Telecommunications:

Actions Needed for Better Management of Public Safety Spectrum

RCED-88-173: Published: Jul 8, 1988. Publicly Released: Jul 8, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) granting and monitoring of licenses from its 800 megahertz (MH) public safety services radio band, focusing on the: (1) types of services that obtain licenses; and (2) amount and efficiency of usage.

GAO found that FCC: (1) broadly defined public safety for purposes of 800 MH licensing as including medical, rescue, and emergency response services and any official state and local government activity; (2) nationwide, granted 38 percent of licenses for police and fire activities' exclusive use; (3) believed that local authorities were in the best position to establish local public safety priorities; (4) could not analyze usage since it did not enforce its requirement that licensees report usage information; (5) did not verify reported usage data; (6) used its license database, which only contained information about intended use, to assess usage amount and efficiency; (7) did not keep a waiting list of licensees for whom frequencies were unavailable; and (8) did not monitor radio signals or conduct on-site inspections in 1987 and 1988. GAO also found that, in ten large cities: (1) police and fire activities had exclusive use of 34 percent of radio systems; (2) a mix of government activities, including police and fire activities and general government activities, had access to 17 percent of radio systems; and (3) general government, medical, and emergency response activities had access to 49 percent of the radio systems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FCC has initiated a comprehensive public safety enforcement program and requires construction progress and loading reports for slow growth licensees.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, should more aggressively carry out its responsibility to see that public safety agencies are efficiently using their assigned frequencies. To this end, FCC should improve its management controls over its licensing process in the 800 MH band by enforcing its requirement that public safety licensees report usage information.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FCC will not adopt this recommendation since it believes on-site monitoring and site inspections are too costly and provide limited reliable information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, should more aggressively carry out its responsibility to see that public safety agencies are efficiently using their assigned frequencies. To this end, FCC should improve its management controls over its licensing process in the 800 MH band by monitoring radio signals and conducting on-site inspections, on a test basis in the larger cities, to obtain and verify data on actual spectrum use by public safety agencies.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FCC is not convinced that a waiting list would serve any useful purpose.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, FCC, should more aggressively carry out its responsibility to see that public safety agencies are efficiently using their assigned frequencies. To this end, FCC should improve its management controls over its licensing process in the 800 MH band by maintaining formal waiting lists in high-demand areas of public safety agencies that cannot obtain frequencies because none are available.

    Agency Affected: Federal Communications Commission

 

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