, they share a common physical trait that would yield the first key to McLellan and Graham's journey toward beating COVID-19.
Attempts to design an RSV vaccine had been riddled with hiccups since 1966 when a clinical trial inadvertently enhanced the illness in volunteers—and even caused the death of two infants. Graham wanted to understand why this drug candidate had failed so terribly.
Similar frustrations hovered around another germ under study at the Vaccine Research Center: HIV. McLellan had arrived at the center to train with Peter Kwong, a structural biologist tinkering with the structures of viral proteins in the hopes of engineering a vaccine that would stop AIDS. HIV rapidly mutates, so the researchers tried several structural biology tricks to develop vaccine candidates but ultimately failed to create one that elicited an immune response.
“You didn’t know whether it was because the virus was too good or the ideas were bad,” McLellan says.
In what the pair now refers to as a happy accident, Graham and McLellan were working near one another on the center’s second floor. Kwong’s fourth-floor lab was too crowded for McLellan, so he set up a workspace within earshot of Graham, and they became friends. “It didn't take long for him to come to me and say, I’d like to work on something other than HIV,” Graham recalls.
Past unsuccessful attempts to neutralize RSV with a vaccine had focused on the virus’s class 1 fusion protein, or F protein. In the wild, this protein is a shapeshifter, “like a Transformer toy,” Graham says. It can look one way before the RSV virus infects and enters a cell, and another way after the virus multiplies and escapes. These Jekyll-and-Hyde identities are known as the “prefusion” and “postfusion” states, and all vaccine attempts up until this point had focused on the latter.
To make matters trickier, the prefusion form is extremely unstable: It can irreversibly and spontaneously snap to its other state in an instant. Graham and McLellan hypothesized that they might create a more successful RSV vaccine if they could lock in the prefusion state. But no one knew what the prefusion protein looked like; they just knew it was a trickster.
So, McLellan used x-ray crystallography—a technique that uses x-ray beams to determine the structure of proteins—to capture an image of the prefusion protein for the first time. Some researchers would later say the prefusion F protein looked like a lollipop. McLellan thought it looked like a Nerf football. “You’re one of the first people in the world to see what this protein looks like,” he says. “It’s pretty cool.”
By examining the protein at this atomic level, McLellan found a way to bioengineer it to take away its shape-shifting power. In other words, he stabilized it.
When Graham tested this new molecule in animals, it acted as an antigen and stimulated the immune system to fight disease. It had 50 times more neutralizing power against RSV than anything he had tested before. On the flip side, they also showed a postfusion version of the protein takes on an identity that can bypass the immune system’s defenses.
Their accomplishment won runner-up recognition in Science’s 2013 Breakthrough of the Year, and their work carved the way for new RSV vaccines that are showing great promise, Graham says.
“The work of Jason and Barney and others revolutionized the field,” says Ruth Karron, a professor of international health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the director of the Center for Immunization Research and the Johns Hopkins Vaccine Initiative.
The lucky last step
Five years ago, a postdoctoral fellow in Graham's laboratory returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia with a respiratory infection. Everyone assumed the fellow had Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), caused by a dangerous coronavirus that had arisen in the country two years earlier.
That emergence happened around the same time that McLellan launched his own lab at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. McLellan and Graham had been trying the prefusion trick on MERS, given that coronaviruses feature spike proteins that are also shapeshifters and are used to break into our cells. When Graham's lab tested the postdoc's nasal secretions, they found a related germ—and an opportunity that would pave their final steps toward a COVID-19 vaccine.
The postdoc had an older coronavirus: HKU1, a mild cold-causing bug that was discovered in 2005. The Graham-McLellan partnership decided to pivot their focus to HKU1 because MERS required extra safety precautions, and their research on the latter had hit a wall. To capture a 3D picture of HKU1, McLellan would need a different method for taking atomic-level pictures. X-ray crystallography saturates proteins in a salt bath solution until they form crystals akin to rock candy. But due to their physical nature, coronaviruses don’t crystalize well. Cryogenic electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, is a technique that allows scientists to view proteins frozen in a thin layer of ice, bypassing the need for crystallization.
