An orderly approach for lifting the "freeze" on higher-powered land mobile operations in the 460-470 MHz Band

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www.aha.org

Saturday, November 15th 2003

Mr. John Muleta
Chief
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
Federal Communications Commission
334 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

We have received the Land Mobile Communications Council’s (LMCC) October 13 response to our proposal on behalf of the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Task Force on Medical Telemetry for an orderly approach to the lifting of the current freeze on the licensing of the 460-470 MHz band for high-powered land mobiles.  We are deeply disappointed that the LMCC has taken such an adversarial and uncompromising approach to our proposal.  The AHA has consistently shown its willingness to compromise with the Commission and the land mobile community about the spectrum to be allocated for wireless medical telemetry services and the technical rules that might govern that spectrum.  However, the AHA will not compromise patient health and safety, and we believe the LMCC’s position in this matter will do just that.

We obviously cannot speak to the lengthy history of anticipated land mobile uses for this band that the LMCC letter recites.  We can, however, reiterate that the hospital field has had every intention to comply with the FCC’s desire, and has taken many steps in an effort to meet the FCC’s deadline.  However, since WMTS was created in 2000, many extenuating circumstances … including dealing with the impact of 9/11 and the substantial new focus on emergency preparation for mass terrorist attacks of all types, and on building security; the significant expenses incurred to comply with HIPAA, the congressionally mandated health care privacy regulation; and the increasing obligation of hospitals to treat the ever-growing population of uninsured Americans, to name just a few … have conspired against that deadline.  All have created problems for many hospitals that continue to rely on the use of the 460-470 MHz band for medical monitoring of patient health and safety.  These facts simply cannot be ignored by the Commission in considering what steps to be taken for this band.

We must also note that the three-year anticipated transition that was adopted by the Commission was a compromise from the five-year transition that the AHA proposed.  That compromise assumed that “[e]quipment is already available to operate in the 608-614 MHz band we are allocating in this proceeding, and equipment to operate in the other bands allocated in this proceeding should become available over the next two years.”  In fact, as we emphasized in meeting with your staff a few weeks ago, because the proceeding adopting technical rules for the 1.4 GHz band extended well beyond what the Commission anticipated when the WMTS was created, we are not aware of any WMTS equipment that has been FCC-approved for use in the 1.4 GHz band.

The LMCC makes a couple of other points that require a direct response.  First, it is implied that the freeze will automatically be lifted on October 16, 2003; we respectfully suggest that no FCC order takes such action.  To the contrary, the WMTS order states that “[w]e will therefore lift the freeze on high power land mobile application in the 460-470 MHz band within three years from the effective date of final rules in this proceeding,” but makes no specific pronouncement of exactly when or how such action will occur.  The AHA believes that, consistent with your past actions in virtually every other case where a freeze has been lifted, the WMTS Report and Order clearly anticipates and requires the affirmative action of the FCC before the freeze is actually lifted on any particular date.

Second, the LMCC makes unnecessary and unwarranted allegations about the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), the FCC-appointed WMTS database manager.  ASHE accepted appointment as the WMTS data manager without any expectation that it would be an active frequency advisor or coordinator like the other LMCC members.  ASHE was instead forced to accept a greater role in the process, and thus to work more closely with (and be appropriately compensated by) other coordinators only because the AHA’s Task Force on Medical Telemetry was willing to compromise its concerns about co-channel and adjacent- channel high-powered mobile operations in the 1.4 GHz band if the land mobile community would accommodate well-defined coordination obligations for such use.  ASHE’s requests are fully compatible with those requirements.   Moreover, contrary to LMCC’s allegation that ASHE has been uncooperative, ASHE is working to accept data in the EBF format urged by the land mobile coordinators.

I hope the Commission will recognize that, unlike the LMCC, the AHA has compromised about the use of this spectrum for wireless medical telemetry services, the specific bands to be considered, the timing of a transition out of the 460-470 MHz band, the sharing of the spectrum with other telemetry services (even creating a very complicated band-plan to avoid prejudicing existing meter reading systems), and, as noted above, the technical rules allowing higher-powered mobiles in or near the bands.  We draw the line, however, on any action that would compromise patient health and safety, and LMCC’s determination to have immediate, unfettered, uncoordinated use of the 460-470 MHz band for higher-powered operations threatens such a result. 

If an orderly transition for lifting the freeze is not adopted – and LMCC has not made any alternative suggestions or technical solutions – the Commission can be assured of receiving numerous complaints of intermittent or regular interference to existing medical telemetry systems, interference that may prove life-threatening in some cases and that may make some hospitals’ systems obsolete without the realistic possibility of prompt replacement.  We do not believe that such action will serve the Commission’s public interest responsibility in this case.  We, therefore, urge the adoption of the AHA’s transition plan as proposed, with a clear direction to the LMCC’s constituent members to cooperate with ASHE in developing the systems needed to implement it.  We remain available to discuss our ideas with you and your staff at any time. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Rick Pollack
Executive Vice President

cc:  Larry A. Miller, President, LMCC

 

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