October 18, 2004

FCC proposes alloting AIS frequencies to USCG

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order and Notice of Proposed Rule Making that, if finally adopted, would allot the VHF frequencies utilized for the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Those frequencies are currently licensed to MariTEL.

Now the FCC says it proposes "to designate VHF maritime Channels 87B and 88B for exclusive AIS use domestically, in keeping with the international allocation of those channels for AIS, because we believe the use of those channels will best secure to the United States the maritime safety and homeland security benefits of AIS."

"In addition," says the FCC, "we tentatively conclude that we should deny MariTEL's pending petitions that conflict with this proposal. We also determine that we should deny MariTEL's petition seeking a declaratory ruling that it has the exclusive right to use VHF maritime Channels 88A/B in certain areas within seventy-five miles of the United States-Canada border, subject only to coordination with Canada."

There will be 45 days to comment on the proposed rulemaking following its publication in the Federal Register.

Meantime, at least one informed observer believes that the issue will finally be resolved in the courts.

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