CONGRESS SEEKS QUICK 800 MHZ REBAND
Amid speculation that the Federal Communications Commission will reband 800 MHz frequencies this month, some federal lawmakers threw their support behind the plan but expressed significant opposition to Nextel Communications getting 10 MHz of spectrum at 1.9 GHz as part of the deal.
In a Feb. 27 letter to FCC Chairman Michael Powell, 23 U.S. representatives said the commission should reband 800 MHz “as quickly as possible” to remove most of the interference problems Nextel has caused for public-safety organizations.
But a Consensus Plan proposal calling for Nextel to receive 1.9 GHz should be discarded, according to the Congressional contingent. Not only does the Communication Act prohibit such a spectrum grant, but there are enough interested bidders that auctioning the airwaves would raise “billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury,” the letter stated.
Separately, Verizon Wireless reiterated its belief that Nextel would receive a $7.2 billion windfall if the Consensus Plan were adopted. Verizon also said the FCC should refuse to adopt the proposal as the Department of Justice investigates Nextel for possible antitrust violations in the push-to-talk market.
Nextel countered with a press release stating it would lose $4.6 billion under the Consensus Plan and expressing “confidence that we have conducted ourselves appropriately” with respect to the DOJ inquiry.
Rudy Baca, wireless strategist at The Precursor Group, said he believes the FCC will decide in March to reband 800 MHz but avoid the “political firestorm” that would come with granting Nextel spectrum at 1.9 GHz. Nextel also would be expected to fulfill its commitment to ante $850 million to help pay for rebanding.
“It’s not going to be enough to pay for it completely,” Baca said. “They’ll probably turn to the states for [funding] help.”