TA: 211 Wave 2 licensees involved in mediation
ORLANDO—Public-safety licensees’ struggles to complete 800 MHz rebanding deals continue to persist, as more than 94% of such licensees in Wave 2 entered mandatory mediation this month, a Transition Administrator (TA) representative said here this week.
Of the 224 NPSPAC licensees in Wave 2, 211 were in the TA’s mediation program as of last Friday because they had not reached a final rebanding agreement with Sprint Nextel by the Feb. 1 deadline, said Joe Markoski, the TA’s chief mediator, during a session at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) Winter Summit.
In addition, 69% of Wave 1 NPSPAC licensees—223 of 323—still lack a rebanding agreement, despite receiving a three-month extension and having been part of the mediation process for more than three months, Markoski said.
“It is clear that Stage 2 is taking longer than Stage 1 [Channels 1-120],” he said.
Reasons for the delay are numerous. Within negotiations, the primary item of dispute has been cost, particularly the fees charged by some engineering consultants working with licensees, Markoski said. Other factors include problems trying to negotiate when key players were on vacation during the holiday season, numerous FCC rulings that have caused participants to re-evaluate their negotiation positions, and winter weather preventing some licensees from being able to access and inventory some remote equipment.
In addition, pressing day-to-day issues—from a fatal gang war that impacted a housing authority to the Super Bowl in Miami—often have prevented key contacts for NPSPAC licensees from focusing as much attention on rebanding as needed, Markoski said.
“We try to sensitize the FCC to the fact that these people have day jobs and that rebanding is not always the top item on their priority list,” Markoski said.
While the number of NPSPAC licensees entering mediation is far from ideal, mediation has proved to be an effective process for helping licensees and Sprint Nextel resolve their disputes, TA Director Brett Haan said. Overall, 113 NPSPAC licensees have completed a reconfiguration deal, and 181 have inked planning-funding agreements that should help the final rebanding negotiations proceed more smoothly.
“Even though it hasn’t been fun to watch the sausage being made, there have been a lot of sausages made,” Haan said.
Indeed, the clearing of licensees operating in Channels 1-120—the ultimate destination point for public-safety licensees in the band—is proceeding well, as Sprint Nextel reported that 70% of these frequencies not in border areas have been cleared.
Border-area licensees are impeded by the fact that international treaties with Canada and Mexico have to be signed before they can negotiate rebanding agreements.
David Furth, associate bureau chief for the FCC’s public safety and homeland security bureau, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about prospects of a Canadian agreement in the near term. Progress also is being made in negotiations with Mexico, but those talks are “more complicated” because of technical issues and the Mexican government’s recent change in leadership.