Time is not a constant
During the 800 MHz rebanding exercise, all willing and unwilling participants are reminded each day that time is not a constant. Although this statement may be old hat to people familiar with quantum physics, it is a little disconcerting to those of us who rely on our normal calendars.
Time, as defined by the Transition Administrator, is the amount of days it takes to get a deal done — any deal. Events that occur within some tolerance to the arbitrary deadlines created in the FCC’s bureaucratic vacuum are considered good. The ones that take longer are not.
Time, as defined by a mediator, is the amount of days between reports to the chief mediator about why a particular deal still is not done. It also is the relative period between the FCC’s deadline and the actual period reasonably required to complete a deal. This has some relationship to the TA’s definition of time, but only by happenstance.
Time, as defined by public-safety entities and other incumbents, is the number of days it takes to assemble the personnel necessary to engage in a negotiation, deal with vendors and actually perform a rebanding. This time is always longer in duration than the foregoing definitions.
Time, as defined by Sprint Nextel, is however long it takes to man a project and move it along. Time comes to a halt when Sprint Nextel decides to argue about a 25¢ item for a month.
Time, as defined by the FCC, is whatever the commission wants it to be. If you search all of the Communications Act, you will find only one procedural deadline imposed on the agency. Since Congress never stated how long it should take for the commission to do its various jobs, the FCC makes it up as it goes along.
For example, the FCC has said repeatedly how much it wants 800 MHz rebanding to be done in three years. That won’t happen. I know it, you know it and the FCC knows it. But still, no one has adjusted the timetable for rebanding. In fact, when a matter goes before the FCC, the commission adds months to the resolution process by taking its time in responding.
Yet, we are told that all of these deals are being subjected to a schedule, one that had little meaning when it was created and lost what little connection it had to reality long ago.
Nothing about this is unique to rebanding. Remember AM stereo, location monitoring service and equipment development at 220 MHz? I’ve had cases sit before the FCC for more than 10 years without a decision. If you really want to waste time, spend it trying to get the FCC to hurry it up.
To licensees and mediators and others who have not spent a career waiting for the FCC to act, I say relax. First, note that the FCC’s deadlines are applied to the TA and Sprint Nextel. They are only indirectly relevant to incumbents, if at all. So, among all the participants, time is on the incumbents’ side.
My advice to incumbents is to act prudently, reasonably and in accordance with your most important priorities. And if someone tries to pressure you too much, repeat the statement that the FCC uses when it denies a special temporary authority: “Your failure to plan adequately does not create an emergency for me.” It’s time the shoe was on the other foot.
Attorney Robert H. Schwaninger Jr. is the president of Schwaninger & Associates. He can be reached at [email protected]