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Grants extension of VHF/UHF narrowbanding deadline

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Released: November 9, 2012

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1796

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
)
)
REGIONAL PUBLIC SAFETY PARTNERS IN
)
WT Docket 99-87
PIERCE COUNTY, WASHINGTON
)
)
Request for Waiver of Section 90.209(b) of the
)
Commission’s Rules
)

ORDER

Adopted: November 9, 2012

Released: November 9, 2012

By the: Deputy Chief, Policy and Licensing Division, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
Deputy Chief, Mobility Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau:

I.

INTRODUCTION

1.
On April 6, 2012, the Regional Public Safety Partners in Pierce County,
Washington (Pierce County) submitted a request for waiver1 of the Commission’s VHF/UHF
narrowbanding deadline, which requires private land mobile radio licenses in the 150-174 MHz
and 421-512 MHz bands to operate using channel bandwidth of no more than 12.5 kHz or
equivalent efficiency by January 1, 2013.2 Pierce County originally sought an extension of the
narrowbanding deadline until and including January 1, 2014.3 However, on September 21, 2012
Pierce County amended its request to seek a waiver until December 31, 2014.4 By this Order, we
grant the request for an extension up to, and including, December 31, 2014.

II.

BACKGROUND

2.
Pierce County is transitioning thirty-five Public Safety licensees’ existing
VHF/UHF systems to a 700/800 MHz county-wide trunking system.5 Pierce County claims that


1 See Request for Waiver of Commission Rules, filed April 6, 2012, by Regional Public Safety Partners in
Pierce County, Washington (Waiver Request). See also Implementation of Sections 309(j) and 337 of the
Communications Act of 1934 as Amended; Promotion of Spectrum Efficient Technologies on Certain Part
90 Frequencies, Third Memorandum Opinion and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rule
Making and Order
, WT Docket No. 99-87, 19 FCC Rcd 25045 (2004).
2 47 C.F.R. § 90.209(b)(5). A suspension on applications in the T-Band (450-512 MHz) has been in effect
since April 26, 2012. See Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Public Safety and Homeland Security
Bureau Suspend the Acceptance and Processing of Certain Part 22 and 90 Applications for 470-512 MHz
(T-Band) Spectrum, Public Notice, 27 FCC Rcd 4218 (WTB/PSHSB 2012).
3 Waiver Request at 1.
4 See Letter, dated September 21, 2012 from Jim Sharp, South Sound 911 Project Manager to Roberto
Mussenden, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, Federal Communications Commission (Sharp
Letter).
5 See generally Waiver Request. See also id. at Appendix A.

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1796

they have been planning to eliminate the disparate systems, improve interoperability, and meet
the January 1, 2013 narrowbanding deadline since 2005.6 Originally, each Pierce County agency
planned to individually upgrade or replace its equipment to support narrowband operations as
necessary.7 However, in November 2011, Pierce County voters approved Proposition 1,
establishing “South Sound 911” (SS911), which is charged with consolidating four dispatch
centers and two regional communications centers and providing funding to upgrade and/or
consolidate existing disparate Public Safety radio communications systems.8 Pierce County also
states Proposition 1 specifically allots a .01 percent sales tax to funding radio communications
and 911 dispatch facilities. 9
3.
Pierce County claims it is developing a detailed design for the expanded 700/800
MHz county-wide trunking environment and that the two largest agencies in the county, Pierce
County and the City of Tacoma, have entered into contracts.10 Pierce County states that it is
planning early deployment of new radios, and that the majority of the mobile and portable fleet
will be narrowband compliant by the 2013 narrowbanding deadline.11
4.
Pierce County states that, although it is working through the governance and
financial challenges of establishing a new governmental consortium, it will be unable to meet the
January 1, 2013 narrowbanding deadline.12 Pierce County claims that the passage of Proposition
1, which requires development of entirely new facilities and complete reconstruction of others,
has adversely affected its narrowbanding schedule, and that many agencies are concerned that
they will be required to cease wideband operations before they have safely transitioned to the new
700/800 MHz system.13 Moreover, Pierce County asserts that as SS911 received updated
deployment schedules from agencies in the region, it has become clear that more time will be
need to allow for governance decision making, procedural issues and the lengthy construction
schedules associated with deploying large complex radio systems.14
5.
Pierce County states that the Public Safety agencies have focused their limited
resources on upgrading and expanding their 700/800 MHz systems, and transitioning users off of
the wideband VHF/UHF radio systems.15 Pierce County states that a significant amount of its
existing equipment is not narrowband capable, and that, since non-narrowband-capable
equipment does not interoperate with narrowbanded equipment, the entire system must be
upgraded.16 Pierce County argues that any effort to upgrade the existing system would derail the
current process of migrating users to the 700/800 MHz system and that it would be contrary to the


