Mr. Richard D. Lee
Chief, Compliance and Information Bureau
Federal Communications Commission
1919 M Street, N.W., Room 734
Washington, D.C. 20554
Re: Memorandum of Understanding -
Frequency Coordinator Assistance in the
Resolution of Interference and Compliance Reports
Dear Mr. Lee:
The Association of Public- Safety Communications Officials- International, Inc. (APCO) and its subsidiary APCO Automated Frequency Coordination, Inc. (APCO AFC) hereby respectfully submit for your consideration and approval this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The execution of this MOU between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and APCO should streamline the FCC's compliance and enforcement processes in the resolution of interference complaints in the land mobile communications industry.
By taking advantage of the resources that the FCC- certified frequency advisory committees may provide in the resolution of compliance and interference complaints, the Compliance and Information Bureau will significantly support the mandate of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, by protecting public safety and other land mobile operations from harmful interference and by promoting fair competition in the land mobile communications marketplace through the expedited enforcement of FCC rules and regulations. The execution of this MOU, and the adoption of an enforcement complaint standard, will provide the land mobile communications industry with a sense of confidence that their systems will be vigorously protected from interference caused by non- compliant and unlicensed operators.
1. The objective of this proposal is to formalize an arrangement whereby APCO, a certified frequency coordinator, will work in concert with the FCC's Compliance and Information Bureau ( CIB ) to protect the technical and regulatory integrity of the land mobile communications environment. As discussed in detail at section III infra, and attached as Exhibit A, APCO will follow a technical and administrative standard for the collection of all information relevant to process a compliance or interference matter. With the adoption of this standard, the Commission
may rely on APCO to research and verify the substance of a compliance or interference complaint. When APCO cannot solve an interference problem and refers the matter to the Commission, the Commission will be in a position to act with dispatch to resolve disputes relating to non- compliance with the FCC's technical, operational, and regulatory requirements in the land mobile communications industry.
a. Protection of public safety communications
2. The Commission has committed its resources to the promotion of public safety communications. APCO fully supports and commends the Commission's efforts to revitalize a responsive compliance initiative that will serve to augment the agency's overall spectrum management objectives. The goal of this MOU is to prevent licensees who intentionally corrupt the spectrum environment and licensees who operate beyond the technical or regulatory limits of their license authority from operating at the expense of compliant licensees.
b. Conservation of Commission resources
3. By adopting APCO's proposed standard for the resolution of compliance and interference complaints, the Commission will be able to conserve its own resources. By agreeing to grant considerable weight and deference to an APCO prepared compliance and interference report, the Commission will conserve the resources it would otherwise expend in the research and verification of a licensee filed complaint.
4. A joint FCC/APCO compliance and interference resolution process will also serve to educate land mobile communications users on compliance with FCC rules and regulations. Once put into practice, a standardized system for direct APCO involvement in interference resolution will permit APCO to notify non- compliant licensees of their obligations under the Commission's rules and regulations. As users become aware that a Frequency Coordinator interference report is granted deference by the Commission, we anticipate that a clear majority of interference complaints may be resolved through negotiation, obviating the need for Commission action to stop such interference.
II. Legislative and Regulatory Authority
a. Legislative Authority
5. The formalization of a procedure for Frequency Coordinator reporting and resolution of compliance and information complaints is fully consistent with the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, ( the Act ). Under section 1 of the Act, the Commission has an obligation to promote "the safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communication." Under section 332(b)(1) of the Act, the Commission, in coordinating the assignment of frequencies to stations in the private land mobile services . . . shall have the authority to utilize assistance furnished by advisory coordinating committees...." The resolution of compliance and interference complaints is a component of the coordination of frequency assignments.
6. When an entity operates without Commission authorization, or beyond the scope of legitimate or necessary technical authorizations, the radio spectrum on which it operates becomes un- coordinatable. This results in inefficient spectrum use and unfairly burdens legitimate operators and applicants. Under a plain language interpretation of section 332(b)(1) of the Act, the Commission is well within its authority to accept the assistance of Frequency Coordinators in the resolution of compliance and interference complaints as part of an efficient frequency assignment process.
b. Regulatory Authority
7. Under section 90.7 of the Commission's rules, frequency coordination is defined as:
The process of obtaining the recommendation of a frequency coordinator for a frequency(ies) that will most effectively meet the applicant's needs while minimizing interference to licensees already operating within a given frequency band (emphasis added).
8. As discussed above and highlighted here, the process of frequency coordination is, by its very definition, an analysis of potential interference. The Commission recognized this fact when, in the Order designating the several FACs, it required FAC participation in the resolution of post- licensing conflicts:
Several reasons persuade us to require coordinator participation in post- licensing conflicts stemming from frequency selections and recommendations. First, the coordinator, with its specific knowledge of user requirements and local conditions, is in the best position to resolve such problems. Second, we believe that the coordinator should be made aware of such post- licensing problems as soon as possible since knowledge of these problems could affect pending or future coordination requests. Finally, as an organization representative of the affected licensee, the coordinator is uniquely qualified to provide objective and informed assistance regarding post licensing problems (emphasis added).
