Yogi Berra added a delightful ménage of lingo to our lexicon of clichés. Today, it's déjà vu all over again.

If you've been in the industry for 10 years or more, you'll remember the 800 MHz license mills and the fiasco they created for legitimate 800 MHz operators. There is no question that license mills were a prime motivating factor in the FCC deciding to auction licenses in the band, a change in the process that led to a whole host of other unpleasant occurrences for 800 MHz licensees.

Now license mills are back. I'm now aware of at least two separate companies (I'm sure that there are more) that are raising money to apply for the 800 MHz Guard Band licenses, with the absolute purpose of selling these authorizations to Nextel.

When one talks to these folks, it doesn't matter that the FCC hasn't said when applications for the Guard Band will be accepted, or even what the process will be. In fact, with the exception of a few folks (whose names you would recognize), they don't even know what an SMR is. All they know is that there's gold in them thar hills, because Nextel will certainly pay big money for these authorizations (even though Nextel couldn't use them for cellularized operations).

Logic is never a big priority for these folks. I get calls from them asking for advice on applying for authorizations in the band. When I tell them something that they don't want to hear, they like to tell me that I'm wrong because so-and-so licensing company told them differently. Well, if so-and-so is so smart, why are they calling me?

That aside, the important issue concerns the havoc the license mills will create this time around. It's not hard to imagine many scenarios, but at a minimum the result will be that applicants who legitimately wish to expand their SMR, business or industrial systems in the band will be frozen out. Alternatively, access to that spectrum will be delayed an interminable amount of time.

The key to preventing this return to Armageddon lies at the FCC. The original rebanding order put aside the methodology for allocating this spectrum until later. Later is now. It is incumbent upon the FCC take the bull by the horns immediately, lay out the application process and provide for strict adherence to eligibility, construction and transfer rules.

The longer the FCC takes to issue these rules, the worse the application mill problem will become. In fact, one can argue that an action to prevent mill applications, issued many months from now, will actually help the mills make money. In other words, the mill can raise money now from many people, then when the FCC bars such applications, the mill can merely say, "Oops, sorry we can't apply, but we'll have to keep most of your investment money because of all the administrative costs that we've had in order to fight on your behalf."

The FCC needs to be urged to take action now and to take the right action. Let's hope that the new commission can make it happen.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.

Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and Internet industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at atilles@srgpe.com.

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