Transition Administrator releases funding policies
The Transition Administrator (TA) team supervising the 800 MHz rebanding effort today released new policies regarding funding for internal labor and distinguishing between “hard” and “transactional” costs associated with reconfiguration of the frequency band.
Under the FCC’s order issued last year, Nextel Communications—now Sprint Nextel—is obligated to pay costs incurred by licensees associated with rebanding, which is designed to alleviate interference problems between cellular carriers and public-safety radio systems operators in the 800 MHz band. But licensees have raised many questions regarding exactly what costs what Sprint Nextel must pay.
The internal-labor policy clarifies that Sprint Nextel can be required to pay overtime costs incurred by a licensee to execute rebanding-related tasks. To receive overtime payments from Sprint Nextel, the licensee must be able to demonstrate that the task could not be done during normal business hours and that an overtime rate would normally be paid—for instance, salaried workers do not qualify for overtime-rate payment if they are not normally paid overtime.
For salaried workers, the per-hour rate is calculated at the employee’s annual salary divided by 2080 (52 weeks times 5 days per week time 8 hours per day). “Reasonable” overhead charges—items such as benefits and vacation—also will be paid, if documented by the licensee and deemed appropriate.
Earlier TA policy only let licensees claim an employee’s salary, not items such as benefits and vacations.
“The reality of the marketplace requires that [overhead costs] be considered on a case-by-case basis, because different licensees account for this differently,” said Bryan Cloar, the TA’s communications and outreach lead. “We basically augmented the previous policy to allow for this circumstance.”
In the other policy released today, the TA clarified that licensees—particularly public-safety entities—can claim transactional costs, which include fees that exceed the FCC’s normal limit of 2% of their total rebanding cost, although licensees should be prepared to document and justify their claims. Transactional costs include attorneys’ fees, consultants’ fees, costs associated with conducting a bidding process and costs associated with “comparable facilities” analyses.
Cloar said the policy is designed to provide flexibility for certain licensees, particularly those with smaller, simpler systems. If the licensee’s total rebanding cost is low, it could be difficult to for the licensee to find a lawyer willing to execute the proper paperwork while remaining within the 2% threshold.
In September, the TA released a policy regarding reimbursement for educational costs associated with rebanding. Under that policy, attendance at 800 MHz-focused seminars and events can be reimbursed 100%. Licensee personnel attending a general conference that includes 800 MHz education can be reimbursed for 50% of their costs, if at least 50% of the time at the conference was spent attending 800 MHz education sessions. If less than 50% of the time at the conference was spent attending 800 MHz sessions, no reimbursement will be provided.
This education policy also includes a note from the TA that “there are limits” to educational costs, noting that they must meet the FCC’s standard for “reasonable and prudent” expenses. The policy does not specify a date after which an educational session would be considered, but Cloar said it would be “logical” for a licensee not to expect reimbursement for educational sessions conducted before the FCC issued its order last year.