Challenges to Broadband Grants Are Predatory

By Doug Dawson, Jan 18, 2022 | Orginal POTs and PANS article here.

One of the most annoying aspects of the current federal broadband grants is the ability of incumbent ISPs to challenge the validity of grant requests. In the typical challenge, the incumbents claim that they are offering fast broadband and that an applicant should not be able to overbuild them.

This is another issue that can be laid squarely at the feet of the lousy FCC broadband maps. ISPs are largely free to claim any broadband speeds they want, and grant challenges give them a lever in situations like these grants. The challenges put a burden on anybody filing for a grant since they must somehow prove that incumbent broadband speeds are slower than 25/3 Mbps.

This is not new behavior by the incumbents. You might recall that before the RDOF auction in 2020 that Frontier and CenturyLink together tried to claim they were delivering speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps to tens of thousands of additional Census blocks. The goal was to eliminate these locations from the RDOF auction so that the telcos could preserve their broadband monopoly. The FCC largely rejected the last-minute changes by the telcos. There were already huge areas where telco speed capabilities were overstated before RDOF. The result was that a huge number of Census blocks were incorrectly kept out of the RDOF auction.

A recent article by Karl Bode for Community Networks highlights some specific examples of challenges bogging down the current round of NTIA broadband grants. He cites the example of a grant application made in Grafton County, New Hampshire, where the incumbents challenged the speeds for 3,000 Census blocks in a grant covering 4,000 blocks.

Grafton County had collected speed tests that showed that existing broadband speeds are mostly far below the 25/3 Mbps threshold. But this still puts the burden on the grant applicant to somehow document broadband speeds for each of the many Census blocks. The incumbent ISPs are using the challenges to weaponize the lousy data included in the FCC’s broadband maps.

This is often a ludicrous situation. Applicants like Grafton County are seeking to build fiber broadband because it has already heard repeatedly from residents about the poor broadband in the area. There are easy and obvious fixes to this. One simple fix would be that grants that ask to build fiber over existing DSL should be free from challenges. There is no place in rural America where DSL is delivering adequate broadband.

Another easy fix would be to stop talking about 25/3 Mbps as a meaningful definition of broadband. If these grants only allowed challenges for claims of 100/20 Mbps, then all of the challenges from telcos would be neutered. But there would still be battles like seen by Grafton County, where the cable companies are delivering slow speeds and challenging the grants. Setting the definition of broadband to a faster speed, even if only for the purposes of these grants, would eliminate the wasted energy being taken in handing out grant funding. The folks taking the most of brunt of these challenges are the folks in the various broadband grant offices. The shame of the challenge process is that there probably are some legitimate challenges being made, but they get lost in the huge volume of harassment challenges.

Unfortunately, these challenges are in place for a reason that surprises nobody. When the legislation enabling grants comes through Congress, the incumbents get to sneak innocuous-sounding language into the grant rules that is then manifested in chaos during the grant process. Unfortunately, the upcoming BEAD grant rules include a challenge process, so we’re going to get to see this process repeated. If there were a huge number of challenges in the $288 million NTIA grant program, it’s not hard to imagine what we’re going to see with the $42.5 billion BEAD grant program that’s granting 150 times more in funding.

Why David Grimes’s RF Microwave Radiation Cancer Review Must Be Retracted

News from Jan 19, 2022: David Grimes, PhD is Not Affiliated with the University of Oxford

Microwave News has now learned that David Grimes is not currently affiliated with Oxford University.

“David Grimes has no formal affiliation with the Department of Oncology in Oxford. Whilst it is not clear exactly when the articles in question were conceived it seems unlikely that a formal affiliation existed at that time,” according to Professor Mark Middleton, head of the Department of Oncology.

Still unclear is whether Grimes will now be forced to retract his review paper in JAMA Oncology or any his other papers in which he also claimed an Oxford affiliation.


Open Letter to Editor-in-Chief, AMA Journals | Find the original from Microwave News here.

January 18, 2022

Phil B. Fontanarosa, MD, MBA
Interim Editor-in-Chief
Journal of the American Medical Association and the JAMA Network

Dear Dr. Fontanarosa,

As you are already keenly aware, on December 9, 2021, JAMA Oncology, part of the AMA family of journals, published what purports to be a review of radiofrequency (RF) microwave radiation exposures and cancer by David Robert Grimes.

Grimes’s paper is rife with distortions and omissions. It is a disservice to the AMA and to all those who care about public health. I urge you, as the current editor-in-chief of all AMA journals, to retract this paper.

Here are four reasons why you should set the record straight as soon as possible:

  1. Grimes gets the science wrong.
  2. Grimes is not qualified to write the review.
  3. Grimes’s affiliation with Oxford University is tenuous, at best.
  4. Grimes misreports his statements on behalf of the telecom industry in the published conflict of interest (CoI) disclosure.

1. The Science

First and most important, Grimes makes a hash of the science of RF microwave radiation and cancer. I spelled out some of Grimes’s errors — both of commission and of omission — in a December 14 letter to Dr. Nora Disis, the editor of JAMA Oncology. In short, Grimes misrepresents RF microwave radiation epidemiology and toxicology. Even Grimes’s handling of the physics of RF microwave radiation mechanisms of interactions is so simplistic that it would be out of place in an introductory-level college course.

Dr. Disis replied that JAMA journals “reserve retractions for articles that have been fabricated, falsified or plagiarized,” and that, “There does not appear to be evidence of such misconduct in this article.”

I believe that Grimes’s review is so one-sided that it qualifies as both falsification and fabrication. It might as well have been plagiarized from a telecom industry position paper.

2. The Qualifications

I cannot understand why JAMA Oncology would select a person trained in physics to review the complex medicine and biology of RF microwave radiation interactions for an expert or a lay audience. Grimes has no apparent qualifications in epidemiology or toxicology. He has cultivated a much higher profile as a crusading journalist than as a research scientist.

As I pointed out in my letter to Dr. Disis, Grimes makes assertions that run counter to statements from organizations widely considered to be gold standards in this field, including the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP).

Grimes’s dismissal, without a citation, of NTP’s $30 million RF-microwave radition exposure animal study —which concluded that there is “clear evidence” of a link to cancer — is as inexplicable as it is inexcusable.

3. The Oxford Affiliation

Grimes represents himself as affiliated with the Department of Oncology at U.K.’s University of Oxford. Repeated efforts — by myself and others — have failed to confirm this.

University officials at Oxford have remained silent on the question of Grimes’s status. When I asked the press office, no one responded. I am aware of similar requests for clarification sent to senior academic officials, including Professor Mark Middleton, the head of the oncology department. These too have gone unanswered.

On his LinkedIn page, Grimes states that he was a postdoctoral research associate at Oxford for nearly five years ending in February 2017, when he transitioned to what he calls a “Visiting Research Fellow.” I have been unable to find a public acknowledgement of this appointment on the Oxford website or anywhere else.

