Last week, Sprint Nextel submitted its monthly report to the FCC regarding 800 MHz rebanding, reporting that almost 90% of all non-border-area public-safety licensees have signed relocation agreements, and almost 50% have actually completed the work and are operating on new channel assignments.

This report reflects progress—much slower than projected five years ago, when the Transition Administrator announced a plan to complete the massive effort in June 2008, but progress nonetheless. That’s more than can be said about treaty negotiations between the United States and Mexico regarding 800 MHz usage along the southern border.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. All we have heard from federal officials for more than two years is that “progress” is being made in U.S.-Mexico negotiations. But the nature of such high-level negotiations is that nothing substantial is said until a deal is done, because any preliminary statements could compromise the negotiating position for either government. As a result, we really can’t judge what “progress” has been made and have no idea what issues — technical, financial or political — have prevented a treaty agreement from being reached.

What we do know is that this is something that needs to happen, so rebanding finally can be completed throughout the country. We also know that the U.S. state department has known about the need for such a treaty since the end of former President George W. Bush’s first term in 2004, when the FCC mandated the reconfiguration of the 800 MHz band. More than five years later, we are still waiting on an 800 MHz agreement between U.S. and Mexico. That’s too long.

To be fair, the state department under President Barack Obama has had this issue before it — with all of the players for both governments in place — for only a few months, so additional patience likely will be required. Hopefully, the new administration’s state department will pursue an agreement with a sense of urgency, so 800 MHz rebanding can avoid becoming a decade-long endeavor.

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