Annual AICC Communications Survey Open Now

For the sixth consecutive year, AICC Chair Louis T. Fiore is coordinating the annual AICC Communications Survey. “The results have been used to inform regulators of our [industry] communications needs,” he says. “It only works if the response is robust. So please participate!”

This survey focuses on the percentages of monitored accounts using POTS (plain old telephone systems), VoIP digital dialers (DACT), or other technologies either as a sole method of transmission or in conjunction with another technology. The ten-question survey will take no more than a few minutes to complete. Participation is not limited to TMA or AICC members — industry-wide input will strengthen the findings. Input is anonymous and individual answers will be kept confidential.

Read Security Systems News’ interview with Lou Fiore for more information.

Find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/R9SH7JC

Fiore will share results following the September 1 closing of the survey.

Act by August 1: Annual AICC Communications Survey

AICC Chair Louis T. Fiore has issued a call for participation in the annual AICC Communications Survey. The results of the survey assist the AICC in planning messaging and strategy for legislative efforts involving Congress and the FCC.

This survey, now in its fifth year, focuses on the percentages of monitored accounts using POTS (plain old telephone systems), VoIP digital dialers (DACT), or other technologies either as a sole method of transmission or in conjunction with another technology. The ten-question survey will take no more than a few minutes to complete.

Survey participation is not limited to AICC or CSAA members. Industry-wide input will strengthen the findings. Input is anonymous and individual answers will be kept confidential.

Results will be presented at the September 2016 AICC meeting.

Alarm Industry’s Jerry O’Brien Laid to Rest

Jerry O'Brien funeral

Photo by Lou Fiore

Former Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC) Chair Jerry Michael O’Brien was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on February 29. He passed away in Tampa, FL on August 30.

CSAA Past President and current AICC Chair Lou Fiore and CSAA Counsel Ben Dickens attended the burial service. Last fall, AICC members passed a resolution in honor of O’Brien’s contributions to the alarm industry.

The following is an excerpt from the remarks given by the Chaplain, Captain Scott Foustat, at the service.

“By the time Jerry was 18, he was married, he had enlisted in the Air Force, and he soon would be a parent. Jerry’s dream was to develop, design and launch rockets, but as many of us discover, the needs of the Air Force come first, so Jerry was assigned to become an air traffic controller … not rockets, but a very reputable career path nonetheless. Jerry made the best of it, and he excelled at his job, establishing air traffic control centers all over the world, often in very remote places.

“Jerry was eventually selected for officer training, and he commissioned as an AF Officer, one of the last to do so without a college degree. While in the Air Force, Jerry and his family moved 21 times in 20 years. Jerry’s service spanned the Vietnam War, and he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, among many others.

“Following his military career, Jerry took on various adventures, including managing a motion picture studio, representing an energy conservation business, managing API Security telecommunications, which led him to join Omnipoint-a start-up telecommunications company.

“Jerry will be remembered as a patriot, loyal friend, caring father, and beloved husband. Jerry rarely asked for anything in life (except maybe another cup of coffee), but he did have one request: to be buried at Arlington. It’s an honor for us today to grant that request!”

FCC Proposes Fines for RF Radiation Violations

By Lou Fiore, Chair, Alarm Industry Communications Committee

At our December 3, 2015 AICC meeting, AICC Counsel John Prendergast reported on FCC proposed fines for RF radiation violations on rooftops against two communications companies. This, of course, evoked concerns by some in attendance about these issues regarding the security industry’s use of cellular and private wireless data radio systems, such as AES-Intellinet, CRN Wireless and cellular devices used by the alarm industry.  This concern could be relevant at both customer locations as well as rooftops where IP links and repeaters are located.

The bottom line is that because of their low power and duty cycle, it is virtually certain that most private wireless systems provided by AES-Intellinet and CRN Wireless meet all current FCC exposure requirements for protecting the general population, company employees or roof-top service personnel.  Wireless system users should nonetheless review this matter as part of their equipment evaluation and purchase process. These data radios are compliant if used correctly, and in other cases, such as higher powered voice systems, relatively simple measures can render them compliant. Correct labeling of the radios and, for higher powered radios, proper RF warning signs can be important to guard against FCC violations.

