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Narrowbanding installation complete, painless

Published: Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 11:30 a.m. CST

Users of two-way radios will have to update their equipment and license by year's end.

On Jan. 1, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will implement its narrowbanding rule. The rule seeks to reduce the number of frequencies in the public-safety radio sector and make more efficient use of the radio frequencies for other frequency users.

Chief Dispatcher Bige Feinhage described the FCC's action.

"If you imagine the bandwidth cut in half, and they turn around and sell the other frequencies" described Feinhage. "The more you narrow it (frequencies), the less effective the radios become."

Those impacted the most by this FCC mandate are public-safety and first-responders. Other users of the mandate are transportation companies with fleets, and farmers.

Creston police and fire departments, and Iowa State Patrol, have already made the transition which was completed this summer. Local emergency personnel began the transition more than a year ago because the Iowa State Patrol was going to narrowbanding at that time.

"Overall, it was painless" said Feinhage. "We had heard we would lose a lot of range out in the county, and that hasn't been an issue."

Feinhage reported some functionality issues with outside agencies.

"The state patrol had to make some changes because they were unable to hear our operations channel, which was more their issue than ours" said Feinhage.

"Of course we had the expense and programming to deal with."

According to Creston Police Chief Paul Ver Meer, an $11,000 grant helped cover the cost which was used to purchase 17 new portable radios for the police and sheriff departments. Creston Police Department updated the mobile radios inside their five vehicles to maintain compliance which added an additional $3,500. A programmer was hired to program the new devices which added some cost.

The Police Department made sure to only purchase necessary equipment.

"We didn't have to buy new radio bases," said Feinhage, "they were programmable."

Including the equipment covered by the grant, the project totalled approximately $15,000.

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