Sprint Nextel recently settled a dispute with the city of Boston over whether the use of inventory-control software that the city had purchased from MCM Technology constituted a recoverable expense related to the reconfiguration of the city’s 800 MHz radio system. The agreement calls for Sprint Nextel to reimburse to the city the sum of $60,000, which accounts for all of the costs associated with the software, according to an attorney who represented the city in the case.

The city had claimed that the tracking and management software was necessary in part because its radios had to be touched twice during the reconfiguration process, first to program the new channels that the system would be using after the reconfiguration and then to remove the channels that had been used prior to the reconfiguration.

But the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) rejected the claim in February 2007, stating that the city hadn’t demonstrated the need for the second touch. The PSHSB also opined that the city misinterpreted the minimum number of touches required by the FCC’s original order to complete the reconfiguration. Because no base stations would be operating on the old channels once rebanding was completed, the bureau determined that removing the old channels was an unnecessary act, which by extension made the inventory-control software an unnecessary purchase.

Robert Schwaninger, president of Schwaninger & Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that represented the city in this case, said that regardless of the argument over whether a second touch of the radios is justified, the software is a legitimate expense given the cost recovery aspects of the FCC’s rebanding order.

“This is not a glorified spreadsheet … you can actually manage the project,” using this software, which offers an “error-rejection” capability, Schwaninger added. “The problem we have with the public safety guys is that they’re not used to keeping these kinds of records.”

A Sprint Nextel spokesman said in an e-mail response that the carrier decided to settle because of its commitment to moving the reconfiguration process forward. “We are pleased that Boston can now proceed with their Phase 1 rebanding,” said spokesman Scott Sloat.