Net Use on Ships May Cause Problems

BOSTON (06/02/2000) - A coalition of fixed wireless users claims that Internet-at-sea services launched over the past year by several cruise lines are a threat to public safety and the operations of critical infrastructures, such as railroads and oil pipelines.

The group, which includes the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International Inc., the Association of American Railroads, the American Petroleum Institute and the Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition, last month asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to revoke the experimental license it granted to a Miami company in 1996 to provide broadband Internet service to cruise ships.

The company - Maritime Telecommunications Network (MTN) in Miramar, Florida - uses earth stations that operate on frequencies in the 6-GHz band, the same band used for fixed microwave communications by railroads, pipelines and police departments.

Andrew Kreig, president of the Wireless Communications Association International in Washington, which represents the fixed wireless industry, said signals from the terminals on the cruise ships could interfere with "vital" fixed wireless communications.

Eliot Greenwald, an attorney at Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman LLP in Washington, called the petition "ill-advised."

In a filing to the FCC, Greenwald said, "MTN has been operating under an experimental license for many years, and there has not been even one case of suspected interference, not to mention demonstrated interference."

Greenwald said MTN had surveyed all fixed microwave links in shipping lanes in 17 U.S. ports, and even in the worst-case scenario, the MTN earth stations wouldn't cause any interference.

Glenn Farrington, CEO of Digital Seas International Inc. in New York, which uses MTN, called the wireless organization's FCC filing a "bunchof malarkey."

Farrington said he believes the effort will failbecause the cruise industry has more clout with the FCC.

Revoking the MTN license would hit the cruise lines - which charge $40 per hour for Internet access - in the pocketbook, Farrington said.

The FCC didn't return calls for comment on how it intends to deal with the request.

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More about FCCFederal Communications CommissionFixed Wireless Communications CoalitionMaritime Telecommunications NetworkPublic-Safety Communications Officials International

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