During his postdoc, Grimes was mentored by Mike Partridge of the Oxford Institute of Radiation Oncology (OIRO). Partridge left Oxford some years ago and at last word was surveying bird colonies in the Orkney Islands, off the northeast coast of Scotland.

If it exists at all, my guess is that Grimes’s visiting fellowship is some kind of courtesy title, perhaps allowed by Partridge in 2017 as a favor when Grimes left Oxford, a perk from the old-boy network. Today, close to five years after the end of his postdoc, is it appropriate for Grimes to be using an Oxford affiliation? If not, does this qualify as a “fabrication”? It should.

To see if there might be some justification for Grimes’s use of this affiliation in JAMA Oncology, I consulted Oxford’s “Publication and Authorship” policies. It states, in part:

“Only staff or students of the collegiate University, or those who have a formal affiliation to the University or a College (or those who were University staff or students, or had a formal affiliation when the research in question was conducted), should state in any journal submission that they are affiliated to the University or a College.”

Grimes would need to have had a “formal affiliation” with Oxford during the first part of 2021 when he was preparing his review for JAMA Oncology. If he did have such an affiliation, why has no one at Oxford stepped forward to clarify Grimes’s status?

4. The Confict-of-Interest Disclosure

There is no better example of Grimes’s propensity to mislead than his disclosure on conflicts of interest (CoI) appended to his JAMA Oncology review. It states, in part:

“Dr Grimes has … also appeared in an informational video for Vodafone UK countering the fallacious connection between 5G and COVID-19 and donated these fees to Médecins Sans Frontières.”

As I wrote to Dr. Disis last month, this Confict-of-Interest statement is a misrepresentation to the point of deception. The “informational video” does much more than counter baseless links between 5G and COVID.

The video, titled 5G and Health: Everything You Need To Know, features only Grimes. Just 20 seconds of the video is on 5G and COVID. What follows over the next two minutes is full-blown endorsement of the safety of 5G wireless technology.

Grimes says to the camera:

“There have been thousands of studies looking into this and the global consensus is that 5G poses no threat to health,”

This is a total fabrication. It’s nothing more than industry propaganda. The fact is that there are very few studies on 5G and health. Not thousands, not hundreds, not dozens, just a handful of preliminary reports.

Indeed, on January 7, 2022, soon after I wrote to Dr. Disis, a paper on 5G and health was posted online by the International Journal of Radiation Biology, a leading journal in the field. The authors point out that they were unable to find a single human experimental study on the effects of 5G radiation. There is an “urgent need for theoretical and experimental investigations of health effects by 5G,” they conclude.

Dr. Disis has refused to publish my four-page letter to the editor, offering instead an opportunity to publish a maximum of 400 words —which Grimes could then rebut with 500 words. A decision you reiterated in a January 4th follow-up email.

I declined. I simply cannot correct all of Grimes’s distortions in such a short letter.

You and Dr. Disis have both told me that if I don’t submit such a letter, you will consider the matter of Grimes’s review closed after January 9th, 2022, a month following its publication in JAMA Oncology. I hope you will reconsider.

At the very least, Dr. Fontanarosa, I ask you to contact Oxford and watch the Vodafone video. I can understand your reluctance to wade into the 50-year scientific controversy over RF microwave radiation and cancer, but Grimes’s misrepresentation of both his Oxford affiliation and his work for the telecom industry strike at the heart of what you describe as your “journal’s standards.”

After all, would JAMA Oncology have entertained a review of the RF microwave radiation controversy by an assistant professor at a mid-level Irish University — one who has cultivated a reputation as a combative journalist rather than as a objective scientist — had Grimes not played the Oxford card?

I continue to urge that JAMA Oncology retract Grimes’s paper and that the JAMA Network initiate a formal investigation of the peer review process that led to its publication.

Sincerely,

Louis Slesin
Editor, Microwave News

P.S. I should note that Grimes has refused to respond to my questions about this or anything else.

Airlines Renew Warnings of Travel Disruption From C-Band 5G Rollout

By DAVID KOENIG, AP Airlines, Jan 18 2022 | Original Bakersfield Now article here.

The airline industry is raising the stakes in a showdown with AT&T and Verizon over plans to launch 5G wireless service this week, warning that thousands of flights could be grounded or delayed if the rollout takes place near major airports.

CEOs of the nation’s largest airlines say that interference from the wireless service on a key instrument on planes is worse than they originally thought.

“To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt unless the service is blocked near major airports, the CEOs said in a letter Monday to federal officials including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has previously taken the airlines’ side in the matter.”

AT&T and Verizon plan to activate their new 5G wireless service Wednesday after two previous delays from the original plan for an early December rollout. The new high-speed 5G service uses a segment of the radio spectrum (C-Band: 3,500 MHz to 3,700 MHz) that is close to that used by altimeters, which are devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground.

AT&T and Verizon say their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics, and that the technology is being safely used in many other countries. However, the CEOs of 10 passenger and cargo airlines including American, Delta, United and Southwest say that 5G will be more disruptive than they originally thought because dozens of large airports that were to have buffer zones to prevent 5G interference with aircraft will still be subject to flight restrictions announced last week by the Federal Aviation Administration. They add that those restrictions won’t be limited to times when visibility is poor.

The airline CEOs wrote:

“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded. This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions or delays.”

The airline CEOs asked that the new 5G be barred within two miles of airport runways. AT&T and Verizon declined to comment. A trade group for the telecom industry, CTIA, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The showdown between two industries and their rival regulators — the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees radio spectrum — now threatens to further disrupt the aviation industry, which has been hammered by the pandemic for nearly two years.

This was a crisis that was years in the making. The airline industry and the FAA say that they have tried to raise alarms about potential interference from 5G C-Band but the FCC has ignored them. The telecoms, the FCC and their supporters argue that C-Band and aircraft altimeters operate far enough apart on the radio spectrum to avoid interference. They also say that the aviation industry has known about C-Band technology for several years but did nothing to prepare — airlines chose not to upgrade altimeters that might be subject to interference, and the FAA failed to begin surveying equipment on planes until the last few weeks.

AT&T and Verizon spent billions of dollars for C-Band spectrum in a government auction run by the FCC, then spent billions more to build out new networks. In response to concern by the airlines, they agreed to delay launching the service from early December until early January. Late on New Year’s Eve, Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson asked the companies for another delay, warning of “unacceptable disruption” to air service.

AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg rejected the request in a letter that had a scolding, even mocking tone. But they had second thoughts after intervention that reached the White House. They agreed to the second, shorter delay but implied that there would be no more compromises.

That was followed by a deal in which the telecoms agreed to reduce the power of their networks near 50 airports for six months. In exchange, the FAA and the Transportation Department promised not to further oppose the rollout of 5G C-Band. President Joe Biden praised the deal, but the airlines weren’t satisfied with the agreement, regarding it as a victory for the telecoms that didn’t adequately address their concerns about trying to land planes at airports where the new service would be active.