6 Id.
7 Id. at 3.
8 Id. at 1.
9 Id. at 1, 4.
10 Id. at 3. See also Sharp Letter.
11 Waiver Request at 3.
12 Id. at 2.
13 Id. at 2, 3.
14 Sharp Letter at 2.
15 Id. at 2.
16 Id. at 4.
2

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1796

public’s interest to expend financial, technical, and administrative resources upgrading existing
equipment when the plan is largely to vacate those VHF/UHF systems.17
6.
Pierce County states that it will provide narrowband mobile and portable radios
to those agencies that interoperate with nearby entities that plan to narrowband their systems by
the January 1, 2013 narrowbanding deadline.18 Pierce County also states that it plans to minimize
impacts on co-channel and adjacent channel operations by transitioning users off the existing
VHF/UHF channels and turning them off as soon as is reasonable and prudent.19 Pierce County
pledges to work with affected co-channel or adjacent users by addressing any harmful
interference as well as prioritizing the transition of users off affected channels.20 Pierce County
states that while it will repurpose a select subset of VHF/UHF channels for use as a county-wide
narrowband interoperability infrastructure, it will return any remaining unused VHF/UHF
frequencies to the FCC.21
7.
Pierce County originally anticipated completion of its narrowband transition
within one and a half years.22 However, in recognition of the unforeseen complexity of this
transition coupled with its desire to be prudent and allow for unforeseen circumstances, Pierce
County requests an extension of the narrowbanding deadline until and including December 31,
2014.23
8.
On May 10, 2012, the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau issued a
Public Notice seeking comment on the Waiver Request.24 No party filed comments in support or
in opposition to the Waiver Request.

III.

DISCUSSION

9.
Pierce County seeks relief pursuant to Section 1.925(b) of the Commission’s
rules, which provides that, in order to obtain a waiver of the Commission’s rules, a petitioner
must demonstrate either that: (i) the underlying purpose of the rule(s) would not be served or
would be frustrated by application to the present case, and that a grant of the waiver would be in
the public interest;25 or (ii) in view of unique or unusual factual circumstances of the instant case,
application of the rule(s) would be inequitable, unduly burdensome, or contrary to the public
interest, or the applicant has no reasonable alternative.26
10.
The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the Public Safety and Homeland
Security Bureau, and the Office of Engineering and Technology have stated in the jointly issued
Narrowbanding Waiver Guidance Notice, that “requests for waivers of the deadline (under


17 Id.
18 Id.
19 Id.
20 Id.
21 Id. at 5.
22 Id. at 4.
23 See Sharp Letter.
24 See Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Seeks Comment on Requests for Waiver of the January
1, 2013 VHF-UHF Narrowbanding Deadline, Public Notice, 27 FCC Rcd 5101 (PSHSB 2012).
25 47 C.F.R. § 1.925(b)(3)(i).
26 § 1.925(b)(3)(ii).
3

