Consensus? We got a consensus? Glory be.
Everyone wants the FCC to indicate how it may rule in a pending decision — unless that indication runs counter to what he wants.
So it goes in the FCC proceeding to reduce or eliminate interference to public safety radio communications in the 800 MHz band. One particular proposal that the FCC received has been put out for public comment by the commission, a step that indicates favored status for the proposal.
The proposal was submitted as part of reply comments in WT Docket No. 02-55 by a group that was assembled for the occasion and calls itself the Private Wireless Coalition. Having reached a consensus among themselves, the coalition members call their proposal the “Consensus Proposal.”
After this proceeding is over, these coalition members will go their separate ways. In fact, some of the original members of the coalition bailed out when they couldn’t abide by certain aspects of the proposal that are so darned favorable to Nextel Communications — which joined the coalition when those aspects were put in. Imagine.
Anyway, the coalition members are savvy enough to know that the FCC doesn’t like to choose between widely different proposals. The agency prefers to endorse a proposal that represents a — guess what — consensus. What’s in a name? Aaaahhhhh … success?
Let’s put the entire matter on the meat cutter and start slicing.
If you cut it one way, the coalition has broad representation. It includes organizations whose public safety and private radio members receive interference and one cellular-type carrier that causes interference. Consensus, yes.
If you cut it another way, the coalition filed one comment out of more than a hundred. Most of the comments oppose the kind of plan offered by the coalition, including those filed by some of the original coalition members who left. Consensus, no.
Set the cutter to thin slices, and the mind begins to spin with the number counting. How many entities, licensees, end-users, members of the public, and so on, are represented by each comment? How can a fair-minded regulatory agency possibly decide what proposal makes the most sense for the most people? Should the FCC base its decision on the law, or get “creative?”
Was this overheard at the FCC? “Lemme see, I got this New York State, says move Nextel out of 800; I got this city of Baltimore, says ‘hell no, we won’t go,’ I got this Small Business in Telecommunications, says ‘Nextel caused it, Nextel fix it’ … oh, wait a minute … here’s a … omigod … a … a … consensus.”
If you’re a regular visitor to our Web site, you already know that on Sept. 6, the FCC asked for comment on the “consensus proposal” and set a deadline to file comments by Sept. 23. Sorry. That cycle’s too fast for us to get the word out in print.
We liked the SBT reply comment enough that we put our story about it on the top of our Web site news feed and left it there for a while. Whether that’s the reason more visitors to our Web site looked at it than any other of our stories on the subject, we’re not sure, but they did.
Check out the “consensus proposal” and other comments via the Web site’s special report, “800 MHz Interference To Public Safety.”
Then get vocal. If you want the FCC to put some other proposals out for public comment, tell them. If you want to send a comment to the commission in this matter even though deadlines have passed, do it. The commission says it considers everything, and sometimes heavyweights have swayed its decision even after comment cycles have closed.