What Is FirstNet Band 14?

By Jayna Locke, July 22, 2021 | Orginal Digi International article here.

Check for a License for the 700 MHz frequency Band 14 in your county here.

What Is FirstNet®?

FirstNet® is a cellular network communications system designed to deliver priority and pre-emptive communications for first responders and other organizations involved in critical infrastructure and public health and safety. Developed in a public-private collaboration between the First Responder Network Authority and AT&T, the network is built to close communications gaps in public emergencies.

The key objective for FirstNet® is to handle maximum first responder traffic even during a peak emergency. Since FirstNet can only be used by those with a specialized device, there is almost no risk of the network going down or for network congestion by non-FirstNet users. This robust design makes it a cornerstone of strategic planning for smart cities.

While communications with emergency responders are critical at any time, the stakes are especially high during catastrophic events that affect a large population. When a city, region, state or the nation experiences a natural disaster or a terrorist attack — most memorably, events such as the 9/11 disaster, Hurricane Katrina and the Boston bombing — cellular networks can quickly become overloaded, preventing dispatchers and first responders from communicating quickly and effectively.

If you are responsible for critical communications in a municipality, in which police stations, fire stations, and other emergency service providers depend on cellular networks for communications, today you have the opportunity to improve your city’s disaster preparedness with FirstNet communications.

Many other organizations qualify too, including hospitals, ambulance services and a second tier of services known as “extended primary.” These include critical infrastructure systems and services such as water treatment plants, the power grid and security services.

What Is Band 14, and How Does It Work?

The need for a first responder network with dedicated spectrum was recognized in the wake of September 11th 2001, after first responders found it difficult to communicate on the congested cellphone network. In 2012, Congress passed the Spectrum Act. This act set aside 20 MHz of highly desirable spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency band, known as Band 14, which was to be reserved exclusively for emergency communications. Low-band spectrum like the 700 MHz band provides several advantages, including the ability to better penetrate walls and other obstacles. It helps to ensure excellent coverage.

It has been less than ten years since the Spectrum Act was passed, but already the FirstNet network can be accessed by 99% of the U.S. population. This rapid expansion in coverage can be attributed to AT&T’s strategy to give FirstNet users access to all bands on the AT&T network with priority and pre-emption over non-FirstNet users. This means that if there is a signal, FirstNet users will have coverage, even in remote areas where Band 14 may not be deployed yet.

Who Owns FirstNet and Band 14?

FirstNet is owned by the First Responder Network Authority, an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce. Chartered in 2012, its mission is to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the nationwide broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities.

Band 14 is maintained through a public and private collaboration. The Spectrum Act allocated about $7 billion to kickstart construction. However, a majority of the funding comes from AT&T. Over the course of 25 years, it is expected that AT&T will spend in upwards of $40 billion to build and operate Band 14.

In exchange, AT&T can run normal commercial traffic across the band when everything is working properly. However, in the event of an emergency, AT&T will give FirstNet® users priority and pre-emption over non-FirstNet users and, if necessary, drop all commercial traffic and dedicate the network exclusively to first responders, along with the extended primary group as bandwidth allows. For this reason, a normal cellphone might stop working during a crisis, but a FirstNet-enabled device will continue to work.

How Do I Qualify for FirstNet and Band 14?

The idea behind FirstNet is for important first responders, city services and infrastructure to continue functioning in the event of an emergency. Given that mandate, the list of FirstNet approved organizations is broad. In fact, many organizations are surprised to find they qualify.

For example, drilling and gas wells all qualify for FirstNet, as do Internet connected irrigation systems, waste disposal and septic tank services. Both short and long haul railroad carriers can use the network, as can the postal service and other private postal carriers.

The list of extended primary services also includes

  • highway and bridge construction projects,
  • chemical engineering services,
  • school bus systems,
  • various airport and air control functionaries
  • transportation and licensing providers.

It is worth investigating, if you think that your company or organization might qualify.

What Devices Support FirstNet and Band 14?

When it comes to FirstNet compatibility, there are two categories of devices:

  1. Products that meet FirstNet requirements, pass certifications, and support all FirstNet features and support band 14. These are known as FirstNet Ready™.
  2. Products that meet FirstNet requirements, pass certifications, and support all FirstNet features but do not support band 14. These do not have a FirstNet Ready designation.

For best FirstNet performance, you want to select a device that is FirstNet Ready™.

Some of Samsung’s Band 14 compatible devices include the Galaxy S10, Galaxy Note9, Galaxy S9 and the Galaxy Tab S4 tablet. These top-of-the-line phones are a far cry from the hefty bricks that one might associate with emergency backup communications.

Various models of the Apple iPhone can also access the network. The iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR can connect to the FirstNet network, as can iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro.

Infrastructure Systems that Support FirstNet and Band 14 Communications

Traffic systems in urban areas

While it’s important for individual police officers, fire fighters and EMTs to have a Band 14-enabled cellphone, perhaps nothing is more important than a FirstNet Ready™ cellular router. These devices can provide the communications backbone to ensure that an entire hospital, police station, power plant or water treatment facility remains connected to the Internet in an emergency.

The IoT supports critical communications for public safety services, hospitals and first responders. Smart traffic management systems depend on high data throughput and the most reliable communications networks, as these systems are critical for everything from daily traffic management and emergency vehicle routing to a city-wide evacuation.

To learn more about how FirstNet compatible devices support mission critical communications in traffic management systems, see our case study on New York City’s deployment of Digi cellular routers in 14,000 intersections across the city’s five boroughs.

Digi’s FirstNet and Band 14 Solution

Digi TX54 FirstNet Ready cellular router

Digi has a growing offering of devices that are certified for operation on the FirstNet® network. The FirstNet Ready™ Digi TX54 cellular router is designed for these mission-critical applications, functioning as a central communications gateway for smart traffic management systems and Band 14 communications. This robust, secure device is designed to withstand tough conditions, support multiple connectivity requirements simultaneously and maintain the fastest connections with the highest availability.

Today, Digi is working with municipalities across the U.S. to deploy the critical FirstNet Band 14 communications backbone to support emergency response, smart traffic management systems and future connected vehicles. Contact us to learn more about how these systems can support your city’s critical communications.

Expanding Band 14 Across Public Health and Safety

Congress mandated the deployment of FirstNet Band 14 to ensure critical communications occur without delays during a disaster. To that end, the U.S. government would like to see as many critical infrastructure organizations and emergency service providers connected and prepared as possible. If you think that your institution may qualify for a Band 14 connection don’t wait. Make sure you’re prepared for the unforeseen in your city.

Why AT&T and Verizon are feuding with the US government over a last-minute delay to mid-band 5G

This is a long-brewing battle between wireless carriers and airlines.

By Russell Brandom Jan 4, 2022 | original The Verge article here.