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1796

Section 1.925) will be subject to a high level of scrutiny.”27 This notice suggests factors to
include in a request for a waiver.28 In addressing those factors, this Public Notice specifically
recommends that licensees explain how: (i) they have worked diligently and in good faith to
narrowband their systems expeditiously; (ii) their specific circumstances warrant a temporary
extension of the deadline; and (iii) the amount of time for which a waiver is requested is no more
than is reasonably necessary to complete the narrowbanding process.29
11.
In light of the record, we find that Pierce County warrants waiver relief because
it has demonstrated that the underlying purpose of the narrowbanding rule—promoting efficient
spectrum use— would not be served or would be frustrated by application to the present case, and
that a grant of the waiver would be in the public interest.30 The record shows that Pierce County
has taken concrete steps since 2005 to secure transition to a new system that would obviate the
need for the affected agencies to meet the Commission’s narrowbanding requirement.
Implementation has been underway since 2011 and the project is fully funded. Based on these
facts, including Pierce County’s pledge to minimize its impact on affected adjacent channel and
co-channel licensees, we find that strict enforcement of the narrowbanding deadline under these
circumstances would not serve the underlying purpose of the rule.
12.
Furthermore, we find that grant of the request is consistent with the public
interest. Requiring Pierce County agencies to divert money, time, and other resources from the
achievement of this goal in order to upgrade nearly-obsolete systems would be counterproductive,
especially in light of the fact that the agencies would only use the upgraded systems for a short
period of time. We also find that granting Pierce County’s Waiver Request will provide the
Pierce County agencies with a reasonable amount of time to complete their transition to the new
system, while allowing the existing VHF/UHF system to continue to provide area first responders
with another layer of interoperability without unduly affecting other licensees.
13.
We also find that unique or unusual factual circumstances would make strict
compliance with the rules inequitable and unduly burdensome for Pierce County.31 Until
November 2011, the Pierce County agencies were narrowbanding their systems under individual
unique plans and schedules. Passage of Proposition 1, while providing funding and promoting
communications efficiency among the Pierce County agencies, required the agencies to develop a
unified schedule. The administrative delays involved in developing and implementing the
schedule effectively prevented Pierce County from completing its narrowbanding process by the
January 1, 2013 deadline.

IV.

CONCLUSION

14.
Based on the foregoing, we conclude that granting this waiver is in the public
interest. Accordingly, we grant Regional Public Safety Partners in Pierce County, Washington a


27 Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, and Office of
Engineering and Technology Provide Reminder of January 1, 2013 Deadline for Transition to Narrowband
Operations in the 150-174 MHz and 421-512 MHz Bands and Guidance for Submission of Requests for
Waiver and Other Matters, Federal Communications Commission Public Notice, 26 FCC Rcd 9647, 9648
(2011) (Reminder and Guidance Notice).
28 Id. at 9649.
29 Id.
30 See 47 C.F.R. § 1.925(b)(3)(i).
31 See § 1.925(b)(3)(ii).
4

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1796

waiver of the Commission’s January 1, 2013 VHF/UHF narrowbanding deadline, until and
including December 31, 2014, for the call signs set forth in Appendix A.

V.

ORDERING CLAUSES

15.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED pursuant to Section 4(i) of the Communications
Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 154(i), and Section 1.925(b)(3)(i) of the Commission’s
rules, 47 C.F.R. § 1.925(b)(3)(i), that the Request for Waiver of the Commission rules filed by
Regional Public Safety Partners in Pierce County, Washington, IS GRANTED.
16.
We take this action under delegated authority pursuant to Sections 0.191 and
0.392 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 0.191 and 0.392
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Zenji Nakazawa
Deputy Chief, Policy and Licensing Division
Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
Scot Stone
Deputy Chief,
Mobility Division,
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
5

