FCC Proposes New Rules for Medical Devices Operating on 70 cm Band
On March 20, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), proposing to allocate spectrum and adopt service and technical rules for the utilization of new implanted medical devices that operate on 413-457 MHz (70 cm). According to the Commission, these devices, called implanted neuromuscular microstimulators, would greatly expand the use of functional electric stimulation to restore sensation, mobility and function to those persons with paralyzed limbs and organs; they would be implanted in a patient and function as wireless broadband medical micro-power networks (MMNs). The Amateur Radio Service has a secondary allocation in the 70 cm band.
The FCC said that several proponents claim that this technology "could revolutionize medical treatment and therapy for millions of people living with brain and spinal cord injuries and neuromuscular disorders such as multiple sclerosis, polio, cerebral palsy and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as 'Lou Gehrig's Disease'), as well as numerous other neurological disorders. It could be used in conjunction with next-generation prosthetic limbs to provide wireless sensation and control to the prostheses. Of particular note, this technology can provide an important tool in the medical treatment and care of numerous US soldiers who suffered spinal cord, brain and other serious injuries in Iraq, Afghanistan and other missions abroad."
Last month, ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, and Technical Relations Manager Brennan Price, N4QX, met with officials of the Alfred Mann Foundation, developers of the implanted neuromuscular microstimulators, to discuss ARRL concerns with the NPRM. Imlay and Price both came away satisfied that the project should have little, if any, impact on Amateur Radio operators. "There are redundant layers of interference rejection mechanisms built into the product that should protect its users from being impacted by strong Amateur Radio signals," Price said. "The very low power output of these devices should have no impact on the Amateur Radio Service. The ARRL Executive Committee will monitor this filing and take action as appropriate."
The FCC is seeking comments on the feasibility of allowing up to 20 MHz of spectrum in the 413-457 MHz band to be used under the Medical Device Radiocommunication Service (MedRadio Service, formerly the Medical Implant Communications Service [MICS]) in Part 95 of the Commission's rules, and seeks comments on the allocation of four specific segments for this purpose: 413-419 MHz, 426-432 MHz, 438-444 MHz and 451-457 MHz. The Commission also seeks comments on the prospective service and technical rules that would govern MMN operations, such as transmitter power, emission bandwidth, duty cycle, contention protocols, and other operating specifications that generally comport with the framework of the existing MedRadio Service.