In 2015, structural biologist Andrew Ward was one of the leading cryo-EM experts in the U.S., so McLellan emailed his lab at Scripps Research in San Diego to ask if he had any interest in studying coronaviruses. Coincidentally, Ward had a postdoctoral fellow with a hankering to examine coronaviruses. They ultimately took thousands of images of HKU1 proteins.
McLellan used this 3D readout of HKU1 to make educated guesses at how to stabilize the spike proteins from its viral cousins, MERS and SARS. McLellan and Nianshuang Wang, his postdoctoral fellow, discovered that by adding two prolines—rigid amino acids—to MERS’s spike protein, they could prevent it from changing shape.
They called the tweak a 2P mutation and filed a patent for it in 2017. Around the same time, Graham’s lab partnered with biotech company Moderna to design an experimental mRNA vaccine for MERS. The two had worked together a year prior on a similar but separate project to combat the Zika virus—as part of a new movement for more comprehensive preparations against global outbreaks. The concept hinged on the detailed study of a prototypical member of a viral family—such as HKU1 or MERS—to build defenses against all future troublemakers from the same family like SARS-CoV-2.
Ultimately, experiments in animal models showed the MERS vaccine was successful, says Kizzmekia Corbett, a postdoctoral research fellow in Graham’s laboratory, and created a “portfolio of data” that the scientists knew they could apply to the new coronavirus.
The road to salvation
On January 6, 2020, just minutes after he took that phone call at the ski shop, McLellan messaged Wang and Daniel Wrapp, a graduate student, on WhatsApp.
“Barney is going to try and get the coronavirus sequence out of Wuhan, China,” McLellan wrote to them. “He wants to rush a structure and vaccine. You game?”
The two labs worked in concert with one another, determining the virus’s structure in about two weeks and using the 2P mutation to stabilize its proteins. Graham’s lab partnered with Moderna, and Corbett designed and executed clinical assessments to immunize mice with an mRNA vaccine made with the modified proteins starting in February. “When we got the first results from the mice, and they had a great antibody response, it was so gratifying,” Corbett says. By March 4, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had greenlit the Moderna vaccine for human trials.
At about the same time, Pfizer and BioNTech spoke with Graham about using the 2P mutation in their vaccine. Because their work was patented and widely published, other drugmakers—including Novavax and Johnson & Johnson—also based their candidates on the design. Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine would become the first approved in the U.S. after it showed an impressive 95-percent efficacy rate. Moderna’s vaccine was 94-percent effective.
Further tests would be needed to judge how much the 2P mutation contributes to the overall efficacies of the frontrunner vaccines. Phil Dormitzer, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer and vice president of viral vaccines, says it’s “absolutely clear” that stabilizing prefusion proteins led to remarkable advances with potential RSV vaccines. “I’m very glad we picked those mutations to move forward,” he says, referring to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Graham doesn’t quite know how to answer when asked how it feels to have decades’ worth of work contribute to rapidly developed vaccines that could save hundreds of thousands of lives amid a harrowing global pandemic. “That's not the way we usually think about it,” he says. “I don’t think you really think that much about your feelings until you get to certain milestones.”
But the question—posed using the phrase “such a time as this”—makes Graham hearken back to the biblical tale of Esther, a queen who was made a royal for “such a time as this.”
“I have kind of felt like my whole career has been lining up for ‘such a time as this,’” Graham says.
|PRISM IPX Systems|
Providing Expert Support and Service Contracts for all Glenayre Paging Systems.
The GL3000 is the most prolific paging system in the world and Easy Solutions gladly welcomes you to join us in providing reliable support to the paging industry for many more decades in the future.
