FCC commissioners should reject Sprint Nextel’s request to delay the 800 MHz rebanding schedule by at least seven months, a consortium of public-safety agencies said in a letter delivered to the FCC yesterday.

“Pushing out the implementation dates by seven months or more is not the answer,” the letter states. “Rather, Sprint Nextel and the Transition Administrator [TA], with oversight from the FCC, need to work hard to clear bottlenecks in the process.”

Sprint Nextel and the TA have issued separate reports acknowledging that negotiations with licensees in Wave 1 of the rebanding process are substantially behind the aggressive pace established in the TA’s three-year schedule that calls for reconfiguration to be completed by June 27, 2008.

In its filing with the FCC last week, Sprint Nextel said multiple new policies and guidelines from the FCC and the TA have made it more difficult for the wireless carrier to negotiate deals with 800 MHz licensees. With this in mind, Sprint Nextel asked the FCC to restart the rebanding clock from 60 days after the commission’s last action addressing the rebanding process is published in the Federal Register. The FCC order was released on Oct. 5 but has not yet been published in the Federal Register.

“We oppose the Sprint Nextel recommendation, as it would cause at least a seven-month delay in band reconfiguration and disrupt the entire process established by the [FCC] and the Transition Administrator,” the public-safety letter states. “Band reconfiguration must be kept on a tight schedule to eliminate dangerous interference to public-safety systems as quickly as possible.”

Representatives of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCC), the Major Counties Sheriffs Association (MCSA) and the National Sheriffs Association (NSA) signed the letter to the FCC.

Harlin McEwen, chairman of the IACP communications and technology committee and one of those who signed the letter, said it is not “unreasonable” for Sprint Nextel to seek additional time in the rebanding schedule but a seven-month delay “is a lot of wiggle room.”

“The bottom line is, the reason we’re doing all this is to eliminate interference as quickly as possible,” McEwen said. “Anything that delays [rebanding] significantly only perpetuates the interference.”

In addition, public-safety officials are “very uncomfortable” with the Sprint Nextel request, because it does not provide a firm date for restarting the rebanding clock, McEwen said. And there is little consensus on the need to delay rebanding, because licensees are at various stages of the project, he said.