House Commerce Committee members tell FCC to deny Nextel 1.9 spectrum

Feb. 26, 2004 1:31 PM EST

WASHINGTON-The Federal Communications Commission received some unsolicited
advice from 23 members of Congress on Thursday on what not to do to solve
the public-safety interference problem in the 800 MHz band.
"We are troubled by reports that the FCC may address interference problems
in a manner that results in an economic windfall to one company and that
would violate the competitive bidding requirements of the Communications
Act," wrote the members of Congress, all of whom are members of the House
Commerce Committee. "The commission must address interference to
public-safety systems in the 800 MHz band as quickly as possible. The FCC
should reband, but should keep all existing 800 MHz licensees within the
band rather than give one or more entities spectrum outside of the 800 MHz
band without conducting an auction."

The signatories represent a cross-section of the country and the House
Commerce Committee, but the letter was not signed by any of the House
Commerce Committee leadership and still represents less than half of the
opinion of the members of the committee from both parties.

There are two differing plans to solve the public-safety interference
problem in the 800 MHz band that was created because public-safety
licensees, private-wireless licensees, enhanced SMR licensees-most notably
Nextel Communications Inc., and cellular licensees were mixed together.

The Consensus Plan would shuffle the 800 MHz band to eliminate the current
situation. Nextel has said that $850 million will be sufficient to pay for
the necessary retuning of public-safety and private-wireless radios. Nextel
said it would deposit $100 million in an escrow account and secure
irrevocable lines of credit for the remaining $750 million.

In exchange for giving up spectrum in the 700, 800 and 900 MHz bands and for
paying to retune public safety and private wireless, Nextel has asked for 10
megahertz in the 1.9 GHz band.

RCR Wireless News first reported Oct. 27 that FCC staff is contemplating a
proposal that would give Nextel no more than 6 megahertz of spectrum in the
1.9 GHz band.

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association and the United
Telecom Council favor the Balanced Approach Plan which calls for timely
resolution of current interference at the expense of the interferor, coupled
with technical rules, notification and coordination procedures to prevent
new interference.

The letter could delay the FCC's decision-making process. "Please respond to
our questions no later than March 15. We expect the commission to take no
action on this proceeding until the FCC has responded to our questions and
we have had the opportunity to evaluate the responses," reads the letter.

The FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is drafting a solution to be
presented to the commissioners in the coming weeks with a decision expected
in April, said WTB Chief John Muleta on Monday.
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