Easy Solutions provides cost effective computer and wireless solutions at affordable prices. We can help in most any situation with your communications systems. We have many years of experience and a vast network of resources to support the industry, your system and an ever changing completive landscape.
Please see our web site for exciting solutions designed specifically for the Wireless Industry. We also maintain a diagnostic lab and provide important repair and replacement parts services for Motorola and Glenayre equipment. Call or
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.
Click on the image above for more info about advertising here.
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
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
Puerto Rico commits $8 million to rebuild Arecibo telescope
It likely won't be enough, but it's a start.
Jon Fingas, December 31, 2020
There’s a glimmer of hope for the collapsed Arecibo Observatory telescope as 2020 draws to a close.
The National Science Foundation said it would tear down the Observatory as repairs would be too dangerous, although that doesn’t rule out building a new structure in its place.
We wouldn’t see this as more than a start. The $8 million in funding is unlikely to come anywhere close to reconstructing the telescope. We’ve asked the NSF for comment on the financial pledge, but it’s safe to presume a revival would require additional help.
Still, the funds represent an important step. They signal the territory’s commitment to Arecibo and its space studies despite the loss. They might also spur some in the US government to devote the extra funding needed to resurrect the Observatory. Don’t be surprised if 2021 is a brighter year for the facility, even if any rebuilding effort is likely to take much longer.
Update, 12/31/2020, 3:54 pm ET:
In a statement to Engadget, an NSF spokesperson said:
NSF’s process for funding and constructing large-scale infrastructure, including telescopes, is a well-established, multi-year procedure that involves assessing the needs of the scientific community, receiving input from researchers and other stakeholders, considering environmental and cultural impacts, and working with Congress. As the Arecibo Observatory’s 305-meter telescope only recently collapsed, NSF cannot comment on any potential future plans at this time. However, we will continue to work with Congress on the issue, including complying with language accompanying the new omnibus spending package.
NSF emphasizes that the observatory is not closing. Research involving archived data from the 305-meter telescope will continue and NSF is looking for ways to restore operations with the observatory’s other infrastructure as soon as possible, including the 12-meter telescope and LIDAR facilities. NSF will continue the work of clearing and securing the site of the 305-meter telescope and looks forward to working with Puerto Rico to find new ways to support the scientific community and the local community.
Brad Dye, Ron Mercer, Allan Angus, Vic Jackson, and Ira Wiesenfeld are friends and colleagues who work both together and independently, on wireline and wireless communications projects.
Click here for a summary of their qualifications and experience. Each one has unique abilities. We would be happy to help you with a project, and maybe save you some time and money.
Note: We do not like Patent Trolls, i.e. “a person or company who enforces patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question.” We have helped some prominent law firms defend their clients against this annoyance, and would be happy to do some more of this same kind of work.
Some people use the title “consultant” when they don't have a real job. We actually do consulting work, and help others based on our many years of experience.
“If you would know the road ahead, ask someone who has traveled it.” — Chinese Proverb
WHAT IS 5G? 5G is the ext generation of wireless networks and promises a mobile experience that's 10x to 100x faster than today's 4G networks. We say the word promise because we're in the early days of 5G. When more smartphones and networks support 5G tech, it will have far-reaching consequences for consumers, from the cars we drive (or that drive us) to the food we eat to the safety of our roads to the ways we shop to the entertainment we share with family and friends. And that doesn't include things we haven't yet imagined because we've never had the capability to unlock those new scenarios. Today, 5G may seem confusing even as it's widely hyped. We're here to help you sort fact from fiction, weed through the acronyms and jargon, and figure out when and how 5G can change the way you live. And we'll keep you from getting caught up in hyperbole — and empty promises. [ source ]
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
Hal Mordkofsky Retires as of Dec 31
Following an illustrious career in communications law spanning over half a century, Harold (Hal) Mordkofsky, co-founder of our law firm along with the late Arthur Blooston, has announced his retirement, effective December 31st.
