Healthy Spectrum Battle about Implanted Medical Devices
Public safety and citizens groups are urging the FCC to be cautious about authorizing spectrum for a new MedRadio service that could have an impact on both the health-support objectives of that bandwidth plus many other uses. The brouhaha is a likely harbinger of expanding battles about how airwaves will be used in the increasingly crowded and contentious mobile era. Ultimately it may affect what types of products are available.
The MedRadio service is laden with cyber-emotional issues. This new "medical micropower networks" category would be used to control implanted neuromuscular microstimulation medical devices, which are intended to help restore mobility to patients with paralyzed limbs. In comments submitted to the FCC, foes warned that the system could trigger harmful interference to broader public safety and personal communications services in the 400 MHz bandwidth and also might affect other medical devices, thus putting patients at risk. The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials emphasized that "individuals with implanted . . . devices are likely to be in very close physical proximity at various times to portable radios being used in these frequency bands" by emergency first responders, creating dangerous interference. The Land Mobile Communications Council warned, "It could be disastrous if an implanted device was to malfunction as a result of the presence of another medical radio signal."
Groups suggested that the FCC evaluate other frequency bands for these mobile medical devices.