9. Because the Commission not only contemplates, but requires the participation of the Frequency Coordinators in the post- licensing interference resolution process, the instant proposal would require no rule making action by the Commission. All that is required of the Commission is the commitment to act upon compliance and interference complaints that are accompanied by verified information.
III. FAC Initiated Interference Resolution Process
10. Under this MOU, APCO will field initial interference and/or compliance complaints from a licensee or its representative. Each complaint will be processed through the completion of a standard Compliance Request Report ( CRR ), and assigned an administrative CRR tracking number. [A copy of the proposed standard CRR form is attached at Exhibit A.] Based on the information reported on the form, APCO will be able to make a determination as to whether the source of the complaint is educational, technical, or operational in nature and propose resolutions accordingly.
a. Educational Problems and Resolutions
11. It has been APCO's experience that many interference problems are caused by licensees unwittingly operating beyond the scope of their license authorization. In these cases, resolution of the interference problem may be achieved simply by notifying the offending licensee of its obligations under FCC rules and regulations. By educating unsophisticated licensees on sharing requirements (i.e., monitoring, use of call signs, etc.) all parties may institute an equitable resolution to the interference without the need for Commission action.
12. In cases where an unlicensed or improperly licensed operator is identified, APCO may assist in preparation and application for proper FCC authorization, including the resolution of interference through standard coordination processes. However, in these cases APCO will immediately notify the Commission of the unlicensed operator notwithstanding the resolution of the matter. Resolution by the APCO will not preclude the Commission from taking further appropriate action.
13. Upon the resolution of an "educational" interference problem, APCO will summarize the problem and its resolution to all parties in writing. After a period of 30 days, APCO will initiate correspondence with all parties to verify the resolution of the matter. Upon a determination that the matter has been satisfactorily resolved, the file will be closed but kept on record and made available to the FCC upon request.
b. Technical Problems and Resolutions
14. In the large majority of technical interference cases, the offending party is readily identifiable. However, when a technical interference complaint of unknown origin is filed, APCO will attempt to identify the source of the interference through local monitoring conducted by the complainant licensee, its service representative, or an independent provider. Only when all attempts to identify the source of the interference are unsuccessful, will APCO solicit the assistance of the local FCC field office.
15. Upon identification of the interference source, APCO will notify the offending licensee/operator that the problem exists and recommend technical solutions available through APCO or independent service provider. These technical solutions may include but are not limited to: reducing power, lowering antenna height, antenna pattern reconfiguration, or the selection of an alternative frequency.
16. If an engineering or technical resolution to the problem is available, APCO will summarize the problem and its resolution to all parties in writing. After a period of 30 days, APCO will initiate correspondence with all parties to verify the resolution of the matter. Upon a determination that the matter has been satisfactorily resolved, the file will be closed but kept on record with APCO and made available to the FCC upon request.
c. Operational Problems and Resolutions
17. In addition to educational and technical interference cases, there are also operational problems that may not be causing interference, but are negatively impacting the competitive environment. Specifically, operational issues concern instances where a licensee operates a radio system in non- compliance with its license authorization, e.g., a private system providing a commercial service.
18. Because of their specific knowledge of local conditions, the APCO's Local Frequency Advisors are often made aware of suspect operations by the adversely affected Commission licensees. In these cases, the APCO is able to research the license terms and authorized operational parameters of the non- compliant system and request documentation supporting the service in operation.
19. If, through negotiation with the non- compliant licensee, APCO is able to resolve the operational problem, APCO will summarize the problem and its resolution to all parties in writing. After a period of 30 days, APCO will initiate correspondence with all parties to verify the resolution of the matter. Upon a determination that the matter has been satisfactorily resolved, the CRR file will be closed but kept on record and made available to the FCC upon request.
d. FCC/CIB Participation
20. If, despite notification and identification of an interference problem by APCO, the parties are unable or unwilling to pursue the recommended educational or technical solutions to the interference problem, APCO will submit a report to the CIB field office with geographic jurisdiction, and to the CIB offices in Washington, D.C. The report will identify all parties to the dispute, provide all background information (i.e., call signs involved, identified non- compliance, location of unlicensed system, etc.) as well as the APCO- recommended regulatory or technical solution (i.e., system modification, license modification, FCC enforcement, etc.).
21. Upon submission of the report to the appropriate CIB field office, it is recommended that APCO be notified of a single point of contact within that field office that will manage the resolution of the matter. By identifying a single point of contact, APCO will be in a position to quickly update its report with any information that becomes available after filing and remain readily available for any negotiation process. Upon notification of resolution by the CIB, the APCO file will be closed but kept on record with the FCC.
22. APCO requests the Commission confirm its agreement with this Memorandum of Understanding by letter to the President of APCO, and by issuance of an appropriate Public Notice. This agreement may be canceled at any time by either party upon 30 days notice. This agreement may be modified at any time upon written agreement of the parties.
23. APCO believes that this proposal serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity and comports with the stated policy objectives of the Commission. By conserving Commission resources, streamlining administrative processes, protecting public safety operations and promoting fair competition, this proposal provides the FCC with the opportunity to enhance compliance and enforcement procedures for the benefit of both the Commission and its licensees.
Joseph McNeil, President
Association of Public- Safety Communications Officials- International, Inc.