Hal began his professional career in 1958 as an electrical engineer with Westinghouse Electric Corp. in Baltimore, Maryland, engaged in the design, development and production of torpedoes for the U.S. Navy. At the same time, Hal attended the Evening Division of the University of Maryland’s Law School and soon after graduation, accepted an offer from the FCC to become Senior Attorney in what is now the Mobility Division of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Two years later, Hal joined the law offices of Jeremiah Courtney, at the time one of the few firms in D.C. engaged exclusively in non-broadcast communications law where he practiced alongside Arthur Blooston. In 1979, when Courtney was looking to limit his practice to representing private users of radio only, Arthur and Hal established Blooston and Mordkofsky, helping clients acquire RF spectrum for common carrier uses of radio, which at the time included two-way radio, paging and point-to-point microwave radio communications.
Over the years, Hal helped oversee the firm’s expansion of its areas of practice to include telephone regulation under Title II of the Communications Act and more advanced wireline and wireless services, with the addition of Ben Dickens, John Prendergast and Gerry Duffy as principals in the firm. Drawing upon his engineering background, Hal also established a consulting engineering practice within the law firm to assist its clients in preparing the engineering portions of their FCC applications and in connection with antenna regulation matters before the FAA.
Hal has been engaged in virtually every aspect of the firm’s practice including radio licensing, enforcement, spectrum auctions and litigation before the FCC, state regulators and the courts, including the U.S. appellate courts. He has assisted his clients in acquiring thousands of licenses in paging and two-way radio. Then he and the firm were successful in acquiring the first cellular radio licenses for their clients in some of the top markets of the country, through hearings and litigation before the FCC and the courts. In his years of practice, Hal has seen the VHF, UHF and microwave bands become all but depleted as new and profitable uses of radio have proliferated. In announcing his retirement from the communications law practice, Hal says he will now be content to watch from the sidelines as the FCC begins to auction the millimeter wave bands, formerly regarded as unusable for radio communications, in what is destined to spurn new communication technologies.
After retirement, Hal will continue to reside in the D.C. area with his wife of 57 years, the former Barbara Chabot, and hopes to see more of their grandchildren once the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us. Please join us in wishing Hal a happy retirement and a job well done for decades of helping BloostonLaw’s clients accomplish their telecom plans. Hal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senate Confirms Simington to Seat on FCC
On December 8, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination Mr. Nathan Simington, a former Commerce Department official under President Trump, to the seat currently held by Commissioner Michael O’Rielly on the FCC on a vote of 49-46. O’Rielly’s re-nomination for an additional five-year term was withdrawn following a speech in which the press reported that he stated that “the First Amendment protects us from limits on speech imposed by the government – not private actors – and we should all reject demands, in the name of the First Amendment, for private actors to curate or publish speech in a certain way. Like it or not, the First Amendment’s protections apply to corporate entities.” It appears that President Trump’s support for Commissioner Simington centered on his participation on the petition to the FCC asking the Commission to enforce President Trump’s executive order which limited legal protections to online platforms that the White House had determined to be limiting the speech of conservative news sources. With the anticipated resignation of Chairman Pai, the FCC could initially be deadlocked 2-2 on several issues when President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month.
BloostonLaw Contacts: John Prendergast and Richard Rubino.
President Signs Legislation Repealing T-Band Mandate; Next Steps Should Be Cancellation of the Spectrum Auction and Lifting of the Suspension on the Processing of Renewal Applications for Part 90 and Part 22 Systems Operating on 470-512 MHz (T-Band) Spectrum
On Sunday, December 27, the President signed the FY2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which among other things, has repealed the provision of the 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act that directed the FCC to auction the 470-512 MHz band (also known as the “T-Band”) by 2021.