The day after New Year’s, the CEOs of the two biggest wireless carriers in America sent a very angry letter to Pete Buttigieg. The companies had been working for years to launch a new portion of their 5G networks, a launch that had been scheduled for December and then unexpectedly pushed back due to vague air safety concerns. Now, the Department of Transportation was asking for more time, just days before the scheduled launch.

“In addition to the tens of billions of dollars we paid to the U.S. Government for the spectrum and the additional billions of dollars we paid to the satellite companies to enable the December 2021 availability of the spectrum,” the CEOs wrote, “we have paid billions of dollars more to purchase the necessary equipment and lease space on towers. Thousands of our employees have worked non-stop for months to prepare our networks to utilize this spectrum.”

As of yesterday, the spectrum launch is back on — pushed first to January 5th, then two weeks later to January 19th — but it’s been an unusually rocky road for US wireless carriers, bouncing between regulators at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and increasingly vocal unions for pilots and flight attendants. At the heart of all of it is a nagging fear that the latest round of 5G spectrum will pose a threat to commercial airlines and their passengers. But it’s such a complicated issue that it’s best to unpack it one piece at a time.

What is actually getting delayed here? I already have 5G on my phone.

Carriers and airlines are fighting over a particular chunk of spectrum from 3.7 to roughly 4.0 GHz – primarily used by AT&T and Verizon, sometimes referred to as C-band. (T-Mobile is using a separate mid-band patch at 2.2GHz, so it is largely sitting this fight out.)

This isn’t all the 5G spectrum, but it’s some of the best parts. The most powerful thing about 5G is the ability to transmit huge volumes of data over these mid-band frequencies, and this spectrum is the main way AT&T and Verizon are planning to do it.

“There’s a reason they paid $65 billion for this. They don’t have sufficient mid-band spectrum without it.”

“There’s a reason they paid $65 billion for this spectrum,” says Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld, who wrote about the issue at length in November. “They don’t have sufficient mid-band spectrum without it.”

Crucially, we’re at the last step in a very long process. If you bought a 5G-capable phone, you already own a device that can send and receive on those wavelengths, and there are already cell towers that can manage those signals. All that’s left is to turn them on, at which point the C-band airwaves will get a whole lot busier.

So… why didn’t they switch them on?

Airlines are worried those busier C-band airwaves will interfere with their equipment. In particular, they’re worried about radar altimeters — a device that bounces radio waves off the ground to give extremely precise altitude readings. It’s a crucial device for landings, particularly in conditions with limited visibility, and relies on having an empty patch of spectrum to work in. Faulty altimeter readings can also trigger automated responses from autopilot systems, as in a 2009 Turkish Airlines crash that left nine dead.

As a result, the entire industry is deeply uncomfortable with anything that might interfere with altimeters. As an airline pilot’s association put it in a 2018 filing to the FCC, “the public interest would not be served if tens of thousands of existing aircraft worldwide were inadvertently no longer provided the safety protection enabled by radio altimetry equipment due to interference from adjacent bands.”

But they’ve tested this, right? Does it actually cause problems?

This is the 65-billion-dollar question! As one tech trade group is fond of pointing out, this spectrum has already been rolled out in 40 different countries without any resulting altimeter failures, although some of those countries are operating it at lower power levels. But the FCC has spent three years going back and forth with various airline groups on this question, and a lot of them are still worried.

It’s not clear how many faulty altimeters are out there or how they’ll respond to a flood of 5G traffic

The FCC has a number of measures in place to prevent interference. There’s a full 220 MHz of clearance between the spectrum used by the radio altimeters (which starts at 4,200 MHz) and the new 5G spectrum (which ends at 3,980 MHz). The FCC even carved an extra 20 MHz from the 5G holdings when this issue was raised in 2018 to give aircraft extra space. There are also several restrictions on how 5G towers should be configured near airports to avoid flooding the airwaves in areas where planes are landing. In a modern plane with a modern radar altimeter, it should be easy to avoid interference.

The problem is, not every aircraft has a modern radar altimeter. Both sides acknowledge that at least some altimeters are affected by signals from outside the intended spectrum bands. To be clear, this is a malfunction — but it’s a malfunction that wouldn’t have been relevant before C-band came online. As things stand now, it’s not clear how many faulty altimeters are out there or how they’ll respond to a flood of 5G traffic. And because even a single interference-related crash would be tragic, it’s hard for airlines to feel secure about the rollout.

For the FCC and wireless industry, the ideal solution would be for the FAA to launch some kind of industry-wide effort to find and replace faulty altimeters. In fact, they would have liked it to launch in 2019, when the rulemaking for the spectrum first began. But that didn’t happen, and it’s unlikely to happen in the next two weeks.

Why don’t carriers give airlines more time to test their equipment?

Verizon and AT&T are coming up against a deadline of their own. 5G-capable phones have been available in the US for two years now, and carriers are expecting a flood of new customers as holiday devices come online. Both networks have some 5G capacity already in place, but without the C-band spectrum, their networks are increasingly stretched thin. In February, AT&T plans to shut down its 3G network entirely as part of the transition to 5G. All that traffic has to go somewhere — and without new spectrum, the result will be spotty, inconsistent service. At the same time, T-Mobile is skating by without any of these problems and has been aggressively marketing its 5G network to draw away customers.

Another two weeks isn’t too big of a deal for the carriers, which is part of why they were so eager to accept the deal, but further delays could start to do serious damage to their business plans. With each passing month, the drag on the network gets a little more severe, and the damage from a $65 billion dead asset gets a little harder for shareholders to ignore.

“The thing the carriers were really worried about was, how long is this going to go on?” Feld says. “You have this combination of surging demand and concern that you won’t ever be able to use the spectrum.”

So what happens now?

One way or another, AT&T and Verizon are planning to switch on their networks on January 19th, and the airlines and pilots will be on high alert for the first sign of any interference. The FAA has promised to use the extra two weeks to craft an airworthiness directive for any planes that might be affected, which will stave off the most severe shutdowns or delays. Given the tight timeframe and mounting pressure, it’s very likely the best the agency can do.

But for observers like Feld, the most frustrating thing is how much time agencies have already wasted without addressing the issue. “This shouldn’t have been a problem. Since the FCC started this rulemaking in 2019, we’ve known this was coming. The steps that are necessary to address this are fairly straightforward,” he told me. “It’s unfathomable.”

Monopoly Providers Mire NTIA Broadband Grant Process With Costly, Empty Challenges

By Karl Bode, Jan 3, 2022 | Original Muninetworks article here.

Over 230 communities have applied for National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program grants. But community leaders increasingly say they’re facing costly, unnecessary challenges from incumbent broadband providers, who are exploiting unreliable U.S. broadband maps to overstate existing coverage and defend the status quo.

The NTIA’s $288 million grant program – and the looming $42 billion broadband infrastructure investment plan – will help bring affordable broadband to the roughly 20-30 million Americans without broadband, and the 83 million Americans currently living under a broadband monopoly.

