Radio Interference: A Consensus Plan Update

Just when you think its safe to go back in the woods, you realize that there are more wolves passing themselves off as trusted grandmothers.

That is true of this week's activities surrounding public safety radio interference. There is no question by the FCC that public safety wants the Consensus Plan to be approved. This week, public safety officials from across the country sent emails and made calls to Congress and the FCC. It appears that since the FCC has gone "sunshine" on this issue (meaning that no more lobbying the FCC) that a decision at their July 8th meeting may be imminent. I think the answer to "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?", Is a resounding YES.

However, the wolves are ready to attack at every turn but now are even more disguising in their appearance and putting on even more "granny garb" to be unseen while manipulating legislators and regulators behind the scenes.

This week, realizing after information that a decision by the FCC may be imminent, Verizon stepped up once again but this time with a vigor never seen before by threatening the FCC that criminal prosecution may result from such a decision to support the Consensus Plan. This has resulted in but another diversion with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has asked the comptroller general to give a thumbs up or down to the proposal by wireless company Nextel Communications to pay to move broadcasters and others in the 800-megahertz band, including emergency communications, in exchange for a swath of spectrum now used by broadcasters for satellite newsgathering.

This action could delay the process for another 120 days if the GAO doesn't respond quickly and that's just what Verizon is looking for, another delay. Without going into lengthy discussion of the points, well-respected legal staff indicate that Verizon's accusations are an "unsupportable interpretation" and if true that the FCC would have violated this many times in the past. In the TR Daily FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps criticized Verizon Communications, Inc., for suggesting that adopting the plan could subject him and his colleagues to criminal punishment, and Verizon Wireless continued to hammer Nextel on the proposal. At a briefing with reporters, he deplored the growth in Washington of a "take-no-prisoners, gotcha mentality." Regarding agency action in the proceeding, he said, "We need to get this done.

It's been a question mark out there too long. . . . Why didn't we get a better handle on the value of this spectrum early on?"

The delay plays right along with what would seem to be a systematic approach to kill the Consensus Plan once and for all and remove any chance of public safety radio interference to be solved at no cost to public safety or local governments.

According to Communications Daily, House Budget Committee Chmn. Nussle (R-Ia.) introduced legislation Friday, that would "reaffirm the intent of Congress to use the auction process and competitive bidding for the grant of commercial spectrum," his office said in a release. The bill would require the FCC to auction its spectrum allocations, including spectrum being sought by Nextel. However, Nussle's spokesman said the bill isn't out of concern for the Nextel situation. Senator Ted Stevens who authored the original auction legislation disagrees and has stated through numerous statements that the Consensus Plan is acceptable and auctioning is not required because it's in the public interest and public safety. Nuzzle stated, "The concern is that at the end of the day, the taxpayers should receive the benefit of this public resource," he said. Effectively, however, this would kill any chance of fixing radio interference and throws public safety to the wind.

This legislative measure would not insure any funding will go to public safety.

As public safety responders, it is sad that so much time must be spent defending the ability to communicate. As I watched the classic version of Robin Hood last night, I felt a certain parallel of present day politics.

The evil rich brother plans to do whatever necessary to become king (even kill his very own brother) and gain all of the riches. Today, public safety leaders find themselves responding to these underhanded tactics and operating as a modern day Robin Hood. Hopefully at the end of the day, no firefighter, police officer or civilian will die as a result of these intentional acts of interference.

As our Nation's Independence Day arrives, DHS has warned of concerns while we can only hope that no catastrophic events or attacks will occur. In the spirit of Independence Day lets all hope that Truth, Justice and the American Way will prevail for public safety.