Wireless use of the T-band consists of otherwise unused broadcast spectrum in TV channels 14 – 20 in 11 cities. The spectrum contains about 925 public-safety entities and 700 industrial/business entities. Significantly, the industrial/business operations are on frequencies interleaved with public safety channels; yet the 2012 Act mandating relocation of public safety T-band operations did not address the fate of these industrial/business licensees, adding to the problematic nature of trying to clear and auction off T-band spectrum. Over the course of the past year, the Commissioners have repeatedly called on Congress to repeal the T-Band mandate. In so doing, Chairman Pai had previously noted that “In 2012, Congress passed legislation requiring the FCC to reallocate and auction T-band spectrum used for decades by public-safety licensees and fund the relocation of those licensees elsewhere.” Pai continued that “[t]he agency has extensively analyzed the T-band and concluded that moving forward is not viable. Relocation costs for public-safety licensees would likely far exceed any potential auction revenue, making it impossible to fund the relocation and comply with the mandate. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has agreed, reporting to Congress that the T-band mandate is unworkable and could deprive first responders of their current ability to communicate by radio.”
Last December, the FCC announced that, until further notice, it would accept, but not grant, applications to renew Part 90 and Part 22 licenses for operation in the T-Band. The FCC had made clear that licensees who timely file complete license renewal applications before the license expiration date would be allowed to operate their licensed T-Band facilities past the license expiration date reflected on the face of the license while the application processing suspension is in effect. We are hopeful that since the President has now signed this legislation into law, the FCC will act promptly to lift its suspension on the process of applications in short order, and permit the filing of applications for new facilities and modification of existing facilities since there should no longer be a need to “preserve the spectrum environment” within the TBand for a future spectrum auction.
BloostonLaw Contact: John Prendergast and Richard Rubino
RAY BAUM’S Act 911 Calling Capability First Deadline is January 6, 2021
The FCC’s Order adopting rules to implement RAY BAUM’S Act was published in the Federal Register on December 6, 2019. As a result, these rules became effective on Monday, January 6, 2020, with the first benchmark on January 6, 2021.
As of January 6, 2021, on-premises, fixed devices associated with a multi-line telephone system “MLTS”, fixed location devices must be able to convey a dispatchable location to 911 call centers so that the Public Safety Answering Point (“PSAP”) will receive the caller’s location automatically. A dispatchable location is defined as “the street address of the calling party and additional information such as room number, floor number, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.” This information is especially necessary for first responders who are responding to calls for help in multi-story buildings.
BloostonLaw Contacts: John Prendergast and Richard Rubino.
Vista Outdoor Inc. and Bushnell Holdings Enter Into $55K Consent Decree Over RF Devices that Exceeded Field Strength Emission Limits
Vista Outdoor, Inc. and its subsidiary, Bushnell Holdings, Inc. (collectively, the “Companies”) have entered into a $55,000 Consent Decree with the FCC in order to terminate the FCC’s investigation into whether the Company violated FCC Rule Sections 2.803 and 15.231 in connection with the marketing and sale of six radio device models that exceeded permissible field strength emissions limits.
Pursuant to Section 302 of the Communications Act of 1934, “[n]o person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations promulgated pursuant to this section.” The purpose of this section of the Act is to ensure that radio transmitters and other electronic devices meet certain standards to control the potential for harmful interference to licensed operations before they reach the American market place.
The Companies, under the Primos/Primos Hunding brands, market recreational hunting accessories including wireless decoys and game calls. As a result of a routine audit by a Telecommunication Certification Body (TCB), the Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) identified a non-compliant wireless decoy. This audit revealed that the decoy could exceed the radiated emissions limits set forth under Part 15 of the FCC’s Rules, which regulates permitted unlicensed operations of radio frequency (RF) devices. In response to an inquiry by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, the Companies stated that they had marketed one non-compliant model and that the model was capable of operating at unauthorized parameters as identified in a post-marketing audit test requested by a TCB laboratory. As a result, the Companies issued a voluntary recall of the affected model and shortly thereafter recalled a similar wireless decoy model manufactured by the same company that had manufactured the first device. A subsequent test report confirmed that the similar model was also capable of operating at unauthorized parameters. During the investigation, the Companies conducted an independent review of other models, and self-reported the noncompliance of four additional models capable of operating at unauthorized parameters.