In Grafton County, New Hampshire, 39 municipalities are part of a growing list of communities exploring home-grown broadband alternatives. They represent a grassroots movement driven by frustration with market failure that accelerated during the Covid-19 crisis. In response they’ve bonded together to apply for a $26.2 million NTIA grant to improve the region’s substandard broadband.

A Little Something Called Competition

Grafton hopes to use the NTIA funding to provide a middle mile fiber network, making it easier for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to service each municipality and the county’s 90,000 residents. The network will be open access, inviting numerous ISPs to compete over the same shared infrastructure. Studies have repeatedly shown such open access models result in better, cheaper, faster service.

“The whole idea is that we want to facilitate competition,” Bristol town administrator Nik Coates shared in a recent phone interview. “I get at least an email a day from people contacting me about how bad their service is.” According to the FCC Form 477 data (which can dramatically overstate access), there are more than 5,300 people in the county completely unserved by wireline connections capable of speeds at 25/3 Megabits per second (Mbps). Many more residents lack access to 100/20 Mbps connections (see map below, or full size at the bottom of this story).

Threatened by the potential for a more competitive broadband market, Coates says incumbent ISPs like Comcast and Charter Spectrum have been bombarding the NTIA grant approval process with a series of dubious challenges, claiming that grant applicants are trying to duplicate existing service, making community alternatives and upgrades unnecessary.

But these claims lean heavily on extremely flawed FCC 477 data, which historically deems an entire census block “served” with broadband if just one home in the entire census block can gain access to broadband. As a result, U.S. broadband maps tend to be “grossly inaccurate,” according to looming FCC appointee and telecom policy expert Gigi Sohn.

ISPs have a long track record of opposing efforts to improve federal broadband mapping, wary that improvements would highlight the real-world impact of regional monopolization and limited competition. The falsely-optimistic picture painted by inaccurate maps has long been used to argue that no meaningful competition reform is necessary on the state or federal level.

Of the 4,000 census blocks covered by Grafton’s grant application, Coates said that incumbent ISPs challenged 3,000 of them, even those dominated by cemeteries. In the majority of the challenges, telecom giants overstated available speeds and existing coverage, he noted.

“My immediate response was that this was them telling us to go boil water,” Coates said. “Here you go, prove that you can do this in these three thousand census blocks. Have fun figuring it out.”

The federal government’s failure to develop accurate broadband mapping data has forced countless communities to take the matter into their own hands. Counties like Grafton have resorted to

  • conducting independent surveys,
  • crowdsourcing better data,
  • relying on third party speed test data
  • driving town to town to determine real-world availability and speeds.

Coates said Grafton counter-challenged all 3,000 contested census blocks by incumbent ISPs like Comcast and Charter, pointing to a recent county survey of 2,400 locals that found most homes in Grafton have Internet access that falls well below the FCC’s base definition of broadband: 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

“It clearly shows that people are not getting the speeds that you’re saying they’re getting, so you go prove otherwise,” Coates said.

An NTIA spokesperson told me that the agency uses a variety of different data sources to confirm broadband deployment accuracy, though communities say they haven’t been given a timeline as to when the agency will rule on changes.

“Information submitted by service providers is one factor in the evaluation of Broadband Infrastructure Program applications,” the NTIA said. “We are also coordinating with other federal agencies and using data from the FCC and our National Broadband Availability Map to help make determinations about where service is needed most. Our number one priority for this program is providing broadband service to as many unserved households and businesses as possible.”

Not An Isolated Incident

New Hampshire isn’t the only state where grant applications are seeing factually-dubious and time-consuming challenges from incumbent ISPs. Peggy Schaffer, executive director of Maine’s ConnectMaine initiative, said its grant applications have also been challenged by incumbent ISPs wielding inaccurate broadband availability data.

In Maine, community leaders applied for $28 million in NTIA grant money, but quickly found their requests bogged down by incumbent ISP challenges, almost 90 percent of which were based on broadband coverage claims Maine officials quickly debunked.

“We looked at 477 data, and several of our challenged areas the company that challenged them did not even file 477 data on,” Schaffer noted. “We looked for cable franchise agreements, and again, some of the areas challenged were for towns where the cable company did not have franchise agreements with, so did not serve them.”

Overall, Maine had 345 out of 1100 potential census blocks challenged by ISPs, only 40 which had any real validity, Schaffer said.

Unwilling to wait for the federal government to get its act together, Maine is one of several states that has developed their own more granular, crowdsourced broadband mapping systems, making it easier to identify the real scope and counters of the nation’s stubborn digital divide. It’s an advantage many communities navigating the NTIA process don’t have.

“Responding to this challenge was not an insignificant lift in ten days,” Schaffer said. “And we only had 345 blocks, NOT the 3000 that Grafton County had. For communities and areas that applied that did not have support of mapping, community planning, and time, this might have been a barrier to them responding adequately to the challenge.”

Many of the communities applying for the grants are already operating on tight budgets and limited resources. Many more are marginalized communities long stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide due to selective upgrades or policy apathy. Any additional burden in obtaining needed federal broadband funding can often prove a bridge too far.

By inundating the grant process with factually-dubious challenges, incumbent ISPs hope to exploit federal broadband mapping failures to bury both government regulators and local communities in paperwork.

It’s a notable challenge for the NTIA, an agency that not only hasn’t had a full time leader in more than two years, but has been tasked with overseeing both its existing grant programs while also building and coordinating an entirely new additional $42 billion state-by-state grant program as part of the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“The sin here is not NTIA,” Schaffer said. “They had to do a challenge process by statute. The original sin here is still the FCC maps—which despite everyone saying they suck—are still used as the standard. And the fact that companies can report stuff that is simply not true…to deny service to thousands of people who don’t have service to protect their imaginary footprint.”

Fortunately there are numerous broadband mapping reforms currently in the pipeline. That’s thanks in large part to the 2020 Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which doled out more than $98 million to the FCC to help craft more accurate broadband mapping methodologies.

But such efforts may take several more years and additional funding to implement. As such, they’re coming too late to ensure that the United States has an accurate picture of the problem it’s trying to fix now, with billions of dollars coming down the pipeline. That’s an advantage for monopolies with a vested interest in keeping the profitable status quo intact.

Maps and table of broadband available from Christine Parker, ILSR Data and Visualisation Specialist.

State Department Officer Struck by Havana Syndrome Sues for Alleged Disability Discrimination

By Katie Bo Lillis and Natasha Bertrand, Dec 10, 2021 | Original CNN article here.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during remarks on Havana syndrome in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department in Washington on November 5, 2021.

A State Department officer who says he was struck by the strange constellation of symptoms now known as “Havana syndrome” in 2017 is suing Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the State Department for disability discrimination, according to court filings. It is the first known suit filed against the US government by a victim of Havana syndrome and comes as the State Department continues to face sharp criticism from some lawmakers and victims over its handling of the incidents and care for affected diplomats.

