The independent blog on spectrum policy issues
that welcomes your input on the key policy issues of the day.

Our focus is the relationship between spectrum policy
and technical innnovation.

Our sympathies with the French people at this moment of tragedy and sadness

Officer Sean Collier R.I.P.

Collier funeral
Collier montage
Yesterday I attended an NSF-sponsor telecom R&D workshop at MIT in the Stata Building, the spot where MIT Campus Policer officer Sean Collier, 27, was murdered by the alleged marathon bombers. During the workshop was the memorial service for Officer Collier.

As an MIT grad I was very moved by the events of the day and the recognition of this brave effective police officer who was loved by the campus he protected. MIT has posted the video of the moving memorial service.

Due to announced road closures related to the memorial, I left the North Shore where I was staying with relatives, to drive to MIT around 7 AM under rainy skies on a typical cold New England Spring morning. As you can see in the video, the skies cleared and it turned into a beautiful Spring day as the service started at Noon.

President Obama said the following at the April 18th Interfaith Service in Boston:

Tomorrow, the sun will rise over Boston. Tomorrow, the sun will rise over this country that we love. This special place. This state of grace.

Scripture tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” As we do, may God hold close those who’ve been taken from us too soon. May He comfort their families. And may He continue to watch over these United States of America.

Collier’s family has requested that gifts in his memory go to The Jimmy Fund. MIT has created a Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund that will support a Collier Medal — to be awarded to individuals who demonstrate Collier’s values — and other causes.

MIT does not give honorary degrees, but Officer Collier was promptly named an honorary alumnus by MIT’s Alumni Association.

Jamming Enforcement at FCC Picks Up

jam fine

On April 9, FCC approved and released two Notices of Apparent Liability (NAL -- effectively fines) for use of cellular jammers. The one shown above was to Taylor Oilfield Manufacturing, Broussard, Louisiana for $126,000. The other was to The Supply Room, Inc., Oxford, Alabama for $144,000. OUCH!!!

(Now before you sell your stock in these companies your should know that FCC is always in a poor position to collect the full amount of such NALs from anyone able to hire an attorney unless the local US Attorney is really interested in getting fully involved. This can be problematical in many parts of the US.)

Cellular jammers are readily available to anyone in the US who knows how to use Google and has a credit card. I found the ad shown at left in a few seconds but will not give the URL of these sleazy characters.

The NALs have the following text

Signal jamming devices operate by transmitting powerful radio signals that overpower,jam, or interfere with authorized communications. While these devices have been marketed withincreasing frequency over the Internet, with limited exception, they have no lawful use in the UnitedStates. (A footnote clarifies that federal agency use is a separate issue.)

Your blogger fully agrees that since FCC has never authorized any jamming, the import and use of such equipment is illegal. However, they also have the following text:

In order to protect the public and preserve unfettered access to emergency and other communications services, the Act generally prohibits the importation, use, marketing, manufacture, and sale of jammers.

This sentence is a more complicated issue and sounds more like CTIA’s interpretation of Section 333, the subject of CTIA’s 2007 petition that FCC has never acted on. (The petition also contained the issue of “cellular boosters” which was addressed and finally resolved in Docket 10-4 a few months ago.)

The issue of what Section 333 of the communications Act really means is also addressed in GTL’s July 2011 petition which is sitting without action in FCC’s petition “black hole”. Thus CTIA has repeatedly stated that Section 333 forbids FCC from even considering authorizing jamming in any context including nonfederal high security prisons. Somehow CTIA and NTIA have concluded this nonobvious reading of Section 333 does not affect NTIA at all. As GTL points out, this ignores the “inconvenient truth” that Section 305 only exempts federal use from Sections 301 and 303 of the Act and also that the analogous terms of 18 USC 1367, dealing with the special case of satellite jamming and passed contemporaneously with Section 333, explicitly excludes jamming by federal agencies while Section 333 is silent on special treatment of federal users.

But there is no question here that the new FCC NALs are consistent with the law.

Why were these 2 small private companies spending money on cellular jammers? Here is some explanation from the texts of the NALs:

The manager also claimed that Taylor Oilfield utilized the jamming devices to prevent its employees from using their cellular phones while working, apparently following a near miss industrial accident that allegedly was partially attributable to employee cell phone use.

The general manager also confirmed that Supply Room utilized the jamming devices to prevent its employees from using their cellular phones while working.

