The vultures are circling again. When 800 MHz rebanding came along, we had a bunch of people who had never been seen in Part 90 communications declaring themselves “experts” in rebanding. As a result, numerous rebanding licensees received inaccurate information about their rebands.

It's happening again, this time with narrowbanding. It's bad enough that there's much confusion about some of the rules, but I've now been an attendee in perhaps a half dozen presentations, taken numerous e-mails and telephone calls, or read RFPs, where supposed narrowbanding experts have espoused incorrectly on narrowbanding rules.

Since narrowbanding at UHF and VHF is not something that Nextel is paying for, it is important that agencies thoroughly review the credentials of potential vendors, and spend scant funds wisely. Many municipalities are approaching this the right way, through the RFP process. But many others do not have the luxury of time or funding to go through that process. Either way, check sources for the information being conveyed, and review references. Further, just because someone was hired to do someone else's work, don't assume that they did it well. Do your due diligence.

In addition, make sure that the vendors that you hire are appropriate for the particular tasks at hand. I shouldn't be the person to tell you whether to purchase a 6.25 kHz, 12.5 kHz analog or 12.5 kHz digital system, and at the same time relying on an engineer for legal advice about the FCC's rules is potentially dangerous.

In recognition of the confusion of narrowbanding, and the impending deadlines, we've taken steps to ensure that users are fully informed and aware. First, there will be 6.5 hours of narrowbanding education at IWCE. Engineers will explain potential changes in your system's coverage by going narrowband, manufacturers will discuss equipment options, coordinators will explain the licensing process, attorneys will explain the rules, and the FCC will be there for you to pepper with questions.

With the cooperation of several consulting engineers, frequency coordinators and manufacturers, we've established a Web site with information, www.narrowbandinglaw.com. The intention of the site is to dispel rumors. We'll try to continually update the site, as new issues occur and other issues are resolved.

Finally, the suitcases are packed to take the show on the road this spring and fall. We've booked appearances at trade shows and industry conferences across the country. These 1- to 1.5-hour presentations aren't a substitute for the breadth and depth of information from IWCE, but if you can't make the big show, at least you can get the summary.

Of course, there are educational materials and forums being produced by other entities, including this publication. Take advantage of as many of these opportunities as you can, particularly those that focus on narrowbanding's impact on interoperability.

It also is important that you share this information with your fellow users. There is little value to some of the users meeting the narrowbanding deadline, while the rest do not. As a reader of this magazine, you are (or have the opportunity to be) an informed user. However, the VHF and UHF bands are utilized by many small agencies and users who are not “plugged in,” and for whom narrowbanding is a foreign language. Now that you've been given the tools, please share. This will be a huge effort, and every day of delay will make the process that much more difficult.

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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