This case illustrates the importance of ensuring that equipment manufactured by outside vendors complies with the equipment certification issued by the FCC as well as the FCC’s Rules. This is because the FCC makes it illegal to manufacture, import, market or sell non-compliant RF equipment. In this case, while the Companies were cooperative with the FCC and attempted to do the right thing to correct the error, the FCC still sought a significant financial penalty in the amount of $55,000 and a multi-year compliance plan – the violation of which could result in further sanctions.
BloostonLaw Contacts: John Prendergast and Richard Rubino
FCC Takes Hard Line Against Property Owners Who Allow Illegal Pirate Radio Stations
Over the past few years, the FCC has cited property owners for allowing pirate radio stations to be operated on their property. The FCC takes the issue of unlicensed operation very seriously due to the potential for harmful interference to licensed radio operations (both in the broadcast services and in the public safety/industrial services). The FCC is now taking a harder line against property owners under the recently enacted PIRATE Act, which allows the FCC to issue fines of up to $2 million against parties who “knowingly facilitate illegal broadcasting on their property.” Under the FCC’s new authority, it will now “provide written notice to property owners and managers the agency has reason to believe are turning a blind eye to – or even helping facilitate – illegal broadcasting. These new Notices of Illegal Pirate Radio Broadcasting also will afford parties a period of time to remedy the problem before any enforcement action moves forward.” In this regard, the FCC has already started issuing notices to property owners and landlords.
Over the years, FCC investigations have found that landlords and property managers were often well aware of the illegal activity on their premises, but apparently have not taken strong action against pirate radio activity. The FCC has previously sent warning letters to landlords and even requested cooperation from national property owner organizations in order make property owners aware of the issue. Despite these efforts, pirate broadcasts have persisted, and Congress has empowered the FCC to penalize property owners and managers that knowingly allow pirate radio stations to operate from their buildings and other properties. In this regard, the FCC also stated that landlords and property managers could find themselves liable if a pirate radio station operator ceases operation for a period of time and then begins operation again from the same site (a problem that has occurred frequently).
BloostonLaw Contacts: John Prendergast and Richard Rubino.
FCC Proposes Amendments to Equipment Authorization/Marketing Rules to Bring Must-Have Devices to Market Faster
The FCC has adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in which it has proposed enhancements to its equipment authorization rules to grant limited, early-stage flexibility to innovators to accelerate the deployment of common consumer devices like cellphones, laptops, and Wi-Fi routers after FCC authorization. Comments are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. Reply Comments are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.
If adopted, the proposed rule changes would allow radio-frequency device manufacturers and marketers to bring their devices to market more quickly by allowing them to position their devices for sale and distribution sooner than previously allowed. The FCC’s NPRM has proposed rule changes that would allow limited marketing and sale of wireless devices to consumers prior to the receipt of an equipment authorization, provided that the devices are not actually shipped to consumers until the FCC equipment authorization has been issued for the RF device. In this manner, the FCC believes that it can still ensure that new RF devices are properly tested and certified to meet the FCC’s technical standards before the devices are placed into the hands of consumers. Additionally, the FCC is also proposing to allow limited pre-authorization importation of RF devices for certain pre-sale activities such as packaging and shipping devices to retail locations, as well as pre-loading devices with software in order to demonstrate specific features and capabilities of the device. The FCC stated that the proposed rule changes would allow equipment manufacturers to better gauge consumer interest and prepare for product launches – all of which is necessary due to the pace of innovation and accelerated product cycles in the Internet age.
BloostonLaw Contacts: John Prendergast and Richard Rubino
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