This is typical of the cellular industry’s lack of attention to the unintended consequences of its technology, In 2005 (the then existing) Motorola commissioned a study by Don Norman on “Minimizing the annoyance of the mobile phone: The Annoyance, Irritation, and Frustration of The Mobile Phone -- A Design Challenge”. Unfortunately today’s cellular industry doesn’t seem too interested in such issues. They do not view them as a “design challenge” rather as legal issues that must be acted on to help their industry.

From Comm Law Blog
uncle sam-cellphone jamming-1
While the actions of Taylor Oilfield and Supply Room were clearly both wrong and illegal, they reflect legitimate concerns that the cellular industry offers no legitimate alternative approach to just as they offer no valid approach to unexpected ring tones during concerts.

All complex new technologies have unintended consequences. As cellular expands the unintended consequences of these systems are becoming more visible. Shouldn’t the cellular industry address those issues more in addition to demanding more spectrum and more jammer enforcement?


Doraemon Gets Promotion from Japanese Government:
But FCC Problem Remains

This week Japan Times reported, “ Japan’s most lovable anime character, el gato cosmico (the cosmic cat) has been chosen to be Japan’s ambassador in Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games. It’s the first time Japan has chosen an anime character for an Olympic ambassadorship. Congratulations Doraemon!”

As reported here in January 2007, there is a contention in Japan that the FCC’s “Broadband” character on the FCC Kids Zone appears to infringe the IP of Doraemon’s creators in Japan. This issue attracted 108 posts on the AnimeNewsNetwork, most critical of FCC.

A Major Japanese news service reported:

(Kyodo) _ The Japanese agency for the popular cartoon series featuring the robotic cat Doraemon said Tuesday it has sent a complaint to a U.S. government agency over its use of a "quite similar" character on its website.

Fujiko Pro, the holder of Doraemon's copyright, has determined that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is using a character named "Broadband" which is almost identical to Doraemon on its website section for children, said the Japanese agency Shogakukan Production Co.

Shogakukan Production, entrusted by Fujiko Pro with copyright protection, said it has sent a written complaint along with documents including excerpts from the cartoon to the FCC, requesting the commission seek permission whenever it uses the character for the purpose of profits.

But the FCC has made no response and has not deleted the character from the website so far, the Japanese agency said.

Broadband appears on the website's "Kids Zone" as a guide introducing children to the roles of the FCC, which oversees interstate and international communications. The agency also handles copyright issues.

One major difference between the two characters is that Broadband has ears while Doraemon does not.

The cartoon and animation series featuring Doraemon is especially popular in East Asia. The show was first aired in Japan in 1979, but has not been aired or published in the United States.

The controversy is discussed on FCC’s Japanese languageWikipedia page although not on its English version.

But now that Doraemon has been promoted to ambassador by the Japanese government, this issue may escalate.

CTIA and NAB's Battling Innovation Websites - I

The blood feud between CTIA and NAB is being expressed now in battling websites, each claiming how innovative their side is. From NAB we have WeAreBroadcasters.com/Innovating and from CTIA we have WirelessisLimitless.org. This is the first of a 2 blog series examining these claims. To be “fair and balanced”, as Fox News would say, we will deal with both sites. CTIA was randomly selected to be first. The following 2 videos are at the top of the CTIA site.

So let’s look at the cellular industry’s commitment to agriculture. Iowa is a state that comes to mind readily when you consider both agriculture and politics. Here is a map of AT&T’s claimed coverage in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County. Is this a farming area? Here is what Iowa State University says:

Agriculture is important to the economic fabric of Allamakee County and Iowa. Allamakee County’s 1,032 farms cover 274,844 acres of land, which accounts for 65 percent of the surface land in the county. Crop and livestock production are the visible parts of the agricultural economy, but many related businesses contribute as well by producing, processing and marketing farm and food products. These businesses generate income, employment and economic activity throughout the region.Allamakee County farmers harvested 60,364 acres of corn and 22,008 acres of soybeans, and produced 87,017 hogs and 55,246 head of cattle in 2007. Farms on average are smaller in Allamakee County, at 266 acres, than the statewide average of 311 acres. Sales per farm in Allamakee County were $127,524 in 2007.

Lest you think we are picking on AT&T, here is VZW’s claimed coverage of Iowa. Note the big noncoverage area in SW Iowa extending into Missouri. This is not a mountainous area either. While it is hard to judge from ATT coverage map which counties are included in the white area, it appears to include the following counties: Fremont, Page, Taylor, Ringold, and Decatur. It also appears to cover most of Mills, Montgomery, Adams, Union, and Clarke counties. Considering just the first 5 counties that lack VZW coverage, according to USDA 2010 data these 5 counties had a total of 3510 farms, with total farm area of 1,330,000 acres. (Average size=400 acres so these were not amateur vegetable growers.)