The FCC rules require all licensees to comply with RF radiation exposure limits. These rules provide guidelines and procedures for licensees to evaluate the environmental effects of RF exposure from FCC regulated transmitters. These rules include Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) limits for electric and magnetic field strength and power density for transmitters operating from 300 kHz to 100 GHz. Most “premises-to-central station” wireless data devices operate in the 460 MHz private radio band and the 800 MHz and higher cellular bands, and are therefore subject to the MPE limits.  MPE is defined as the electric and magnetic field strength to which a person may be exposed without harmful effect and with an acceptable safety factor. This is the limit set in a report issued by the FCC. There are two such criteria, one for the general public and another for alarm company installers, service personnel working on these systems and other contractors that may be working near the radio antennas (HVAC, etc.). MPE is computed as the average power level against an area of skin and is shown as milliwatts per a square centimeter (mW/cm2).

Based on information provided by the equipment manufacturers, the computations below are designed to size up the compliance of most private wireless radio system equipment operating on the designated central station “offset” frequencies under the FCC rules. As always, you will want to verify the compliance of your individual system, including how it is configured, with the manufacturer and your installation vendor.

The exposure limits for cellular equipment are more complicated and will be discussed in this forum at a later time, although it is safe to assume that cellular units, installed according to the manufacturers’ instructions, should also be safe for much of the same reasons.

In 1996, the FCC adopted new guidelines and procedures for evaluating environmental effects of RF emissions. The 1996 guidelines incorporate two tiers of exposure limits based on whether exposure occurs in an occupational or “controlled” situation or whether the general population is exposed in an “uncontrolled” situation. These categories were based on an FCC Report entitled “Evaluating Compliance with FCC Guidelines for Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields”, also known as OET BULLETIN 65.  In 2013, the FCC adopted clarifications to its RF rules, and proposed other rule changes aimed at a further tightening of these restrictions.

It should also be noted that under Rule Section 1.1307(b), a Private Land Mobile Radio Services operation is currently exempt from performing an RF compliance evaluation if it uses a building-mounted antenna, and its power is less than 1000 watts ERP.  For a tower mounted antenna, it is exempt if the power is less than 1000 watts ERP, and the antenna is more than 10 meters above ground.  The FCC has proposed to move away from these “categorical exemptions” toward a single formula to be calculated for each radio; but it is not known whether and how soon this rule change will be adopted.  It also bears mention that, if the FCC determines that a rooftop or other location is generating excessive RF radiation, stations using that location can be dragged into the compliance effort if they contribute at least 5% to the RF environment of the site, even if they were exempt from measuring RF compliance.

The two tiers of exposure are defined below:

General population/uncontrolled exposure.

 For FCC purposes, uncontrolled exposure applies to human exposure to RF fields when the general public is exposed or in which persons who are exposed as a consequence of their employment may not be made fully aware of the potential for exposure or cannot exercise control over their exposure. Therefore, members of the general public always fall under this category when exposure is not employment-related.

Occupational/controlled exposure.

 For FCC purposes, controlled exposure applies to human exposure to RF fields when persons are exposed as a consequence of their employment and have been made fully aware of the potential for exposure (and therefore can exercise control over their exposure).  This information may be provided to workers in writing and/or verbally. Occupational/controlled exposure limits also apply where exposure is of a transient nature as a result of incidental passage through a location where exposure levels may be above general population/uncontrolled limits (see definition above), as long as the exposed person has been made fully aware of the potential for exposure and can exercise control over his or her exposure by leaving the area or by some other appropriate means.  Warning signs are generally used to advise transient persons of the need to be mindful of RF exposure situations.

At the frequencies used by AES Intellinet and CRN Wireless alarm systems in the 460 to 466 MHz area, the MPE for controlled and uncontrolled exposure compute as 1.555 mW/cm2 and 0.315 mW/cm2 respectively.

Power levels for these systems are rather low, both with a prescribed power output of 2 watts. The power reduces quickly as one moves away from the antenna.

But a very important factor that must be considered is duty cycle. An AES alarm radio unit checking in once per day has a duty cycle of 0.0000057, yielding an average power output of 0.0000114 watts (11.4 microwatts).  CRN Wireless alarm radio systems operate as a one-way network. The typical duty cycle for such systems is 0.000017, yielding an average power of  0.000034 watts (34 milliwatts). These both yield an MPE of 0.0001 mW/cm2     which is well under the FCC’s MPE criteria.

If you consider an AES Intellinet customer unit relaying eight of its neighboring units, which is a feature of this system, this will yield an average power output of 90 microwatts and an MPE of 0.0002 mW/cm2, still well under the FCC’s MPE criteria.

For AES Intellinet IP Link base stations and CRN Wireless repeaters, the duty cycle is substantially higher because of the fact that these units operate as gateways for multiple customer units. For example, for a system with 600 customers, considered a computational target load, the duty cycle is 0.00342, yielding an average power output of 0.00684 watts (6.8 milliwatts) for AES IP Links and 0.011, yielding an average power output of 0.0229 watts (23 milliwatts) for CRN Wireless. Even at this higher rate, the average power is still very low. This computes to a MPE’s of 0.012 mw/ cm2 and  0.052 mw/ cm2 for AES and CRN respectively, well under the FCC’s MPE criteria.

