The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires that almost all applications for two-way or paging radio-station licenses be reviewed by a FCC-certified frequency coordinator before the applications can be submitted to the FCC. The coordinator performs many functions for both the applicant and the FCC.
The coordinator can help the applicant select channels and, equally important, ensure that all requested channels can be used without causing unacceptable interference to other licensees.
The coordinator also reviews the entire application for accuracy, including information about the applicant, the proposed radio site and facilities and compliance with applicable FCC rules and regulations.
The FCC created two radio-service pools of channels: the industrial/business (I/B) pool and the public-safety (PS) pool.
The FCC recognized that mission-critical communication requires different coordination standards than general business channels that are heavily shared and certified different coordinators for each pool. To the extent possible, PS channels are coordinated either to be exclusive/semi-exclusive in an area or to match regional and state plans for interoperability.
Within the PS pool, there are several subcategories (each with a two-letter identifier):
- police (PP)
- fire (PF)
- forestry conservation (PO)
- highway maintenance (PH)
- special emergency (PS)
- emergency medical (PM)
- general use channels (PX)
Except for PX channels, the FCC recognizes a home coordinator for each subcategory. The home coordinator has traditionally been the nonprofit association that represents the licensees in each category.
For the PS pool, the FCC has certified frequency coordinators as follows:
- PP: Association of Public Safety Communications Officers (APCO)
- PF: International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) / International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA)
- PO: Forestry Conservation Communications Association (FCCA)
- PH: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)
- PM/PS: IAFC / IMSA
- PX: Any of the above
The FCC allows any of the four certified coordinators to coordinate any public-safety subcategory, but requires that if the coordinator is not the home coordinator, that advice and consent is received from the home coordinator.
The coordinators have settled on a $100 fee per channel for the home coordinator review, called an interservice fee. While APCO can coordinate a PF channel, the applicant will pay an extra $100 for that coordination versus having the coordination performed by IAFC.
In addition, the IAFC rate for coordinating a PF channel is the lowest of the rate cards for any of the coordinators. It just makes good economic sense to use the IAFC for coordination of fire or general-use channels. And because of its partnership with IMSA, as described below, interservice fees don’t apply to PM/PS channels.
The IAFC has partnered with IMSA for years to coordinate radio channels. Because fire and EMS activities are often so closely linked, it made good sense to work with IMSA for the benefit of our members and FCC licensing applicants.
More recently, IAFC and IMSA have also partnered with FCCA. Again, this makes good sense, as many who fight wildland fires also fight metropolitan fires. Actual coordination work is performed by a nonprofit association called the Public Safety Coordination Associates (PSCA), jointly formed by IMSA and FCCA.
Because of this relationship, IAFC/IMSA can offer the lowest coordination rates on PF, PM, PX and PS channels of any coordinator. And because PSCA is nonprofit, any funds collected in excess of actual costs are returned to IAFC, IMSA or FCCA for the benefit of their memberships. (At least one of the four organizations that perform public-safety coordinations uses the services of a for-profit subcontractor.)
So why utilize the frequency-coordination services offered by the IAFC?
First, the basic coordination rates are the lowest available.
Second, no interservice surcharges apply to PF, PM, PS, or PX channels.
Third, any excess income comes right back to the IAFC in support of its membership programs rather than producing income for a for-profit business.
Finally, our processing time is usually less than 20 days.
The next time you want to make changes to your radio system or install a new system, look to the IAFC to help you in that process and handle all of your frequency coordination needs. You can enter your application electronically by following the frequency coordination tabs of either the IAFC or IMSA website. The IAFC can also keep track of your license renewal and construction notification dates so you don’t lose your license or channels.
If you’re not using the IAFC, you’re throwing money away!
Any questions? Call our frequency coordination office at 844-458-0297. Staff is ready to help, whatever your radio communication needs.