Now is spectrum shortage the reason for this lack of cell coverage in these farming areas? A check of the FCC Spectrum Dashboard shows that VZW (dba Cellco Partnership) has licenses in : Fremont, Page, Taylor, Ringold, and Decatur counties in both 700 MHz and the 1700/2100 MHz band, while AT&T (dba AT&T Mobility Spectrum LLC) has licenses in the same 2 bands in Allamakee County where it has no service.

Another odd thing about the videos is the focus in the first one on Smartfield, Inc.’s SmartCrop field monitoring technology. Quite impressive. So we surfed over to the FCC’s equipment authorization site to learn more about this equipment. (Smartfield’s grantee code is “W9B” if you want to check.) Smartfield has 7 FCC equipment authorizations, all of which are for unlicensed Part 15 equipment, the type of thing that CTIA consistently opposes new spectrum for. The video claims that the SmartCrop system uses cellular paths for transmission of data from a central point in the field to Smartfield’s analysis service. So the SmartCrop system appears to be a hybrid unlicensed/cellular service - an inconvenient fact not mentioned in the video.

The second video focus on the wonders of John Deere’s high tech services for farmers. Remember John Deere? These are the people with the irresponsible GPS receiver front end design that covered the GPS band as well as the band above and below it even though it was public knowledge that LightSquared and its predecessors had been given authority to build base stations in the lower band years earlier. The Deere GPS design was easily overloaded by any nearby signal in the adjacent bands and thus was a major cause for the current interest in receiver standards. The CTIA membership did not want LightSquared to compete with them and probably encouraged the John Deere issue as the poster child in the anti-LightSquared campaign to garner political support from farm state members of Congress. So maybe this focus on John Deere could be payback for their anti-LightSquared help.

But if you are a farmer and want to use technology like Smartfield’s or John Deere’s, you really have to have cellular service and the main CTIA members don’t seem to be in a rush to use their existing spectrum to give it to you as they demand more spectrum.

As a sailboat owner, your blogger was impressed with the beauty of the photography in this CTIA video on the Wireless is Limitless site:

Your blogger’s cellular booster antenna
Carrier registration pending
(vertical white rod)

Mast antenna

This video describes how the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System uses cellular transmission to get real time data on water conditions to fishermen (actually called “watermen” in local parlance) and researchers. But then we recalled that the reason we have a “cellular booster” (fought against so long by the cellular industry in Docket 10-4 and the CTIA 2007 petition) on our boat is that cellular coverage on Chesapeake Bay has real problems. (A cellular industry spectrum specialist acquaintance who also sails - but will not be named here - uses Iridium to keep in touch from his boat.) Let’s look at VZW’s claimed coverage (AT&T’s and T-Mo’s are similar) on Central Chesapeake Bay, the area near Solomons, MD actually shown in the video:


Guess what FCC’s Spectrum Dashboard shows here? Yup, AT&T, T-Mo, and VZW all have multiple licenses in Dorchester County where the white blocks are on all their coverage maps. This is also not a mountainous area.

So whether it is farming in Iowa or maritime coverage on Chesapeake Bay, there are real cellular coverage problems that have nothing to do with spectrum presently available to the cellular industry. As shown above, in these nonmontainous areas there seems to be a lack of interest in the major cellular carriers to finish rolling out their networks. This is good for Iridium and other satellite carriers, but not really good for the public.

The cellular industry certainly needs more spectrum access to keep up with expanding uses that help our society and the economy. But these rural cases are good examples of why spectrum sharing is so important. The real spectrum shortage is in urban areas where civil demand is great and military use small - San Diego being a notable exception. But the demands of the industry for complete reallocations when they can’t even use all the spectrum they have today sound hollow. Why can’t all spectrum users work together to find mutually beneficial solutions to their spectrum problems that don’t depend on cheap Chinese-made equipment. Let’s cool the PR rhetoric and work on real problems.

The review of NAB’s site, also over the top, with be up in a few days.


