Back on track
Before becoming MRT’s editor, I spent three years as the policy and law writer for our sister publication Telephony, which meant that I spent most of my time covering the FCC. During that period, the commission was refereeing a battle between incumbent and competitive telephone carriers over rules contained in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that dictated when and how the incumbents should share their facilities with the competitive upstarts.
It was a nasty fight marked by intense and relentless — in some cases ruthless — lobbying tactics. Given the stakes and the vagueness of the Telecom Act — its language offered plenty of opportunity for interpretation — the commissioners divided into two distinct camps. Moreover, that polarization extended to the FCC staff, resulting in paralysis by analysis. In the end, largely because of the commission’s indecisiveness, the battle waged on for far longer than it should have.
There was some fear that history would repeat itself concerning the reconfiguration of 800 MHz spectrum. As we reported last month, the first seven months hadn’t gone very smoothly, and it appeared that the FCC was content to stay on the sidelines in the hope that the problems would work themselves out or — by some miracle — simply go away.
Fortunately, as senior writer Donny Jackson reports in this edition’s lead news story on page 6, the FCC jumped into the game. The commission granted the Transition Administrator team overseeing reconfiguration greater authority, and the TA wasted no time in using it by changing some of its policies that govern planning-funding agreements. The changes should eliminate most of the bottlenecks associated with these agreements. It’s a step in the right direction. The sooner these agreements are in place, the sooner licensees can get to the actual rebanding.
Last month in this space, I suggested that the TA, Sprint Nextel and the FCC might have a train wreck on their hands. I’m happy — and admittedly surprised — to write now that it appears the train is fine, but the FCC and TA simply needed to make a few repairs to the track on which it rides. Kudos to both for their quick recognition and decisive action. But there are many more miles of track ahead, and both will have to keep their eyes open and their ears to the ground if rebanding is to be completed on time.