Nextel won’t decide on 800 MHz plan this week, exec says
MONTREAL–Nextel Communications will not decide until at least next week whether it will accept the FCC’s order to pay for rebanding in the 800 MHz frequencies to alleviate interference with public-safety radios, a top Nextel official said yesterday.
“We’re committed to getting together with the leadership of public safety early next week to share where we are and hopefully be able to go to the commission shortly thereafter,” Nextel Senior Vice President and Chief Regulatory Officer Robert Foosaner said during a session at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials conference.
Under the FCC order released last Friday, Nextel must pay at least $3.2 billion to fund the rebanding project and contribute 8.5 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz and 800 MHz band. In return, Nextel would get contiguous spectrum at 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz.
Meanwhile, Nextel has 50 people busily reviewing the FCC’s 256-page order, which contains almost 1000 footnotes and has “more than several—but less than numerous—internal consistencies,” Foosaner said.
Foosaner declined to say whether Nextel would accept the order and generally refused to address details of the decision. However, he offered few positive comments about the order, noting that it “puts a huge onus” on Nextel and inferring that parts of the order may not be as beneficial to public-safety as the Consensus Plan proposal negotiated by Nextel and several public-safety organizations.
“We’re concerned that, in a number of important instances, the commission has substituted its judgment for the judgment of the actual licensees, potentially to the detriment of the licensees,” he said. “We’re going to work with the licensees to see if some of these issues can be addressed.”
Foosaner also expressed disappointment that public safety and Nextel—the two groups most affected and involved by the rebanding proposal—each have just one vote in the five-entity board that will select the transition administrator that would supervise and coordinate the complex rebanding process.
But Foosaner’s most pointed criticisms were directed at the deadline for Nextel deciding whether to accept the order. The FCC decision requires Nextel to commit whether it will support the order within 30 days of its release—well before the FCC would finalize the order and opponents like Verizon Wireless would decide whether to appeal the decision, Foosaner said.
“That puts a publicly held company in an very untenable position,” Foosaner said. “We have concerns. We need to work through the concerns. I don’t think there was any bad intention here, but it puts us in a position that makes it almost impossible for us to come back and give away rights without knowing the results of the order that we’re agreeing to.”
Until rebanding occurs, 800 MHz interference problems will be resolved according to the “enhanced best practices” outlined in the order. These guidelines call for interfering parties in the band to be more accountable than in the past, which could be a potentially expensive proposition for Nextel as its customer base grows.
After the APCO session, FCC Wireless Telecommunication Bureau Chief John Muleta confirmed that the order currently calls for these best practices to remain in place if Nextel does not agree to the rebanding terms.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said his company also still is reviewing the FCC order and likely would not make any announcement this week regarding possible litigation plans. Verizon Wireless previously indicated it would challenge in court any FCC decision to award Nextel 1.9 GHz spectrum without conducting an auction.
Although not mentioned during the session, the U.S. General Accountability Office is investigating the order to determine whether the FCC exceeded its legal authority in the order by directing the use of public funds—a role reserved for Congress.