Mark Lenzi, a member of the diplomatic security services, claims in the suit that he is a victim of a series of incidents beginning in 2017 in Guangzhou, China, and that the State Department retaliated against him for speaking up about his persistent symptoms.

Since the first set of cases were reported in Havana, Cuba, in 2016, intelligence investigators have struggled to understand what — or who — is causing now hundreds of spies, diplomats and service members to suffer vertigo, debilitating headaches and, at times, traumatic brain injury. One working theory inside the intelligence community is that a foreign adversary is using pulsed microwave radiation either to harass or spy on American personnel overseas, but officials caution they have collected no firm evidence to prove that theory and some outside experts have explicitly rejected it.

In response to a request for comment, a State Department spokesperson said the department does not comment on matters in litigation, and that “due to privacy concerns and for security reasons, we do not discuss specifics or Embassy operations. But we take each report we receive extremely seriously and are working to ensure that affected employees get the care and support they need.”

The State Department has pledged to solve the mystery of Havana syndrome and says it is prioritizing the safety of its officers. “The interagency is actively working to identify the cause of these incidents and whether they may be attributed to a foreign actor, and is focused on providing care for those affected,” the spokesperson added.

“All of us in the US government, and especially we at the State Department, are intently focused on getting to the bottom of what and who is causing these incidents,” Blinken said in a November news conference introducing newly appointed officials overseeing the department’s response.

Lenzi, in his court filing, alleges that the State Department soft-pedaled efforts to determine what happened to him. According to Lenzi, he and his wife and children began experiencing “sudden and unexplained mental and physical symptoms, including headaches, lightheadedness, nausea, nosebleeds, sleeplessness, and memory loss” around November 2017.

In the suit, Lenzi claims that a security engineering officer (SEO) conducted a technical inspection of the apartment of another State Department official who was medically evacuated from the country for symptoms similar to Lenzi’s. But the engineering officer used microwave detection equipment that was “antiquated and out of date, was not working properly and was disfavored by SEOs who use this type of equipment frequently,” the lawsuit says.

The engineering officer “told Mr. Lenzi that this technical inspection of the medevac’d officer’s apartment was a ‘check-the-box’ exercise and stated that (the Diplomatic Security Deputy Assistant Secretary of State) had expressly requested that this inferior device be used for the search,” the suit claims.

Lenzi further claimed that he was told by the engineering officer that the deputy assistant secretary “did not want the report filed on the State Department’s classified file system (as is normal procedure) and wanted to limit access to the report to a select few.”

Lenzi claimed that he would be given an “urgent official counseling session” and informed that he was “‘being too emotional’ in his interactions'” with the regional security officer “about a security equipment issue.”

Lenzi eventually moved his family out of their Guangzhou apartment of his own accord and sent an unclassified email to colleagues “warning them about the potential danger to their health and safety,” according to the suit. That email prompted the State Department to order him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, Lenzi claims. The resulting report “questioned Mr. Lenzi’s judgment in sending the aforementioned email and stated that ‘leadership at post wants to make sure a serious mental illness has not been missed.'”

The lawsuit claims that Diplomatic Security leadership knew at the time that American officials in Guangzhou were experiencing unusual symptoms similar to those of Lenzi and his medevac’d neighbor. According to the suit, Lenzi and his wife both took the Havana Acquired Brain Injury Test (HABIT) in June 2018, to assess their conditions. Both demonstrated brain injury symptoms consistent with exposure to directed energy (the same symptoms as the injured US diplomats in Havana) and qualified for medical evacuation to the US, the suit says.

Back in the United States, Lenzi was officially diagnosed with an “acquired brain injury/concussion” at the University of Pennsylvania, the suit says. He claims that he continues to face retaliation and discrimination by the State Department.

Specifically, Lenzi alleges that he was treated differently from American employees who had similar symptoms in Havana in 2016. According to the suit, Lenzi claims that he “received less support from the State Department in pursuing treatment, and has had to jump through needless, time intensive, and burdensome administrative hurdles to try to receive the medical care he needs.” In particular, Lenzi claims that he was required to use sick leave to receive treatment, while officers injured in Cuba were permitted to use administrative leave.

Lenzi also claims that although he has received some disability accommodations, he has been placed in roles that are associated with salary tiers below his expertise level — even though, he claims, those accommodations would not have precluded him from taking an overseas posting more commensurate with his experience. The suit also alleges that “Mr. Lenzi would most likely have been promoted already if not for the Agency’s discrimination and retaliation against him.”

Lenzi has been public in expressing his frustrations with the State Department’s handling of the incidents, but other rank-and-file State Department staffers and diplomats also expressed frustration earlier this year, including what they said was a lack of information from leadership and a hands-off approach by Blinken.

Diplomats and intelligence sources who spoke to CNN at the time said they wanted basic information such as the number of people affected and locations of the incidents, especially since the department used to release that information publicly in news briefings about the incidents in Cuba and China. The diplomats were also left wondering what the department was doing to ensure that they and their families were not sent back into buildings or apartments where health incidents had been reported previously.

In response, State Department officials stressed they have been trying to strike the right balance: They want to share more details so that diplomats can make informed decisions, but they also do not want to hype the threat. Blinken met with victims for the first time in September, and in November announced that he had appointed two new diplomats to lead ongoing efforts to address the illnesses, which the US government calls “anomalous health incidents.”

“All of us in the US government, and especially we at the State Department, are intently focused on getting to the bottom of what and who is causing these incidents,” Blinken said in a November news conference introducing the newly appointed officials overseeing the department’s response

FCC Taken to Court Over the Change to its Over-the-Air Reception Device Rules

Adapted from an article by John Eggerton, Dec 7, 2021 | Original Multichannel News article here.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit judges pressed the FCC on the commercial uses of RF Microwave Radiation-emitting antennas proliferating into residential zones. The Federal Communications Commission got some tough questioning from on the D.C. Circuit judges in defending its decision to amend its over-the-air receive device (OTARD) rule to remove a commercial use restriction. Oral arguments were delivered on Dec 7, 2021.

The FCC argues that the restriction, which prevented commercial antennas that both receive and transmit was outdated and impeded the build out of Densified 4G/ 5G wireless infrastructure.

The FCC was unanimous in its 2019 decision to expand the definition of user from customer to provider in the OTARD rule, which “prohibits laws, regulations, or restrictions imposed by State or local governments or private entities that impair the ability of antenna users to install, maintain, or use over-the-air reception devices”.

The FCC said the change was another one of its efforts to make it easier to deploy wireless broadband infrastructure and to help FCC rules keep pace with changing technology. The FCC argued, without evidence, that as cellular sites have gotten more numerous, there needs to be commercial hubs placed and constructed closer to customers in residential zones.

