Supporting Public Safety
Through Effective Spectrum Policy

Posted by: Bob Quinn on June 7, 2013 at 11:40 am

In the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2012, Congress made provisions to secure up to $7 billion to fund the deployment of the first nationwide public safety broadband network, or FirstNet.  This funding, however, only becomes available upon the successful implementation of the broadcast TV incentive auction, which to succeed must generate proceeds far in excess of the costs associated with paying broadcasters to give up their spectrum, the costs of relocating the remaining broadcasters, and the administrative costs of running the auction.  Indeed, the incentive auction cannot be considered successful unless it raises sufficient revenue to fund FirstNet, as recently recognized by five FCC Commissioners at a Senate hearing.

Last week, in a letter to the FCC, the Public Safety Alliance (PSA), a partnership of the nation’s leading public safety associations, offered its voice on this important issue.  It too recognized the critical need to adopt incentive auction rules that will generate sufficient revenue to allow public safety to build FirstNet, the construction of which is long overdue given the broad support for this critical effort.  As the PSA highlighted, “the goal of using the auction proceeds to deploy FirstNet depends upon a successful auction that realizes the full value of the repurposed broadcast spectrum.”  An open auction that permits all bidders to participate is the only way to achieve full spectrum valuations for the spectrum licenses to be auctioned.  If some of the most likely bidders are restricted by rule from participating in the auction, or are limited in what they can bid on, the amount of revenue generated by the auction will be curtailed. 

Some are arguing that the Commission should engineer the auction rules to ensure that Sprint and T-Mobile (both of whom chose not to participate in the last major auction for 700 MHz spectrum) win spectrum.  If the incentive auction rules are manipulated to essentially set aside spectrum for these or other providers, less revenue will be generated.  Broadcasters, fearing they will not receive top dollar for their spectrum due to that set aside, will contribute less spectrum to the auction.  This will, in turn, jeopardize the entirety of the auction including the critical goal of raising the billions of dollars necessary to fund FirstNet, a result that would harm all consumers by depriving our first responders of the tools necessary to fight 21st century threats and protect our country.  As the PSA reminded us, “the upcoming incentive auction represents the best and perhaps only chance for the next several years to raise the billions of dollars necessary to fund FirstNet.”

Indeed, the set asides and restrictions proposed specifically by Deutsche Telekom’s U.S subsidiary, T-Mobile, would drastically limit the amount of spectrum AT&T and Verizon could bid upon at auction thereby effectively guaranteeing T-Mobile the ability to obtain substantial amounts of spectrum at an artificially low cost subsidized by US taxpayers.  While that subsidy proposal might permit T-Mobile’s parent company, Deutsche Telekom, to build more broadband in Europe, it will do nothing to protect American citizens at home where we work and live because it would mean less spectrum being auctioned and less revenue to pay off our national debt and finance a long overdue national public safety network.  And that’s the best case scenario – where the set asides and subsidies do not doom the auction altogether. 

Moreover, Deutsche Telekom’s subsidiary is essentially arguing for a restriction placed on top of the already existing spectrum screen (which has been in place for more than a decade).  That screen requires rigorous analysis whenever any carrier acquires more than 1/3 of the available mobile broadband spectrum in a particular market.  While that screen needs to be updated to include all of the approximately 600MHz of spectrum the FCC proclaims is suitable for mobile broadband purposes, the screen itself exists to serve the purposes of ensuring there is no competitive foreclosure of spectrum assets necessary for a competitive market.  The T-Mobile proposal serves no similar legitimate competitive purpose and instead is designed solely to benefit itself and Deutsche Telekom in the marketplace – and at the expense of U.S. consumers and taxpayers, and also potentially at the cost of not being able to build a first responder broadband network.  

In considering auction rules, the Commission should adhere to the statutory mandate to conduct an open and competitive auction that allows all bidders to fully compete.  The carriers that place the highest value on the spectrum will win the licenses, and history tells us that all carriers can be successful.  In the last major auction in which T-Mobile participated, it won more spectrum than either Verizon or AT&T.  This approach offers the best prospect for a successful auction that meets all of Congress‘s stated goals, including freeing up the maximum amount of spectrum for mobile broadband use, reducing the deficit, and funding a nationwide public safety network.  It also would ensure all the consumer benefits that will flow from putting spectrum to its best and highest use.

