Verizon Opposes New Nextel Proposal
Cell Phone Carriers Continue to Grapple With Public Safety Interference Issue
By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2004; Page E05
Verizon Wireless yesterday shot down a proposal by Nextel Communications Inc., as the two mobile-phone carriers continued their fight over ways to minimize cellular call interference with public safety communications.
The long-running controversy centers on Nextel's proposal to solve the interference problem by giving up some of its airwaves, which carry phone calls and Internet traffic. The sixth-largest mobile-phone carrier has also told the Federal Communications Commission it will pay $850 million to move public safety groups to less-congested airwaves.
In exchange, Reston-based Nextel wants to control new, more desirable airwaves at the 1.9 gigahertz range. Verizon Wireless and other competitors have opposed the plan.
In a proposal made Friday, Nextel offered to give up more of its airwaves to police and emergency groups.
Steve Zipperstein, general counsel for Verizon Wireless, said: "Nextel's new scheme doesn't provide an additional cent for public safety. Public safety needs money, not lousy spectrum." He also contended it would do little to solve the interference problem.
Instead, the FCC should adopt a plan backed by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, the main wireless industry trade group, which would require Nextel to pay $3 billion in cash for airwaves that are less valuable than those Nextel wants, Zipperstein said.
Some public safety groups and politicians have said Nextel should pay more money. But many hundreds of local fire and police organizations have endorsed Nextel's plan.
Nextel's latest proposal "is a win-win for us in that it provides us some additional channels and could further reduce interference," said Robert Gurss, director of legal affairs for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.
Nextel spokeswoman Leigh Horner called Verizon Wireless's letter yesterday "disingenuous and inflammatory." The company will continue to work with the FCC to resolve the interference problems, she said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company