"Zero TV": Bad News for NAB During the NAB Show

As the moguls of the broadcasting industry gather in Las Vegas for the annual NAB Show this week and the FCC commissioners travel west despite the sequester (no doubt remembering what happened when Reed Hundt had the chutzpah to go to a conflicting major ITU conference rather than genuflect before NAB in Las Vegas), the news shown at right is appearing in media outlets across the country. We have chosen the screenshot from CBS News to show that this is not the imagination of antibroadcasting forces at CTIA. But the same content is appearing in numerous news outlets, including today’s Washington Post.

On March 11, Nielsen (“We study consumers in more than 100 countries to give you the most complete view of trends and habits worldwide”) announced
Nielsen 67

“It’s true. Most people watch TV in their living rooms using traditional cable or satellite options. In fact, more than 95 percent of Americans get their information and entertainment that way. But as we explored what the other 5 percent are doing, we found some interesting consumer behaviors that we want to keep an eye on.This small group of video enthusiasts is tuning out traditional TV—and the trend is growing. This “Zero-TV” group, which makes up less than 5 percent of U.S. households, has bucked tradition by opting to get the information they need and want from non-traditional TV devices and services.”

While the Zero TV homes are only 5% of US households, the number has increased by a factor of 2.5 in the past 6 years and Nielsen found that “these video homes tend to be younger with almost half under the age of 35” - the same prime demographic that advertisers, other than AARP and Republican candidates, seek.

Bloomberg reported today

Together, the major broadcasters account for more than 21 percent of prime-time viewing in the current TV season, down from almost 75 percent in the early 1950s, before cable programmers emerged, according to Nielsen data.

So as the mechanism of the incentive auction slowly moves on to the 2014 deadline maybe TV broadcasters should think more about whether their business model should be pumping hundreds of kilowatts of RF power into the ether when it is rarely received by anyone other than headends of cable and other non broadcast video distributors, or should it be putting together packages of compelling programming and distributing it by whatever mechanism is appropriate for our era.

For good news about broadcasting, click below:


Cherry Blossoms Bloom!
FCC From a Different Angle

In keeping with our annual tradition of reporting cherry blossoms, the FCC’s neighbor since the move from 20th and M in 1999, here is a new picture of the flowers and FCC.

After being earlier than usual for the past several years, the flowers bloomed this year on their historical schedule due to cold weather in February and March although the winter was not cold in the absolute sense.

The darker building on the left is Mandarin Hotel while the lighter colored building is FCC.

CTIA Can Be as Rigid as NRA is on Gun Control

Wireless Week
In an article today in Wireless Week CTIA’s leadership has shown that they can be really really rigid on spectrum. Speaking at a breakfast meeting for media, CTIA’s Steve Largent said “"There are some people out there that you talk to who say that the wireless industry doesn't really need more spectrum...There's not a whole lot of credibility to that. Our companies would not be spending billions on more spectrum just for fun...it's a laughable argument”.

Great debating trick! Steve who are these people who say you don’t “really need more spectrum”? Even NAB concedes a need for some additional spectrum. Now there is a question of how much the growing need for wireless capacity should be met through additional spectrum or through more intense infrastructure buildout. Readers may recall the chart at left from an Ofcom report that summarized the 3 inputs to capacity: spectrum, technology, and topology/infrastructure.

And where will this new spectrum come from? Wireless Week writes

“Largent stressed the need for the FCC, as well as the President, to pressure government agencies like the Department of Defense, to clear unused spectrum for commercial use. ‘It's really hard to pry this spectrum out of their hands...It's incumbent on the president and the FCC to pressure them to give up some of this spectrum’ ”

Largent’s staff then tried to outdo their boss on rigidity.

“Chris Guttman-McCabe, CTIA's vice president of regulatory affairs, made it clear that spectrum sharing is not the end goal, noting that the report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which recommended sharing airwaves a matter of policy did not have adequate input from the wireless industry. "There were no infrastructure vendors, no handset vendors at the time and no carriers," Guttman-McCabe said of PCAST. "We believe here, there needs to be a focus on clearing...as a fallback, we are perfectly comfortable investigating sharing...but with the goal of eventually clearing that spectrum."

So PCAST did not have any industry insiders as members. Can you imagine that the White House does not view the techies of the cellular infrastructure vendors, handset vendors and carriers as not meeting their criteria as “the nation’s leading scientists and engineers”.

As a public service, here is an extract from the PCAST report listing the PCAST members and “Invited Experts” involved in drafting it. Isn’t Largent’s predecessor Tom Wheeler there? Now sources tell me that Wheeler really wasn’t very active in drafting the report, but he certainly was in the inner circle. Isn’t Dale Hatfield, my former boss and a close friend of CTIA there also? Note that CTIA proudly posts on it website the following video of Dale saying at a CTIA conference “ we can no longer afford to sacrifice spectrum due to inefficient technology.”

