As part of an effort by the federal government to allocate the radio spectrum bands of 758-763 megahertz and 788-793 megahertz known as D block to public safety agencies, several radio spectrums used by the alarm industry could be auctioned off in an attempt to finance this new public safety network.
Under bills recently introduced in Congress, including H.R. 607 in the House and S. 28 and S. 455 in the Senate, several key radio spectrums used by the alarm industry could be sold to the highest bidder at auction. The spectrum space of particular concern to industry advocates includes 450-470 megahertz (alarm communication equipment) and 300-350 megahertz (short range devices, such as sensors and personal emergency response systems).
According to H.R. 607, "not later than 10 years after the date of enactment of this act, the paired electromagnetic spectrum bands of 420-440 megahertz and 450-470 megahertz recovered as a result of the report and order required under subsection (c) shall be auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission through a system of competitive bidding meeting the requirements of section 309 of the Communications Act of 1934."
"(This proposed legislation) would have a major impact on the ability of both central monitoring stations and alarm facilities to communicate and would cause disruption, costs and other impacts throughout the industry," said John Chwat, director of government relations for the Electronic Security Association.
Chwat noted, however, that nothing has been finalized and that committees in the House and Senate over the next several months will ultimately decide whether any of these spectrum auction proposals become law.
"It's not final, the government is not auctioning off anything yet," he said. "It's really a question of jurisdiction within the Congress and this is merely the first shot from one congressman and committee to another on how to pay for it."
According to Louis Fiore, chairman of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee, the industry migrated to these frequencies following the sunset of AMPS cellular equipment by the FCC in 2008 and the cost to migrate to a new frequency for companies would be devastating.
"If we lost the ability to work at 450 (megahertz), it would create a lot of hardship for companies big and small," Fiore explained. "We would either have to move these radios to cellular or move them to a different frequency that is still unknown. And the cost would be a lot of money. It is estimated to be approaching a billion dollars."
In an effort to let Congress know how this proposed radio spectrum auction would negatively impact the security industry, the AICC and ESA are asking dealers to send letters to their senators and congressman.
"From what we gather, they aren't really married to (the radio spectrums proposed for auction), they willing to listen to input to go to other frequencies and that's what we're trying to do right now," Fiore said. "We are trying to convince them that they don't want to use these frequencies, they want to use other frequencies."
Sample letters and committee lists can be found by visiting http://www.ltfiore.com/Spectrum_Defense.html. Also, rather than sending them to representatives and senators directly, the AICC is asking that these letters be mailed to the Central Station Alarm Association so that they can be hand delivered. Letters should be mailed to Monique C. Silverio, Director of Marketing and Communications, Central Station Alarm Association, 8150 Leesburg Pike, Suite 700, Vienna, VA 22182.