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FCC Settles Radio Spat Between State, Sprint

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stepped in to settle a Judge Judy-like dispute between the state of Oklahoma and Sprint Nextel Corp. over the cost of 11 radios, a total of just $28,325 out of the several billion dollars Sprint is spending to reband the 800 MHz spectrum. The disagreement over the radios demonstrates that money is sometimes not a point of contention when it comes to governments dealing with Sprint. The 800 MHz rebanding project was first proposed by Nextel co-founder Morgan O’Brien in 2001, and was then formalized by the FCC in 2005. In exchange for spectrum in the 1900 MHz band, Nextel (later purchased by Sprint) agreed to pay the costs of retuning public safety radio systems across the country to eliminate interference with Nextel radios, a bill that could total over $4 billion. In the decision announced today, the FCC said the state of Oklahoma must pay Sprint for 11 new radios the state received from the company, intended to replace radios that could not be retuned. However, after the project was complete, Sprint learned those 11 state radios were capable of being retuned on new frequencies. The company then told the state they did not want the radios back in used condition, and proposed the state pay them the $28,325 cost of the radios. The state argued it was Sprint’s fault for not determining the old radios could be retuned, and proposed keeping the radios for free, or giving them back and having Sprint pay $3,788.39 for retrieving them from the field. Faced with a stalemate, the state and Sprint appealed to the rebanding administrator for a resolution, and later to the FCC. Download (pdf) the FCC decision for more information.

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