Alarm Industry Gains Radio Licensing Exemption from FCC

For decades, the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC), a subcommittee under the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), has led grass-root efforts to establish and maintain traditional alarm dispatch and signaling channels in the private radio spectrum through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). These channels are utilized by alarm companies that offer UL-Listed central station monitoring and alternative transmission, particularly long-range radio. However, that could have soon changed, and not to the benefit of the alarm companies.

The FCC was considering ratifying new rules to auction the private radio spectrum, a decision that many alarm professionals believe would have caused interference with the current alarm signals already in place. But as a result of AICC’s recent efforts, the alarm industry recently gained auction exemption status from the FCC.

At sometime in the future, the FCC can change its decision or vote to keep the exemption status. After closing the comment file period Nov. 2, the Commission has reopened it for those who wish to send letters to support and maintain the decision.

However, because the FCC currently has a full plate of other spectrums up for auction consideration, any further decision on this issue will not happen anytime soon, which benefits the alarm industry.

The AICC had alerted many of its members and the alarm industry to file comments to the FCC seeking exemption from this auction and any other auction. The first comment filing period was closed Nov. 2, the same day a number of industry professionals met with FCC commissioners to help put a human face behind this issue.

“We need to emotionally feed these commissioners and convince them [to exempt alarm companies],” says Bob Bonifas, president and CEO of Alarm Detection Systems Inc. in Aurora, Ill., and an AICC board member.

Bonifas and others spearheading the cause were optimistic that this issue was going in the alarm industry’s favor. However, because the FCC can decide to change its vote, they say support from the industry is still crucial. They say they will also lobby the issue if they have to.   

Businesses, Technology Prompt More Air Space

In the past few years, the FCC has rearranged and auctioned many channels in different areas of spectrum to companies expanding their business and services, raising millions of dollars for Congress.

Alarm Industry Lists Its Concerns to the FCC

The AICC filed comments to the FCC seeking exemption for various reasons. In letters written to members of Congress and the Assembly, alarm companies listed their thoughts and concerns.

Alarm Companies’ Spectrum Is Limited

The major concern within the alarm industry in regards to the possible auctioning is channel space.

Band Manager Concept Can Monopolize Channels

The concept of a band manager is also being applied to other spectrums.

Despite Glitches, Long-Range Radio Is Popular

Approximately 6 percent of residential burglar alarm installations in the United States are equipped with long-range radio, and more than 30 percent of commercial clients have the system.

Reforming and Renewal Create More Spectrum

The frequency channels licensed to alarm companies have been utilized since the 1950s. In 1993, the FCC split the spectrum, known as reforming, and Congress authorized the FCC to auction the spectrum for commercial radio operations.

AICC Efforts Continue With FCC’s Decision

Bonifas says, in addition to letters from alarm professionals, other organizations from the same spectrum, as well as from members of Congress, have been filed by the FCC.

At press time, a group of alarm professionals from the AICC were in the process of meeting with FCC commissioners regarding this issue. It is still considered ongoing, as the FCC will decide again whether or not to exempt alarm companies.—Ed.

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