LAS VEGAS--Most 800 MHz public-safety licensees concerned about the effort associated with negotiating planning-funding agreements will be able to seek relief via a “fast-track” option announced yesterday at IWCE 2006.

“We’re creating an [express] lane for you,” Transition Administrator Director Brett Haan said to licensees during a spotlight session on rebanding.

Under the new option, licensees submitting a planning-funding request can bypass the need to negotiate the deal with Sprint Nextel if the proposal seeks no more than $55 per subscriber unit from the wireless carrier in planning funds, Haan said. In such cases, Sprint Nextel simply will write a contract after the TA deems the planning-funding request is reasonable.

Although the approval process in the fast-track option is expedited, Haan emphasized that licensees still must submit the same planning-funding forms and that the licensees’ rights and obligations are not changed by the announcement.

Planning funding has been a significant rebanding issue for public-safety entities, which often need upfront money to pay for planning activities that must be done before they can negotiate a final rebanding agreement with Sprint Nextel.

After licensees expressed frustration with the pace of planning-funding agreements, the TA in February revamped the process requiring Sprint Nextel and a licensee to reach a deal within 60 days after the TA conducted an initial review of the request and deemed that it included sufficient detail. That process remains in place and must be used by licensees submitting planning-funding requests that exceed the $55-per-subscriber threshold.

Haan said TA officials believe more than 50% of public-safety licensees will be eligible for the fast-track option, which was created after negotiations between TA officials, Sprint Nextel and public-safety representatives. A joint press release regarding the announcement will be issued next week, and the TA web site should have detailed information about the fast-track option by the end of the month, he said.

Robert Gurss, director of legal and government affairs for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), said he believes the fast-track program will be welcomed by public-safety licensees, who may be more willing to pursue planning funding.

“I think it will be a big help,” Gurss said. “I think this will be a major improvement.”

And the benefits extend beyond the licensees, said Haan and Larry Krevor, Sprint Nextel’s vice president of government affair for spectrum.

“Not having to negotiate [fast-track agreements] will free up our resources to address other issues,” Krevor said.