On December 21, 2012, imagine that rather than the much-anticipated floods and quakes, the date had instead yielded a group of prophetic aliens from a faraway galaxy to colonize Alaska.
"Of all the places on Earth," you might ask, "why have you chosen Alaska?"
"Our answer is simple," they respond. "Alaska is the site of great change and innovation. As your state government is soon to demonstrate, Alaska has your country's best site for launching our spaceships and communication satellites. Secondly, the innovative people in the Alaska transportation industry will find a way to make the best of the Federal government's two-way radio communication mandate, which will allow us to legally operate our own earth-compatible two-way radios without overcrowding the band. You will break through all the red tape and finally make some headway in getting your LNG to the world market and to those Alaskans who need it most. And finally--probably most importantly--we are hoping to replace Northern Dynasty's upcoming vacancy from the Pebble Project and use our advanced technology to prove to the EPA and the people of Alaska that we can access the site's rich gold and copper deposits without harming your salmon."
Would you have believed that our business world would change so much in one year? After all, it seems far less of a stretch to believe in prophetic aliens than to anticipate what would become some of the year's biggest Alaska business news.
As unbelievable as a lot of it may have been one year ago--the innovations, the acquisitions, and the dramatic exits--the unbelievable future has arrived. Welcome to December of 2013.
FCC Narrowbanding Mandate
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a rule that all VHF radios be narrow banded by January 1, 2013. This was an effort to provide more communication bands as the existing wide band frequencies were getting very crowded. This rule essentially doubled the number of frequencies available for transmitting and receiving voice communications.
The trucking industry in Alaska responded to this rule by beginning to narrow band all their radios and during that process realized that many of the radios in use also had cross frequency or pirate frequency problems. A VHF radio can only be used on a frequency or frequencies authorized by license from the FCC or by a written agreement with an FCC license holder for that frequency or frequencies. Since there are many trucking companies that operate in Alaska that are properly licensed to operate their own company frequencies, the prospect of entering into individual written agreements between all these companies seemed to be an insurmountable task. Looking for a better way, the Alaska Trucking Association (ATA) and its member companies began to talk with ProComm, one of the largest radio communication companies in Alaska, to figure out how the industry might best deal with this issue.
The ATA decided to apply for a license to operate up to twelve channels. Recently, FCC approved the license application, and, with that license in hand, ATA announced its plan to operate an ATA Alert channel, an ATA Hail channel, and ten ATA Chat or Talk channels on the business band portion of the VHF frequency range. This plan provides ATA member companies, as well as other truck operators willing to participate in this plan, with a channel to communicate an emergency or other road hazard and a channel to "hail" another driver and direct the other driver to one of the ten ATA Chat channels.
ATA consulted with the Alaska State Troopers and State of Alaska Transportation and Public Facilities, Administration, and Public Safety departments as well as with the Transportation Communications Coordinator at the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials. Each of these agencies was helpful in advising ATA and helping with license applications and other operational advice.
As a result of this early...