The glass is half full
In reading this issue’s cover story, written by MRT senior writer Donny Jackson, a couple of metaphors immediately came to mind concerning the FCC’s 800 MHz reband proceeding.
The first, and most apt, is that of a roller coaster, for this proceeding had enough twists, turns, and dips to satisfy even the most hard-core afficionado.
Consider for a moment all that occurred from the time Nextel first floated the so-called Consensus Plan. Commercial wireless carriers, led by Verizon Wireless, cried foul, claiming that Nextel would receive a spectrum windfall. Members of Congress questioned whether the commission had the legal authority to award the 1.9 GHz spectrum — much coveted by Nextel for the provisioning of advanced services — outside of an auction, as dictated by federal telecom law.
Later, Verizon turned up its attack a few notches by first fronting a small group of first responders to lobby on Captiol Hill and in the media against the Consensus Plan, and then suggesting FCC commissioners could be subject to criminal prosecution should they go ahead with the spectrum award.
Fortunately, the FCC showed it would not be intimidated and — equally important — demonstrated remarkable restraint. It would have been easy for the commission to cave under the pressure put upon it by public safety, which desperately wanted a quick solution to 800 MHz interference. Because the commission held firm and carefully considered all of the evidence, public safety and the American public ended up with a much better deal than offered by the Consensus Plan.
Of course, the roller coaster still had a few twists and turns to go. First the U.S. Government Accountability office had to sign off on the order — which it did essentially by looking the other way. Finally, Verizon had to agree not to litigate the order, and Nextel had to agree to accept it. Neither outcome was certain, and either could have sent the cars flying off the rails, with disastrous consequences.
Which brings me to the second metaphor. Understandably, there is plenty of hand-wringing going on in the public-safety sector right now because many important details that will govern how smoothly rebanding goes still must be decided. But that is a “glass-half-empty” perspective. Relax. The hard part is done. There will be more twists and turns to be sure. But smart people are driving this train. Rebanding is no longer a rumor or a dream. It is a certainty.