Advocacy group Children’s Health Defense (CHD) sued the FCC, arguing that easing the restriction on commercial operations of antennas to allow them to be erected in residential communities — and without prior notice — was potentially life-threatening to children and others. Many people can react biologically to RF microwave radiation at levels many thousands of times lower than the nonsensical FCC RF microwave exposure regulations, a limit that myopically fails for three reasons:

  1. Evidence already in the FCC record proves that since 1996 many Americans have been biologically damaged by 24/7 exposure to RF Microwave radiation from wireless infrastructure antennas at power output levels that are many thousands of times lower than the arbitrary commercial RF microwave radiation exposure guideline selected by the FCC in 1996.
  2. The “short cut” the FCC took in 1996 to select this industry-promulgated RF Microwave radiation exposure guideline myopically focuses only on the heating of tissue of living organisms and ignores every other scientifically-established adverse biological effect from pulsed, modulated, duty-cycled RF Microwave radiation, including neurological problems, dementia, reduced fertility, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), DNA damage, suppressed melatonin levels and immune functions and many more. The comprehensive list — that has been in the FCC’s record for decades — has been consistently ignored by the FCC. That is willful ignorance and negligence — plain and simple. That was a sticking point in the last lawsuit that the FCC lost to the Children’s Health Defense and Environmental Health Trust on Aug 13, 2021.
  3. Unbelievably, the FCC even left out the “time of exposure” parameter from the RF microwave radiation exposure guideline it selected in 1996. The FCC RF Microwave radiation regulation essentially says that people and all living organisms can receive an unlimited total amount of RF microwave radiation over time, as long as the RF Microwave radiation (the poison) is delivered at an acceptable rate. The “R” in SAR stands for Rate; power density is based on Watts (also a rate) and not on Joules (Watts x time). Clearly, the established scientific evidence (tens of thousands of industry-independent studies since the 1920s) proves that the FCC could and should have based its RF Microwave radiation exposure guideline on Specific Absorption (SA) and NOT on Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). Choosing SAR was essentially a dirty trick that allowed dangerous wireless infrastructure to proliferate into communities without the speed limits, seatbelts and airbags that this industry needs in order to safely operate such antennas. The Communications Act gets it right in Title 47 US Code, §324:

47 U.S. Code §324 – Use of minimum power

In all circumstances . . . all radio . . . shall use the minimum amount of power necessary to carry out the communication desired.

(June 19, 1934, ch. 652, title III, § 324, 48 Stat. 1091.)


W. Scott McCollough, CHD’s attorney told the court:

 

“The Communications Act Does Not Grant the Commission the Power to Issue a License to Kill.”

 

The CHD argued that the change allows for more and more powerful antennas that pose a new health disaster to communities and that the communities cannot prevent through restrictive covenants.

“All of that protection goes away,” McCollough told the court.

The FCC argues that the same RF limits remain in place, as do other restrictions beyond the commercial use restriction that was removed. The judges pressed the FCC attorney on the fact that the antennas could now proliferate without homeowners knowing they were being constructed, since there was no requirement for community notification.

The FCC’s attorney conceded the change would mean lots more antennas because the old rule meant that antennas could not be primarily used as a hub, and now they could be. He said one of the reasons for the change was that as technology has evolved, antennas have become multipurpose devices much in the same way that a computer is now used for word processing, gaming or to watch video. He said the antennas can be used to receive, transmit and relay, so the old restriction was obsolete and “didn’t make sense.”

He pointed out that the amendment retained size restrictions on the antenna — no more than 12 feet above the roof line — but no effective power restrictions. The hub antennas are dual purpose — to be used by customer to receive service, and as a commercial relay service.

Gov. Newsom Announces 18 Broadband Projects to Bridge Digital Divide

18 projects in tribal communities, counties and cities across the state mark first step in creating open-access middle-mile network to provide missing broadband infrastructure

Part of state’s $6 billion investment to expand broadband infrastructure and enhance internet access for unserved and underserved communities

SACRAMENTO – Advancing California’s commitment to bridge the digital divide, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that the state has identified 18 projects to begin work on an open-access middle-mile network that will provide missing infrastructure paths to bring broadband to all our communities.

As part of the historic $6 billion broadband investment advanced in partnership with legislative leaders earlier this year, the initial project locations are based on known unserved and underserved areas across the state. The projects will connect to the core of the global internet and interconnect to last-mile infrastructure, which is the final leg that provides internet service to a customer.

“California is committed to taking on the challenges laid bare by the pandemic, including the digital divide holding back too many communities across the state,” said Governor Newsom. “These projects are the first step to delivering on our historic investment that will ensure all Californians have access to high-quality broadband internet, while also creating new jobs to support our nation-leading economic recovery.”

The initial 18 projects represent a range of geographic locations and technical approaches. Projects are being initiated in the following tribal communities, counties and cities: Alpine County; Amador County; Calaveras County; Central Coast; Coachella Valley; Colusa Area; Inyo County; Kern County; Kern/San Luis Obispo Area; Lake County Area; Los Angeles and South Los Angeles; Oakland; Orange County; Plumas Area; Riverside/San Diego Area; San Bernardino County; Siskiyou Area; and West Fresno.

A map and additional information on the initial projects can be found here.

“A reliable broadband connection makes the difference between having access to full-service health care, education and employment or sometimes going without,” said State Chief Information Officer Amy Tong. “Through a historic partnership between our Governor, the Legislature, state agencies and a third-party administrator, we are taking immediate action to improve connectivity for Californians in the northern, central and southern parts of the state.”

Evaluation of project areas included consideration of public comments, prioritization of unserved or underserved areas of the state, and inclusion of tribal communities, cities and counties. An unserved or underserved area has households that do not reliably have download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload of at least 3 Mbps.

State partners implementing the middle-mile initiative include the California Department of Technology, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and Caltrans. GoldenStateNet was selected as the Third-Party Administrator (TPA) to manage the development, acquisition, construction, maintenance and operation of the statewide open-access middle-mile broadband network. As the TPA, GoldenStateNet will partner with key stakeholder groups across the state to investigate the best technical, financial and operational models to meet the needs of the project sites.

“Each entity brings a unique perspective and set of skills to the initiative, and we are beginning these initial projects within only three months of the first Middle Mile Advisory Committee Meeting. This is an extraordinary commitment to deliver service throughout the state,” said Gayle Miller, Chief Deputy Director of the Department of Finance and member of the Middle-Mile Advisory Committee.

“These initial routes have been identified to accelerate projects in areas of the state that are unserved because of the lack of open middle mile infrastructure to serve them. We are accelerating the selection of a diverse set of routes — those that are ready to build and those that are not ready to build. This allows the state to partner with locals on these diverse projects and learn by doing, as we concurrently work to finalize all the needed routes in the State. There are many more communities like those in Phase I that will be included in the final map,” said Martha Guzman Aceves, Commissioner at the CPUC.

“Equity remains our highest purpose in expanding the open-access middle-mile network. These initial sites are only the beginning, and I look forward to the tangible improvements this work will deliver to residents of our state,” said Toks Omishakin, Director of Caltrans.

