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Prison Cellphone Reply Comments Date Extended

13-111comm-ext813

In the above order from FCC, the reply comment date for the cellphones in prison rulemaking, Docket 13-111, has been extended to August 23, 2013.

There is a lot to comment on:

  • AT&T objects to requiring a carrier to terminate service to a cell phone identified being in a prison saying it will only do so with an order from FCC or a court. (Perhaps FCC could set up a website and “rubber stamp” all requests from approved prison administrators and then forward the request to AT&T?)

  • Boeing states that FCC could authorize managed access in cellular spectrum “without a spectrum lease agreement” and that “reliance on lease agreements to authorize managed access systems could create undesirable precedent” (Most other commenters just believe FCC should simplify leasing and, except for MSS comments, do not suggest that leasing should be mandatory or should be on reasonable terms.)

  • CTIA believes that mandatory service termination of cell phones operating in prisons can not be authorized unless FCC “adopt(s) clear, standardized requirements that apply to all cell detection systems” - a clear multiyear delay unless CTIA wants to be helpful -- as opposed to be obstructive.

  • Verizon thinks service termination requests should require a court order. Heck, AT&T is more open minded and is willing to consider a request from FCC! (Sprint & T-Mo have not commented as yet.)

  • NTCH, Inc. (a regional CMRS carrier that offers service under the trade name CLEAR TALK) says FCC “should declare the confines of prisons, including surrounding lands owned or controlled by the prison system, to be ‘quiet zones’ akin to the Commission's treatment of radio astronomy and other research facilities designated by the Commission…A corrections department could only declare a site a quiet zone in connection with its designation of one or more entities that would bear the expense and take the responsibility of preventing unauthorized transmissions in the prison confines and would also be in a position to offer service over authorized frequencies in the prison area…Once designated as the Prison Service Provider, the Provider would be authorized to prevent or create interference to any unauthorized transmissions from within the prison confines (including the buffer zone described below) because no such transmissions would be lawful under the terms of the licenses pursuant to which the offending cell phones would normally be operating…This plan relies on well-known quiet zone protection principles but extends not just to astronomical observations but to measures which directly protect human health and safety. The modest diminution in rights which the cellular carriers would experience under this plan is far outweighed by the benefits to the public which would result.”

Surf on over and take a look and tell FCC what you think!

vox populi, vox dei

Comments

Comments in Cellphone/Prison Rulemaking (Docket 13-111)

LacklJohnson
Carl Lackl, Jr. (l) a Baltimore witness murdered as a result of a prison cell phone call.
Capt. Robert Johnson (r) South Carolina Department of Corrections,
shot 6 times
at his home as a result of a prison cell phone call.


Your blogger has filed comments in Docket 13-111, which deals with “Promoting Technological Solutions to Combat Contraband Wireless Device Use in Correctional Faciliteis (sic)”. These comments were on behalf of MSS, not for any previous or current client and were made solely in the public interest. At 34 pages without attachments they happen to be the longest filing to date, although length does not necessarily imply quality or success. So far, the docket file has 43 items from outside FCC, mostly comments

The comments start with the above photos of Carl Lackl, Jr. and Captain Robert Johnson to remind readers that unlike virtually all FCC proceedings, this one does not deal with just economic benefits for one party versus another, but rather an unintended side effect of today’s CMRS technology in which real people die.

The comments review the unusual history of this proceeding including multiple petitions that sat in “petition limbo” for years even though some were from local governments and even though Section 1.403 of the FCC’s own rules requires that such petitions be assigned a file number and “promptly “ be included on a public notice for comment. In particular, the MSS comments include as attachments parts of the 2010 GTL petition that have never been commented on that deal with mandates needed to make managed access effective in all cases and which give alternative theories that would permit the Commission the discretion to authorize jamming in special cases if it was found to be in the public interest. Cellular interests cling to an interpretation of Section 333 of the Communications Act that has never been endorsed by the FCC or a court that says FCC lacks jurisdiction to authorize jamming but NTIA has such jurisdiction for federal users.