But more importantly as we worry about the nut case running North Korea and feel better because we have the largest most and information intensive military in the world, is the only solution to getting more cellular capacity for the “President, to pressure government agencies like the Department of Defense, to clear unused spectrum for commercial use.” Does CTIA really think the issue is that there is “unused spectrum” assigned to DoD that meets their additional, but unstated criteria of availability in all US territory and available 24/7, presumably 1000 ms/s? Sharing is really a way to use the DoD spectrum that is inevitably “unused” at certain locations certain times. Is that so bad?

At least Chris is willing to consider sharing as a “fallback”. What if it really works? Will CTIA at least consider that possibility? Is the need for readily available Chinese made equipment in all cellular bands really a key driver in spectrum policy. It is ironic that he says this as Sprint has foresworn Chinese suppliers for the core of their network.

Lest CTIA think that the evil sharing is a concept only advocated by irrational cellular industry enemies at FCC and NAB, perhaps they should review the following document from European regulators:

This EC memo has statements like

The radio spectrum is a finite resource – there is no vacant spectrum remaining, and the cost of re-allocating spectrum to new uses is high. On the other hand there is an exponential increase in the use of spectrum – for example driven by mobile computing devices, Wi-Fi hotspots but also smart electricity grids and industrial automation. This creates challenges for meeting the growing demand for spectrum.

However, thanks to advances in technology, it is now possible to share the spectrum more efficiently. Many new wireless technologies are designed to share bands in which no licence is required (licence-exempt bands), while others make additional spectrum resources available by, for example, providing wireless broadband services in between TV frequencies (the 'white spaces'). To maximise the benefits of spectrum sharing, regulatory barriers need to be removed and incentives provided. This requires new regulatory approaches to give different users the right to use a given frequency band on a shared basis...

The main reasons are the economic incentives to use spectrum efficiently by getting more out of the same amount of spectrum wherever technology allows it. The proposed approach is firmly based on the need to provide economic incentives for innovators and incumbents alike..

For example public entities that are incumbent right holders could offer access to spectrum capacity to commercial operators in return for co-funding of network infrastructures, for example for broadband public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) applications. Commercial operators will be able to recoup investment costs by sharing spectrum in areas or at times of the day that their spectrum is underutilised. On the other hand, innovators who can compare sharing opportunities in a competitive internal market could use economic incentives to encourage incumbents to share spectrum, if they have an innovative technology that allows it. In order to reach the economies of scale that stimulate such innovations, the EU needs a common approach in the internal market to identify beneficial sharing opportunities across the entire radio spectrum.

So sharing is not the result of anticellular industry “dark forces” lurking in Washington, it is a concept that is moving faster than the cellular industry wants it to move in order to balance using today’s technology available resources with growing capacity needs while addressing other uses of spectrum that are also valuable to societies and economies.

"Media Bureau Restored" - CommLawBlog

The investigative reporters at our fellow blogger, CommLawBlog, have revealed that the FCC’s Media Bureau ceased operating in October 2011 due to a computer snafu. Apparently with all the attention on getting more spectrum for the cellular operators no one noticed! But in a low key PN hidden in FCC’s voluminous poorly organized website today, shown above, the Commission admitted the problem and said that it has now been solved. The bureau is now back in operation!


In another unexpected announcement today, Comm. Pai tweeted that the White House has asked him to replace Chmn. Genachowski. Congratulations Commissioner! Obviously SpectrumTalk was not the only place where your strong view on Section 7 and technical innovation was noticed and appreciated!

On other news fronts, our friends WestJet - the fun Calgary-based airline - has now eased restrictions on pets in the cabin with its new "furry family" program. Westjet announced:

Effective today we are easing restrictions on pets travelling in the cabin. All WestJet flights will now allow for any type of animal to travel in the cabin provided it fits safely on board the aircraft. Further, we will no longer require animals to be kept in kennels while on board the aircraft.

"We recognize that a growing number of families want to travel with their 'extended' family and we are proud to be the first airline to offer this type of service," said Richard Bartrem, WestJet's Vice-President, Communications and Community Relations.

"Today, the definition of the family pet has grown to include animals beyond a dog or a cat and our more liberal approach will allow these guests and all their pets to move freely about the cabin."