Four key public-safety associations have written a joint letter to President George Bush that asks him to urge the Federal Communications Commission to conclude its two-year-old 800 MHz interference proceeding by adopting the Consensus Plan supported by the groups.

“This thing has been dragging on too long, and people are forgetting why this is important,” said Harlin McEwen, communication and technology committee chairman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “We're trying to put pressure on the FCC to stop studying and take some action.”

Under the Consensus Plan, Nextel Communications would move from its interleaved frequencies at the 800 MHz band — the cause of most of the interference — to create contiguous spectrum for it and public-safety organizations in the band. Opponents claim interference can be resolved by using technical solutions that would not require rebanding.

But it is the portion of the Consensus Plan that calls for Nextel to receive spectrum at 1.9 GHz that has generated significant objections from other commercial wireless carriers.

These arguments that Nextel would receive a spectrum windfall are inappropriately overshadowing the nation's public-safety needs, according to the letter signed by leaders of the IACP, the National Sheriffs' Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.

“Opponents are attempting to shift the commission's focus away from the interference problem towards a … debate that ignores the dangers faced by our nation's first responders,” the letter states. “We urge the Administration to see these interests for what they are and stand instead squarely on the side of first responders.”