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Our Response to Superstorm Sandy

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Authored by Bill Smith, AT&T’s President of Network Operations

By all accounts, Superstorm Sandy was a massively destructive event that resulted in more than $70 billion in damage and caused devastating losses for many in the impacted area.  More than eight million people lost power, which was a record for a storm-induced power outage.  AT&T has a $600 million, 300-vehicle network disaster recovery organization that has a 30-year history of preparing for the full spectrum of “all threats” and that conducts full-scale field exercises across the country and overseas several times each year.  We utilized these critical resources to prepare and respond to Sandy in the most effective way possible.  

No matter the disaster at hand, in every case, the key to an efficient response is planning and preparation.  This includes prepositioning assets and leveraging the flexibility to address different events – a blizzard is a very different challenge from a hurricane, an earthquake or terrorist attack.  We try to anticipate, plan and prepare for the entire spectrum of possibilities, and we regularly train and re-certify our employees and partners that support this process.  A key focus at AT&T is our ongoing post-event process to identify lessons learned from our experience and from others during each event. 

As Sandy headed our way, AT&T began monitoring the projected path, intensity, and impacts with our on-staff meteorologist – that’s right, we have a dedicated Weatherpro.  With our presence in Puerto Rico, we have experience with Atlantic hurricanes before they make landfall on the mainland.  Resources prepositioned throughout most of the Mid-Atlantic and eventually the entire Northeast region included Emergency Communications Vehicles, Cells-on-Wheels (COWs), Satellite Cells-on-Light-Trucks (COLTs), over 3,000 generators, and a convoy of fuel tanker trucks to keep our network equipment going.  We set up more than 100 staging areas across the projected impact zone, out of harm’s way, but close enough to the projected storm landfall to allow for rapid deployment. In addition to equipment, AT&T prepositioned additional personnel and provided emergency credentialing to ensure we could move throughout the area to rapidly restore communications.  We had multiple command and control centers and even set up international communications channels for our overseas customers with assets in the affected areas.

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The Value of Public-Private Partnerships

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on March 15, 2012 at 8:40 am

By Jim Bugel, AT&T Assistant Vice President, Public Safety and Homeland Security

Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that AT&T is the first company to be certified under the Voluntary Private Sector Preparedness Program, or PS-Prep, which is a partnership between DHS and private entities and is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

We take very seriously our commitment to disaster preparedness and we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this area.  We were excited to participate in this voluntary program and we’re incredibly proud to be the first private company to receive certification under the DHS-developed standards.  We couldn’t agree more with Secretary Napolitano that the private sector indeed plays a critical role in our country’s disaster preparedness efforts and abilities to respond accordingly.

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AT&T on King, Thompson
Public Safety Legislation

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Congressman Peter T. King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson have introduced legislation (H.R. 607) to make more spectrum available to public safety for a nationwide wireless broadband network.  The following statement may be attributed to AT&T Executive Vice President of Federal Relations Tim McKone:

“Chairman King’s and Ranking Member Thompson’s strong commitment to and deep understanding of the public safety community are reflected in the Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011, which they introduced today.  We commend their bipartisan leadership in putting forth legislation that clearly outlines how public safety will be able to build and maintain a nationwide interoperable network.  Reallocating the D-block spectrum to public safety is the only option that will ensure that both first responders and consumers have state-of-the-art wireless broadband communications during times of need.”

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AT&T Statement on Chairman
Rockefeller’s Public Safety Legislation

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on January 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, reintroduced the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act (S. 28).  The following statement may be attributed to Tim McKone, AT&T Executive Vice President-Federal Relations:

“Chairman Rockefeller has long made public safety and national security a top priority for this country.  We applaud his commitment to the public safety community and his tireless efforts to ensure that first responders have the resources they need to support a nationwide wireless broadband network.  This legislation will result in a truly interoperable public safety network and will free up new spectrum and establish funding mechanisms to support the operation and maintenance of this critical network.”

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