The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Request for Radio Frequencies

RCED-84-158: Published: Aug 23, 1984. Publicly Released: Sep 7, 1984.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed several matters concerning petitions which the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting additional frequencies from the radio spectrum to solve communications problems. GAO reviewed: (1) the seriousness of the Sheriff's communications problems and his proposed solutions; (2) FCC actions in response to the petition; and (3) major policy issues raised by the petitions regarding FCC management of the radio spectrum.

GAO found that evaluating the seriousness of the Sheriff's communication problems and feasible solutions was difficult. With virtually the entire radio spectrum suitable for land mobile communications already allocated for specific uses, additional frequencies for public safety agencies would have to be reallocated or taken away from someone else, such as ultra high frequency (UHF) television. However, GAO found that sufficient data were not available for GAO to measure the seriousness of the Department's problems. FCC has evaluated the Sheriff's petition and has suggested that communication systems can be improved without reallocating UHF television channels. FCC staff is now evaluating the Sheriff's immediate needs and plans to make its recommendations to the Commission during the summer of 1984. GAO identified four major issues which were raised by the Sheriff's petition and go beyond his Department's individual needs. These issues involve the development of criteria for public safety communications, FCC long-range planning, and the identification of the parts of the radio spectrum that are best suited for public safety use. FCC has initiated a public safety spectrum allocation study and intends to develop a plan which will consider these and other issues.

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