You say you wanta resolution?
It’s that time again for making promises. New Year’s resolutions have become a staple of America, giving each of us a chance to atone for past sins by promising not to be a repeat offender. With this tradition in mind, and my fingers crossed so tight that it will take the Jaws of Life to untangle my knuckles, here’s a sample of the resolutions I’ve considered making for 2000.
My big mouth I promise to keep using it whenever I can. You can’t swing a dead cat in Washington without hitting the timid, the clueless, the over-heeled or the cautious. I attend presentations and seminars that are so boring that I require two cardio paddles and 300 joules just to get my legs working-CLEAR! These flat-lined, flap-jawed representatives of the industry talk around every subject, without getting to the key to every operator’s success: a fair competitive environment.
Last October, Chris Rogers of Nextel spoke at the SBT National Conference in St. Louis. The room was full of local operators who waited patiently for Chris to say what was really on his mind: “Why don’t you guys just shut up and go away?” He didn’t say that, of course. The villagers had the torches and farm implements ready to slay the monster if he had. But I’m not shutting up, and the local operators ain’t going away. So, I resolve to keep running my mouth. You resolve to keep running your shop.
Our big spectrum At another recent association gathering, the boys from the FCC once again spoke those wondrous words that always send chills up my spine and set my teeth on edge: “as the owners of the radio spectrum ….” Oh, puh-leeze. Don’t they realize how stupid this sounds? Yet, they trot out this tired excuse for doing the least with the most.
One of my clients decided many years ago to try his hand at commodity trading. His foray into this theoretical world of pork bellies and sugar ended on a highly realistic note. When the dust settled, he owned several boxcars of potatoes. These were real potatoes sitting out in the real sun with millions of real eyes staring into his bankbook. Potatoes are real. Spectrum isn’t. I resolve to try to explain this to the FCC when the occasion arises and to do my part to direct the agency toward reality-also known as the path least taken. And if they don’t listen, maybe I’ll deliver a bucket of pork bellies to each of the sage commissioners. That way they can get a whiff of what we smell every time they try to tell us that they “own” spectrum.
Big band managers I resolve to question the use of “band managers” every step of the way. Just like John Lennon asked about Brian Epstein’s cut of the Beatles’ earnings, the players on the industry stage should ask whether they require the bookings of these managers. I’m trying to picture Mark Crosby looking through a pair of $500 shades and saying, “Chickee-baby, I’ve got a gig on a sweet little patch of 20kHz in Montana you’re gonna love. Trust me. It’s a natural for ya. Bring the seals and Wanda. The locals like to see the cheesecake.”
The big oops In 1995 the FCC granted a bunch of SMR licenses using a computer program that was allegedly designed to clean up the backlog of applications that had been pending for a few years. The grant of thousands of these licenses was in error. The applications, filed by the largest operator, were defective in the extreme and should not have even been included in the computer run. But, despite my repeated efforts, the FCC has yet to remedy this problem.
I resolve to find a remedy. The agency blew it, knows it blew it and would prefer to sweep it under the rug so far that a 5,000hp Hoover couldn’t suck it out. Even the inspector general of the FCC threw his hands up so fast you would have thought it was a stick-up. The Justice Department has punted on it. Congress is whistling and looking at the ceiling. Most of the frequency coordinators are acting like they are unaware of it. And the Government Accounting Office is still posturing. There was one decision on the matter-and it was so full of misrepresentations about the record you would have thought it was written by the Brothers Grimm-a fairy tale of the worst order.
The big tug of war Over the years I’ve found that it’s easier to pull on just one side of the rope. You may not win, but at least you’re a consistent jerk. So, I’m resolving to move to the front burner the issue of fundamental fairness between common carriers, demanding that local exchange carriers (LECs) give wireless operators reciprocal interconnection agreements. Although this has been law for a few years, the LECs are acting like Congress and the FCC didn’t mean it. I think the lawmakers did.
Finally, after prodding by many wireless operators, the FCC is taking the matter seriously. I’ve begun filing formal complaints against LECs that refuse to put a reciprocal agreement on the table. I’m tired of LECs telling paging operators, “We don’t give facilities for free,” as though this statement justifies charging paging companies for termination of an LEC’straffic. (“Earth to LECs.”) One more time: You can’t be a “supplier to all and a consumer of nothing.” Those days are over.
The big show It looks like I’ll be speaking at the opening session of the IWCE show again this year. I did it last year without the benefit of coffee. (The hotel missed my wake-up call.) I like the show and enjoy the bit of free reign IWCE gives me to speak my piece. So, this year, I resolve to speak with the benefit of caffeinated beverages. It may be a wireless show, but I’ll be wired in March.
The big etc. To try to atone for all my past sins in one year would be too much. I’ve been guilty of many transgressions-not of least note is the sin of pride. My wife is always reminding me that I can’t fix everything, can’t know everything and can’t be everywhere for everybody. She’s right, of course. I’m just one loud-mouthed, dorsal-finned lawyer trying to make a buck the right way in Washington.
The scales of justice often have a political thumb pressing down hard on one side, and my railings are often unheard in the din of lobbyist voices, mumbling in back rooms throughout this town. My positions are about a level playing field that doesn’t use big money as the only yardstick for integrity and the right to compete. But, darn it, I stand for something and in this day and age, that’s something to be proud of. So, there I go again with the pride thing. But, as I’ve always said, if you’ve got an ego bigger than mine-seek professional help. Happy New Year.