A Carbon County commissioner is reminding municipalities to start planning now for a communications change that will take effect in 2013.

County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein reminds all municipalities that use radio frequency for communications that as of Jan. 1, 2013, they will not be able to use current radios to communicate during emergencies unless they are capable of picking up narrowband frequencies. This means that police, fire companies, emergency personnel, and public works, as well as others, will be affected by the change.

He explained that the Federal Communications Commission is narrowbanding all VHF and UHF Public Safety and Industrial/Business land mobile radio systems because there aren't enough frequencies to handle all of the communication needs. This change will create more frequencies that can be utilized.

According to the FCC website, "On Jan. 1, 2013, all public safety and business industrial land mobile radio systems operating in the 150-512 MHz radio bands must cease operating using 25 kHz efficiency technology, and begin operating using at least 12.5 kHz efficiency technology. This deadline is the result of an FCC effort that began almost two decades ago to ensure more efficient use of the spectrum and greater spectrum access for public safety and non-public safety users. Migration to 12.5 kHz efficiency technology will allow the creation of additional channel capacity within the same radio spectrum, and support more users.

"After the 2013 deadline, licensees not operating at 12.5 kHz efficiency will be in violation of the commission's rules and could be subject to FCC enforcement action, which may include admonishment, monetary fines, or loss of license."

Nothstein said that municipalities should start looking at ways to fund the expense of changing everything over, if they have not done so yet.

"I strongly encourage all local municipalities to take a look at their radio systems and start planning for their 2012 budget. It's going to be a great expense to all municipalities in the county, including Carbon."

He noted that to upgrade all radios used by county departments will cost the county around $250,000.

Nothstein added that at least one fire company to date has applied for a grant to cover the cost of replacing its communications equipment.

He urged everyone to look into grants for this purpose.

"Municipalities better start planning now," Nothstein said. "If you don't get it switched over before Jan. 1, 2013, you won't be able to communicate with the older equipment."

A workshop on the narrowbanding will be held in Washington D.C. on Jan. 26, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in the hopes of helping groups make the transition to narrowband radio communications.

According to a press release from the FCC, "The workshop will provide Public Safety and Industrial/Business licensees with information regarding the narrowbanding transition path, and will include input from federal agencies, equipment manufacturers, and public safety organizations to help ensure timely compliance with the deadline across the nation."

Audio/video coverage of the meeting will be broadcast live over the Internet from the FCC's web page at www.fcc.gov/live. The FCC's webcast is free to the public. Those who watch the live video stream may e-mail event-related questions to livequestions@fcc.gov.

For more information on narrowbanding, visit: www.fcc.gov/narrowbanding.