These figures, both at the customer’s premises and base station locations should prove to be a worst case scenario, since they were computed using a 9 dbi antenna, which is generally the maximum gain antenna used. So, a lower gain antenna, which is used more often, would reduce these power levels even more.

So what does this all mean for alarm companies?

At the frequency where private wireless radio systems units operate (between 460 and 466 MHz.), the number derived from the equations given by the FCC compute MPEs well below the FCC’s criteria.

Let’s consider the customer locations. Using the frequency, power level, duty cycle and antenna gain, the MFE would not be an issue unless a customer (or alarm company personnel servicing the equipment on the costumer’s premises) would be constantly within one inch from center of antenna.

With the antenna mounted on the control unit or remoted (to attain some height), there should normally be absolutely no issue. Although the distance limit shown is absurdly low, care should be taken to ensure that by some quirk of installation, no one is normally, constantly located within one inch of the antenna. The subscriber cabinet usually provides this clearance, but installations that are in the middle of the living space should be avoided.  Of course, alarm panels and radio units are generally installed in a closet, attic or other space that is not a nuisance to the occupants and invisible to a would be intruder, so there is usually no risk of prolonged close exposure.

Let’s consider the AES Intellinet IP Link and CRN Wireless repeater locations. Using the frequency, power level, duty cycle and antenna gain, the MPE would not be an issue unless general population or service personnel would be constantly within 6 inches from center of antenna.

However, these locations are usually remote from the general population and are often mounted high on a rooftop in such a manner that such contact would be impossible anyway. It will be advisable to make sure this is there is some physical barrier between the antenna and a path or location where humans can be present. With a limit of 6 inches, this should be rather easy to attain.

Summary

With a greater focus by the public and the FCC on RF exposure created by prolonged use of cellular handsets right next to the human ear, it is important to ensure that wireless alarm systems comply with FCC RF rules.  The good news is that alarm radios generally are not designed to be used next to the human body, so compliance can be easily achieved in the vast majority of cases.  Nonetheless, alarm service providers should work with the manufacturers and installers to make sure newer RF rules such as equipment labeling and (in the case of higher powered rooftop or tower mounted radios) warning signs, worker instructions and barriers are correctly observed, and to stay on top of any other requirements the FCC may adopt in the future, in response to its 2013 rule change proposals.

 

 

 

 

 

CSAA Remembers Jerry O’Brien

CSAA is saddened by the news that former AICC Chair Jerry O’Brien died August 30 from a heart attack while in Tampa, Florida.

“I assumed the role of chair of AICC from Jerry some 21 years ago,” said current AICC chair, and past CSAA president Lou Fiore. “He was a communications expert and worked in the alarm side as well as the communications side of technology. Jerry was a friend to many of us and will be missed.”

Jerry had a unique knowledge of telephone company tariffs and interconnection policies which affected the alarm industry and used his knowledge not only to benefit the company for which he worked in California, but the industry at large when he was later Chairman of AICC. Jerry was recognized for his extensive knowledge of private line tariffs, largely self-educated on the subject, and indeed, was acknowledged to have mastered that subject matter better than one of the major carriers whose tariff Jerry had challenged.  Subsequently, Jerry used his subject matter expertise to assist a start-up wireless company which later became a major wireless carrier in its own right and today constitutes  a core network component of T-Mobile.

He was also an Air Force combat veteran, having flown F-4 Phantom jets in the Vietnam conflict.

“Jerry was a good friend of mine,” said past CSAA president Bob Bitton. “Not only did he contribute greatly to the alarm industry with his extensive telecommunications expertise, but he lent that skill to my company when we were constructing our new building, and then recommended us to a new startup cellular telephone company that eventually went nationwide and took us with them.”

“Jerry saw the transition to digital as a communications medium many years before its eventual takeover,” said Fiore.

Jerry had many friends in the alarm industry and the wireless industry and is remembered, no doubt, by all of them.

Elizabeth Lasko, CSAA, September 15, 2015.  Many thanks to Ben Dickens for contributing to this article.

Issue of Dropped Alarm Signals Crucial to Future Telecomms Legislation and Regulation

Louis Fiore, chair of the Alarm Industry Communications Committee (AICC), is asking for your participation in its survey on the Issue of Dropped Signals.

