Verizon Accuses FCC Of Illegal Negotiations With Nextel

Still on the hot political (by wireless standards) topic of the Nextel spectrum swap, Verizon Wireless has sent a scathing letter to the FCC because they believe the FCC is talking behind closed doors with Nextel about reducing the cost to Nextel of the Spectrum Swap. VZW charges that Nextel and the FCC are discussing over-valuing the spectrum that Nextel is returning in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands (just as VZW has publicly argued the FCC is undervaluing the spectrum Nextel will get in the 1.8GHz band). While normally Techdirt falls on the FCC / Nextel side of the Swap debate, in this instance we agree with VZW – if the charges are true. Nextel is already getting a windfall, which we only support because we believe it will expedite the swap and put a faster end to radio interference which could be fatal to emergency service personnel. However, if asked how much should that windfall be, we would answer as little as possible. We also think the FCC should put milestone requirements on Nextel to ensure they keep on schedule.

Changing subject: Verizon Wireless, for its part, should probably not call too much attention to itself, or people might start asking questions about how the “First Responders Coalition (FRC)” gets its funding. This is the coalition that is now lobbying hard against the FCC Swap plan under the guise of representing Emergency Workers, but is surprisingly poorly stocked with members from the emergency services community. In fact, we have learned that its leader, Gene Stilp, is a career protester who moves from one hot political issue to the next. No shame in that, but Stilp is a dilettante with a poor understanding of the telecom issues around interference and interoperability. Stilp may have been duped by big business. In fact, I spoke with Charles Werner, deputy chief of the Charlottesville (Va.) Fire Department and a member of the International Association Of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Communications Committee, who questioned where a new, small org like the FRC got enough money to take out full page ads in newspapers like the Wall Street Journal. Primedia Reporter Glenn Bischoff interviewed Stilp until he admitted that funding for the FRC comes from Verizon. Stilp couched that by adding the FRC welcomes donations from any source. Okay, no laws were broken, but Verizon Wireless shouldn’t get too lofty while accusing the FCC and Nextel of backroom politics. “Hello, Pot? This is Kettle. Can you hear me call you black now? Good.” But at this time every four years in the US, it should be painfully obvious that politics is dirty.

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