Batten down the hatches
The tidal wave that you’re hearing is not the son of Katrina. Rather, it is the cresting of rebanding waves crashing together.
The protracted negotiations that resulted in significant delays; the mediation of a far greater percentage of reconfiguration than ever anticipated by the Transition Administrator (TA); the escalation of disputes over minor costs into major battles; and the drawing of lines in the sand over major issues together have created a perfect storm which threatens to drown the rebanding effort.
You can spend your time laying blame on various parties — and there’s plenty of blame to be shared. However, regardless of responsibility, the fact is that the process is broken and getting worse by the hour. We’re about to drown in a tsunami of our own making, and rapid action is needed to avoid the coming disaster.
By pushing these waves together, we have seriously constrained available resources to get work accomplished. As a result, vendors have been unable to provide timely cost estimates. This delays the process further.
Every potential aid to this process creates its own complications. For example, the TA put out a proposal to enable early deployment of radios, but included a list of time frames for different installation tasks, which appear at first glance to be insufficient to perform the tasks. This creates further delays for industry professionals to attempt to right that process, depriving these folks of the time they need to actually perform rebands. This is no small issue, as it is certain that Sprint Nextel will start using this chart as a negotiation tool.
Similarly, the FCC issued a letter regarding the recoverability of rebanding facilities licensed under special temporary authority. Sprint Nextel now is using this document to refuse to replace or reflash radios that do not currently operate on NPSPAC trunked frequencies. This was not the FCC’s intention, but it has been the result.
Certainly, nerves are frayed on every side. Nothing is getting done in a timely manner, and the pressure has been intense. What we really need is a weekend together in Bermuda to get refreshed.
The reality is that this process won’t be fixed until: (1) more licensees become proactive and stop waiting for the last minute to become involved; (2) Sprint Nextel stops approaching this process with a litigation-first bent; (3) vendors recognize that this negotiation process is different than they are used to and requires different methodologies; and (4) the FCC makes some quick decisions on big issues.
Pressure must be brought by the public-safety community to ensure that Sprint Nextel, the TA and the FCC do the right thing. There seems to be a lack of understanding of what it takes to perform this level of work on a live, trunked, loaded public-safety system. I suggested a while back that it would be helpful for Sprint Nextel negotiators to spend the weekend with vendors for an educational session on what is really involved, perhaps even working a system retune over that weekend. So far, I haven’t seen any action on the suggestion.
At IWCE 2007, there will be multiple opportunities for licensees and vendors to ask questions and obtain information. Ask the tough questions, and don’t be satisfied with half answers. The safety of your personnel is at stake.
Alan Tilles is counsel to numerous entities in the private radio and Internet industries. He is a partner in the law firm of Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker and can be reached at [email protected].