AICC has launched an industry-wide survey on the issue of dropped signals involving Digital Alarm Communications Transmitters (DACT). The survey aims to collect information on how the telecom network’s move towards Internet Protocol (IP) affects these signals.

Fiore reiterates, “With the FCC promoting the IP Transition and with a rewrite of the Telecommunications Act looming in the not too distant future, this information is critical for us to convince the FCC and Congress of our continued reliance on this technology.”

Fiore adds, “While we all realize that DACT technology is basically past its prime, in a recent survey 64% of installed systems use this technology as a sole method or in combination with another method. It will be many years before it is totally replaced. With a mix a fire alarm and PERS systems out there, missed signals could have serious consequences.” 

The survey is open to all central stations in the industry. Results of this research initiative will be reported on at each AICC meeting and to the industry at large. For more information, visit CSAA DACT Survey.

Important Notice for Alarm Companies: FCC Clarifies TCPA Restrictions on Robocalling

On July 10, the FCC clarified its Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) rules regarding robocalling. The Declaratory Ruling is effective upon issuance, so to the extent that it impacts any practices currently being followed by alarm companies, they should adjust those practices immediately.

To summarize, the following rulings should be observed by alarm companies:

  1. Text messages are “calls” subject to TCPA. Alarm companies should be aware that sending a text instead of a call does not sidestep TCPA violations.
  2. A called party may revoke consent at any time and through any reasonable means. Alarm companies that use autodialers must keep clear records and take revocations of consent very seriously.
  3. If the wireless number a customer gave you is reassigned to someone else, you MUST stop calling it after the first time you discover the change. Because it is up to the company to be able to demonstrate that it did not have actual or constructive knowledge of reassignment, alarm companies that use any type of autodialing must pay close attention to the numbers they dial and any communications they receive from their customers that may indicate the number has been reassigned.
  4. Internet-to-phone text messages require consumer consent. An alarm company that may be using software to automatically contact customers is still considered to be “autodialling,” even though it is not using a phone, and must be sure to have the customer’s consent.

Read on for complete details. Thanks to AICC chair Lou Fiore and CSAA Counsel John Prendergast for this report.

On July 10, 2015, the FCC released an Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order clarifying numerous issues concerning the application of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and providing guidance on whether certain conduct violates the TCPA.  (CG Docket No. 02-278, WC Docket No. 07-135).  The Omnibus Declaratory Ruling is effective upon issuance, so to the extent that it impacts any practices currently being followed by alarm companies, they should adjust those practices immediately.

At the outset, we note that the Omnibus Declaratory Ruling does not deal with the Petition for Expedited Declaratory Ruling filed by the Edison Electric Institute and the American Gas Association, on which AICC commented earlier this year. In that petition, EEI and AGA sought clarification that non-emergency, service-related telephone calls and text messages made by utilities are not in violation of the TCPA. AICC filed comments in support, with the caveat that the clarification be broad enough to cover the kind of service-related messages that alarm companies typically send to their customers. While the Omnibus Declaratory Ruling does clarify one particular aspect related in the petition, the clarification seems to apply to financial and healthcare institutions rather than the alarm industry.

Specifically, the FCC exempts from the TCPA’s consumer consent requirements, messages about time-sensitive financial and healthcare issues and then only under certain conditions. “Time-sensitive financial issues” include calls made by financial institutions intended to prevent fraudulent transactions or identify theft, calls involving data security breaches and calls conveying measures consumers may take to prevent identity theft following a data breach. “Healthcare issues” include calls made by healthcare institutions regarding appointment and exam confirmations and reminders, wellness checkups, hospital pre-registration instructions, pre-operative instructions, lab results, post-discharge follow-up intended to prevent readmission, prescription notifications, and home healthcare instructions.  While this clarification is limited in scope, we are hopeful that it sets the table for a later application to appointment reminders, etc. by other industries, including alarm companies.

Other issues addressed by the Commission that may impact the alarm industry include:

