In a letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell sent yesterday, four major public-safety organizations reiterated their support for the Consensus Plan as the means to mitigate interference in the 800-MHz band and urged the commission to reject “eleventh-hour efforts to derail adoption of key elements” of the plan.

The Consensus Plan calls for Nextel Communications to pay $850 million to reband 800-MHz spectrum; Nextel’s interleaved spectrum in the band is largely blamed for interference in the band that disrupts public-safety communications across the country. After rebanding, Nextel and public-safety each would hold contiguous blocks of spectrum in the band. In addition, Nextel would receive a 10-MHz block of spectrum in the 1.9 GHz band.

Verizon Wireless has questioned the legality of awarding the 1.9-GHz spectrum without an auction and has pledged a minimum of $5 billion should the FCC put the spectrum up to bid. In addition, there has been a suggestion that the FCC substitute a swath of spectrum at 2.1 GHz for the contested 1.9-MHz spectrum Both Nextel and Verizon Wireless covet the 1.9-GHz spectrum for the provisioning of advanced services.

But the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International, International Association of Chiefs of Police, International Association of Fire Chiefs and National Sheriff’s Association, in yesterday’s letter, characterized such criticisms as “little more than calculated efforts to postpone and divert a decision.”

The groups also told Powell that unless the FCC “takes action now,” a first responder will be injured or killed “sooner or later” because he or she was unable to receive a critical radio message or call for help.

“We cannot afford for this critical public safety issue to be dragged any further into a slugfest between giant competitors. Regulatory paralysis is not an option,” the letter stated.

This is not the first time the groups have collaborated to promote adoption of the Consensus Plan. In January, they wrote to President Bush, urging him to put pressure on the FCC to adopt the plan.

Meanwhile, Nextel yesterday responded to Verizon’s criticisms. In a letter sent to the FCC, Nextel cited technical and legal problems with the notion that the FCC substitute 2.1 GHz spectrum for the 1.9 GHz airwaves included as compensation to Nextel. In addition, the letter says the FCC should take Verizon’s offer to bid $5 billion for the 1.9 GHz spectrum with a “grain of salt.” Click here for more on this story.

The rival Balanced Approach Plan, supported by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association and the United Telecom Council, calls for engineering best practices to solve interference problems in specific markets. Balanced Plan proponents believe rebanding will cost far more than the $850 million suggested by Nextel, perhaps in excess of $2 billion.