“Core to our success will be the deep partnerships we’ve built with a diverse set of community organizations and last mile providers. Through many years of engagement with metropolitan planning organizations, CPUC-supported broadband consortia, Tribal organizations, community-based broadband advocacy groups, and organizations like the Rural County Representatives of California, the NAACP, and the California Emerging Technology Fund, we are now ready to take this historic step towards broadband equity for California,” said Louis Fox, Founder and Chair of GoldenStateNet, the state’s third-party administrator.

Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative Initial Projects

  1. Siskiyou Area: Siskiyou County, State Route 3 communities from Yreka to Callahan
  2. Plumas Area: Tehama, Lassen and Plumas counties from Red Bluff to Johnstonville along Hwy 36 and 89
  3. Lake County Area: Lake and Mendocino counties, including Laughlin, Upper Lake, Robinson Rancheria, and Kelseyville
  4. Colusa Area: Colusa County including Colusa, Williams and Arbuckle
  5. Alpine County: Alpine County, Hwy 88 communities from Kirkwood to Mesa Vista
  6. Amador County: Hwy 88 communities from Jackson Valley to Sutter Hill and Jackson
  7. Calaveras County: Hwy 4 including Copperopolis and La Honda Park
  8. Oakland: Oakland Flats Neighborhoods
  9. Central Coast: Southern Santa Clara Valley to Hollister and Santa Cruz to Los Gatos
  10. West Fresno: Fresno County, including South Dos Palos, Kerman, Mendota, Firebaugh, Tranquility and San Joaquin
  11. Inyo County: Hwy 190 including Death Valley Junction and Greenwater
  12. Kern County: Kern Canyon and Hwy 178 from Bakersfield to Lake Isabella and Weldon
  13. Kern/San Luis Obispo Area: Kern, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, Taft to New Cuyama along Hwy 166 and 33
  14. San Bernardino County: Hwy 247, High Desert, Barstow to Thorn
  15. Los Angeles and South Los Angeles: South Los Angeles communities including South Gate, Lynwood,Paramount, Bell Flower, Compton and Lakewood
  16. Orange County: Inland Orange County communities including Buena Park, Orange, Fullerton, Garden Grove and Westminster
  17. Coachella Valley: Riverside County, Palm Springs to Indio and Coachella
  18. Riverside/San Diego Area: San Diego and Riverside counties including the Cahuilla Reservation, Julian and Santee

AT&T, Verizon to Delay 5G Rollout Over FAA’s Airplane Safety Problems

Wireless carriers postpone planned Dec. 5 launch of new spectrum to address interference with cockpit safety systems

​By Andrew Tangel and Drew Fitzgerald Nov 4, 2021 | Original Wall Street Journal article here.

An AT&T cell tower in Detroit; the telecom company has delayed its 5G deployment until Jan. 5. Photo: Jim West/Zuma Press

Two U.S. telecom companies agreed to delay their planned Dec. 5 rollout of a new 5G frequency band so they can work with the Federal Aviation Administration to address problems with interference with key cockpit safety systems.

AT&T Inc. T -1.51% said it agreed to delay its planned 5G deployment until Jan. 5 at the request of the U.S. Transportation Department, which oversees the FAA. Verizon Communications Inc. VZ -2.06% also agreed to postpone its launch of the new 5G wireless spectrum by about a month, people familiar with the matter said.

The FAA had been planning to issue official mandates as soon as this week that would limit pilots’ use of certain automated cockpit systems such as those that help planes land in poor weather, according to government and industry officials familiar with the planned orders. Those limits would aim to avoid interference from wireless towers on the ground transmitting new 5G signals.

Such limits could result in disruptions to passenger and cargo flights in 46 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas where the towers are located, aviation industry officials have said. Telecom industry officials have disputed safety problems, saying that available evidence doesn’t support the conclusion that the proposed 5G signals will interfere with flight equipment. Cellphone carriers in some other countries already use the wireless frequencies in question.

The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees telecom regulations, issued a statement with the FAA later Thursday confirming the voluntary pause.

The federal agencies said, naming both carriers:

“Aviation safety and technology leadership are national priorities, and with today’s announcement these companies have demonstrated their commitment to both,”

The agencies said they would continue working closely together to ensure the U.S. keeps pace with the rest of the world regarding the latest communications technologies, without undue delay.

At issue is a band of radio frequencies measured between 3.7 and 4.2 gigahertz, known as the C-band. The spectrum is considered highly suitable for 5G networks and already serves cellphone service in other countries. The technology, short for fifth-generation wireless, offers internet speeds much faster than today’s 4G service.

AT&T and Verizon spent tens of billions of dollars to buy the licenses for the 5G-friendly airwaves, with billions more reserved to compensate the band’s previous satellite users and install new equipment. The two carriers and rival T-Mobile US Inc. also won licenses for C-band spectrum that would be activated in late 2023. Only a portion of the band was scheduled for cellular use in December.

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Cockpit safety systems are commonplace to help planes land in poor weather and prevent crashes. Photo: LM Otero/Associated Press

The gradual pace of 5G infrastructure upgrades means AT&T and Verizon’s one-month delay isn’t likely to significantly alter their bottom lines, according to industry executives. But a longer pause could pressure the carriers.

Verizon is counting on C-band frequencies to address the mounting demands from its customers’ appetite for app downloads, games and streaming video.

Aviation industry groups have been warning federal officials about what they believe are safety problems created by the new 5G service and potential economic fallout, according to people familiar with the matter.

A presentation by a coalition of aviation groups to White House officials was expected this week to warn that the potential FAA restrictions could result in airports or even regions being shut down as passengers and shippers experience flight cancellations, delays and diversions.

The FAA had been expected to issue official mandates, known as airworthiness directives, that would restrict flights in U.S. airspace that require gauges known as radio altimeters that measure the distance between aircraft and the ground, according to a recent draft of a directive viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Some airplane equipment operates in nearby frequencies, between 4.2 and 4.4 GHz, raising the possibility of interference, according to aviation industry analysis. The FCC reviewed various industry studies about the safety matters and said in its March 2020 order that “well-designed equipment should not ordinarily receive any significant interference (let alone harmful interference).”

The commission later issued new licenses that allowed wireless companies to start operating in parts of the C-band on Dec. 5 of this year, in addition to other frequencies already in use for 5G.

The FAA and FCC have been tussling over the issue for months, though the plan to use the spectrum for cellular networks goes back several years. The FAA has sought specific data about 5G towers’ locations, power and angles to determine whether they could interfere with planes’ glide paths on final approach.

According to the FAA directive draft:

“At this time, the FAA has no way of determining which airports or areas within the U.S. have or will have 5G base stations or other devices that could provide interference with airplane systems . . . such interference could lead to loss of continued safe flight and landing.”

Earlier this week the FAA issued a special bulletin to pilots, airlines and aerospace manufacturers warning of the problems with 5G interference.

The FCC set its rules for use of the spectrum in early 2020 after reviewing the impacts on aviation, paving the way for Verizon and others to roll out service at the end of this year.