  1. Applicability of TCPA to Text Messages. Text messages are “calls” subject to the TCPA, as previously determined by the Commission.Consumer consent is required for text messages sent from text messaging apps that enable entities to send text messages to all or substantially all text-capable U.S. telephone numbers, including through the use of autodialer applications downloaded or otherwise installed on mobile phones. AICC should ensure that its members are all aware that sending a text instead of a call does not sidestep TCPA restrictions.
  2. Revocation of Consent. The FCC clarifies that a called party may revoke consent at any time and through any reasonable means. A caller may not limit the manner in which revocation may occur. Further, if any question arises as to whether prior express consent was provided by a call recipient, the burden is on the caller to prove that it obtained the necessary prior express consent. Alarm companies that use autodialers must keep clear records and take revocations of consent very seriously. Alarm companies that specify a method of withdrawing consent must understand that other methods of withdrawing consent cannot be denied. For example, if a customer calls a service representative and asks to be removed, a court could reasonably find consent successfully revoked, even if the service representative is not capable of addressing the issue and/or fails to communicate the request to someone who can. Continued autodialing after revocation of consent can result in trebling of the already-steep $1,500 per violation penalty for continued autodials.
  3. Reassigned Wireless Numbers. Calls to reassigned wireless numbers violate the TCPA when a previous subscriber, not the current subscriber or customary user, provided the prior express consent on which the call is based. The consumer assigned the telephone number dialed and billed for the call (or the non-subscriber customary user of a telephone number included in a family or business calling plan) can give prior express consent to be called at that number. However, where a caller believes he has consent to make a call and does not discover that a wireless number had been reassigned prior to making or initiating a call to that number for the first time after reassignment, the FCC finds that liability should not attach for that first call, but the caller is liable for any calls thereafter.  This is the equivalent of the “every dog is entitled to one bite” rule in tort liability.  However, the caller, and not the called party, bears the burden of demonstrating: (1) that he or she had a reasonable to basis to believe there was consent to make the call, and (2) that he or she did not have actual or constructive knowledge of reassignment prior to or at the time of this one-additional-call window we recognize as an opportunity for callers to discover reassignment. Because it is up to the company to be able to demonstrate that it did not have actual or constructive knowledge of reassignment, alarm companies that use any type of autodialing must pay close attention to the numbers they dial and any communications they receive from their customers that may indicate the number has been reassigned. Just recently, Time Warner Cable was found in violation of the TCPA and the plaintiff was awarded treble damages because she told Time Warner Cable the person they were attempting to contact was not at this number and they did not stop calling.

Even for this one free call, the burden is on the business to show that it once had permission to call the number and did not know about the reassignment.  Treble damages apply for violations

The FCC also clarified that the fact that a consumer’s wireless number is in the contact list on another person’s wireless phone, standing alone, does not demonstrate consent to autodialed or prerecorded calls, including texts. This typically involves an app that goes through the consumer’s contact list and auto-invites the contacts to download the app as well, and we suspect it’s not an alarm industry practice.

  1. Internet-to-Phone Text Messages: Internet-to-phone text messages require consumer consent. Alarm companies that may be using software to automatically contact customers is still considered to be autodialing, even though it is not using a phone, and must be sure to have the customers consent.

            The Commission also addressed the following issues:

Definition of an Autodialer. Any equipment that has the requisite “capacity” to dial random and sequential numbers is an autodialer and is therefore subject to the TCPA.  Callers cannot avoid obtaining consumer consent for a robocall simply because they are not “currently” or “presently” dialing random or sequential phone numbers.  The FCC acknowledges, however, that the definition of “autodialer” does not extend to every piece of malleable and modifiable dialing equipment that conceivably could be considered to have some capacity, however small, to store and dial telephone numbers.  For example, a handset with the mere addition of a speed dial button is not an autodialer.  Further, there must be more than a theoretical potential that the equipment could be modified to satisfy the “autodialer” definition.  Thus, the FCC states that although it might be theoretically possible to modify a rotary-dial phone to such an extreme extent that it would satisfy the definition of autodialer, “such a possibility is too attenuated for us to find that a rotary-dial phone has the requisite “capacity” and therefore is an autodialer.”

Call-Blocking Technology. The Communications Act and the FCC’s rules do not prohibit carriers or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers from implementing consumer-initiated call-blocking technology that can help consumers stop unwanted robocalls.

Collect Calls. With regard to collect call services, the FCC clarifies that, where a caller provides the called party’s phone number to a collect call service provider and controls the content of the call, he is the maker of the call rather than the collect-call service provider who connects the call and provides information to the called party that is useful in determining whether he or she wishes to continue the call.

Additionally, collect calling service providers that use prerecorded messages, on a single call-by-call basis, to provide call set-up information when attempting to connect a collect call to a residential or wireless telephone number may do so under the TCPA without first obtaining prior express consent from the called party.  The person who dials the number of the called party or the number of a collect calling service provider in order to reach the called party, rather than the collect calling service provider who simply connects the call, “makes” the call for purposes of the TCPA.

Platform Provider Liability. Whether a person who offers a calling platform service for the use of others has knowingly allowed its client(s) to use that platform for unlawful purposes may be a factor in determining whether the platform provider is so involved in placing the calls as to be deemed to have initiated them.