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1796

Appendix A: List of Affected Call Signs

Radio

Call Sign

Licensee Name

Service

WNCW524 Buckley, City Of
PW
KVA319
Buckley, City Of
PW
KOA972
Central Pierce Fire Protection District 6
PW
WPSN349
City Of Gig Harbor
IG
KOF221
City Of Tacoma
PW
WNHJ671
City Of Tacoma
IG
WRU859
Dupont, City Of
PW
KOK458
Eatonville, Town Of
PW
KTS776
Fife, City Of
PW
KJF797
Fircrest, City Of
PW
KNFC599
Gig Harbor, City Of
PW
KNCL517
Gig Harbor, City Of
PW
KDV657
Graham Fire & Rescue, County Of Pierce
PW
WQHT617
Orting Police Department
PW
WXY503
Pierce County
PW
WQMA347 Pierce County
PW
WQFQ208
Pierce County
PW
WQEY450
Pierce County
PW
WQES897
Pierce County
PW
WQEA684
Pierce County
PW
WQDN364
Pierce County
PW
WQBD245
Pierce County
PW
WPZV507
Pierce County
PW
WPZV503
Pierce County
PW
WPZB949
Pierce County
PW
WPYI897
Pierce County
PW
WPXB748
Pierce County
PW
WPRG300
Pierce County
PW
WPPX942
Pierce County
PW
WPMU560
Pierce County
PW
WPIJ509
Pierce County
PW
WNJJ410
Pierce County
PW
WNJB884
Pierce County
PW
WNFD631
Pierce County
PW
WNDZ313
Pierce County
PW
WNAG888
Pierce County
PW
WAZ668
Pierce County
PW
WAE690
Pierce County
PW
6

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1796

Radio

Call Sign

Licensee Name

Service

KYY938
Pierce County
PW
KYD943
Pierce County
PW
KWI719
Pierce County
PW
KR3734
Pierce County
PW
KOL566
Pierce County
PW
KOB452
Pierce County
PW
KNET718
Pierce County
PW
KNDB840
Pierce County
PW
KDL939
Pierce County
PW
KDL938
Pierce County
PW
KD39983
Pierce County
PW
KD39671
Pierce County
PW
KC3985
Pierce County
PW
KC3711
Pierce County
PW
KB87344
Pierce County
PW
KB86231
Pierce County
PW
KAW630
Pierce County
PW
WQFU533
Pierce County Airport
PW
WPIY683
Pierce County Fire Dist 14
PW
KNIR647
Pierce County Fire District #25
PW
KNJE205
Pierce County Fire District 13
PW
KNIR648
Pierce County Fire District 18
PW
WQP829
Pierce County Fire District 20
PW
WPKG780
Pierce County Fire District 23
PW
KIC226
Pierce County Fire District 23
PW
WPUK474
Pierce County Fire District 26
PW
KOM829
Pierce County Fire District 5
PW
KOL355
Pierce County Fire District 8
PW
WNBZ820
Pierce County Fire Prot Dist 12
PW
WQMF893
Pierce County Sheriff's Department
PW
WRA282
Pierce Transit
IG
WQMD762 Pierce, County Of
PW
WQFW208
Pierce, County Of
PW
KOI954
Puyallup City Of
PW
WPDD345
Puyallup, City Of
PW
WNVC741
Puyallup, City Of
PW
WNEB210
Puyallup, City Of
PW
KOA621
Puyallup, City Of
PW
WPYE626
Puyallup, City Of Public Utilities District
IG
7

Federal Communications Commission

DA 12-1796

Radio

Call Sign

Licensee Name

Service

WQEX786
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
KOB276
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
KD31707
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
KD25828
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
KD25348
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
KD21060
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
KB79506
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
WQBW570 West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
KOK496
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
WPZY792
West Pierce Fire & Rescue
PW
KWH593
Bonney Lake, City Of
PW
WPBQ524
Bonney Lake, City Of
PW
KNBD961
Bonney Lake, City Of
PW
KOI860
Buckley, City Of
PW
KNDR818
Eatonville, City Of
PW
KDZ383
Sumner, City Of
PW
WQEL214
Sumner, City Of
PW
KYV285
Sumner, City Of
PW
WPGE383
Sumner, City Of
PW
8

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