MSS urges the Commission to require all CMRS carriers to provide the spectrum under reasonable terms needed for MAS if requested by a prison. While today’s major carriers do so and promise to pressure smaller carriers, the reality is no one knows what firms will be CMRS carriers in rural areas next year since many spectrum auctions are pending to implement the spectrum demands of cellular interests. MSS also urges the Commission to require mandatory a priori coordination of all technical changes to the cellular network near prisons with MAS systems in order to maintain the functioning of MAS throughout the network evolution.

The comments emphasize that cell phones in prisons is a complex issue and that no “magic bullet” is likely to be found that eliminates the whole problem without causing side effects. While cellular interests claim jamming would inevitably cause “overjamming” that impacts users outside prisons (see CTIA video) , their preferred “managed access systems”/MAS will also cause excess coverage in prisons that do not have an adequate buffer from publicly accessible areas, such as at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York.

The comments raise the issue of financing MAS or other costly solutions and points out the interrelationship between this issue and the ongoing WC Docket No. 12-375 which seeks to reduce the present high cost of inmate communication services (ICS). While cellular interests would like the state and local governments to shoulder the financial cost of exotic technology in the hostile environment of prisons, MSS points out that the carriers themselves are in a better position to handle the financial and technical burdens than prison administrators. Shifting the cost to ICS operators, as California is trying to do, may seem tempting but the inmates are truly a “captive audience” who have already been overcharged for years for telecom services. Increased contact with families can decrease recidivism -- whose costs to society and the economy dwarfs the sums involved in this issue.

The MSS comments also propose a new approach to handle contraband cell phones in prisons that deals with the special case of rural maximum security prisons - actually the location of most of the serious problems since dated suburban maximum security facilities like Sing Sing are rare now. The new approach is called “geolocation-based denial”/GBD and builds on the existing E-911 program. It is proposed that prison with a 300m buffer between secure areas and areas accessible to the general public be allowed to request the Commission to remove the secure area from the coverage of all CMRS carriers. The carriers
Allamakee-County-ATT
would then be required to use E-911 geolocation to identify calls near prisons and check the boundary. While this would be straightforward for carriers using A-GPS handsets, carriers using triangulation technology would often need to use additional base stations near rural prisons to get the required accuracy. Of course, in such rural areas near prisons, maybe all the carriers need to provide service. As was shown earlier in this blog, there are certainly coverage holes in today’s networks in rural areas.

Reply comments are still open in this proceeding. vox populi, vox dei

Current ATT coverage in rural Iowa


UPDATE

FCC’s Australian counterpart, Australian Communications and Media Authority/ACMA, has a new blog entry on “Removing jammers from the streets”. Included is the above video. ACMA says

Targeting prohibited devices has demanded an agile approach to compliance. Our activities also include preventative (education/awareness) and enforcement measures. This has helped to restrict the supply of jammers to the local market, forcing consumers to turn to online sources for devices that are often seized before reaching their destination.


The Australian penalties for unauthorized jammer marketing and use are much greater than in the US. For example the blog says:

There could be more substantial penalties, such as receiving a five-year prison sentence or penalty of up to $850,000 (5,000 penalty units) for causing substantial interference to radiocommunications used by emergency services (such as fire, police and ambulance) and other special organisations. And these aren’t the only penalties that could apply.


Note from the video that ACMA, unlike the US cellular interests, is clearly able to differentiate between authorized controlled jamming in prisons and unauthorized jamming that endangers public safety. Compare this with the following CTIA video which vilified both prison jamming and unauthorized jamming based on alleged experience in Brazil.

CGMonjammers
CTIA interview on prison jamming (June 2009)

UPDATE
Mr. Guttman-McCabe no longer works at CTIA and the interview on prison jamming discussed above has magically disappeared from the CTIA website. But there isn sign that CTIA's policy has changed at all.

Comments