What steps should States take to prepare to consult with FirstNet regarding these issues?
Response: Based on a single national design the entire concept of building the PSBN should be administered under a model of corporate structure; as with any national commercial carrier the FirstNet Board would act as the Headquarters element and the State would act as regions. It is crucial that not only the technical adherence be maintained, but it will be imperative that the strategy follow a strict path of “self funding” functionality. With the corporate structure footprint it develops a simplistic vision that allows for the creation of the governance and that self-funding model very similar to a nationwide commercial corporation with a strategic focus.
Statistics show that localized market penetration, deployment activities and coverage will make up of more than 70% of the execution, governance and corporate modeling effect. In the end the deployment, maintenance and operation of this network will holistically have to be executed at the local and/or regional stage. On a technical footprint this does not discount the oversight and control of the FirstNet with a centralized national control center to monitor and administer the entire platform; in fact this enhances it functionality and capabilities through a centralized governance, standards and cost/revenue control mechanism by eliminating multiple Headquarter type elements and focusing the direction to one entity. As with any large corporation FirstNet, in acting as a corporate headquarters, would formulate the design standards to build by; procurement procedures to contract under; and deployment methodologies for execution. At the same time FirstNet will maintain and adhere the allocation of budgets (grants) in jump-starting the deployment process.
One of the main areas of concern, outside of the technical and tactical design and deployment characteristics, will be the “self-funding” mechanism to power the PSBN. As with any corporation their primarily intent is to generate revenue, but they traditionally lack the funding, and spirit, to deploy a solution just for a societal cause, i.e. Public Safety concerns. What is advantageous from the PSBN standpoint is that it has the governmental backing to build the solution based on societal just cause but also has the capability to act as any private commercial venture with the State agencies, or entities, acting as the customers. This is the point to which is a primary reason for State to Federal consultative services to its FirstNet leadership and execution. Without the States input the Federal impact will be limited, if not impossible, in that the potential contracts from State entities are under the control of the State itself and in fact are one in the same. This relationship is a fact and must be adhered to if the Government wishes to have a successfully deployed, managed and funded program for Public Safety; especially under the auspices of a “single national network”. Without the ability to “self fund” it will make no difference on what is designed and deployed; eventually it would wither away into a state of disrepair and waste.
As with any revenue generating plan you need clients. In this case those clients are State sponsored entities that require, or will require, wireless broadband access for their own business objectives. Due to the market penetration and the adaption of LTE broadband, and regardless of the outcome of the PSBN being deployed, those same State entities will still require this wireless access in the future. Traditionally the individual State entities would either have to invest in designing, building and deploying their own solution; which ultimately would increase tax dollars spent on statewide capital programs, both Federally and State. That would mean separate statewide communication programs for Police, Fire, EMS, Utilities, Agriculture and a host of other State agencies, all requiring State or Federal financial support. Or, the State entity would require the commercialization of its business objectives by leasing such wireless services from the commercial carriers further impacting the business case alignment between a State run agency and a commercial carriers prime directive of revenue generation; all of which impacts standards and hardening type requirements. The opportunity we face today is to allow that PSBN network to be the States Private (and protected) National Carrier.
With the PSBN being administered as a “single national private carrier” would allow the State to be consultative about the use and impacts of State entities by setting up long-term (20-30 year) annual multi-million dollar service level agreements with the PSBN instead of asking, and spending, State and Federal tax dollars to build their own, or lease it from commercial carriers.
It is further stipulated that the subscriber model must be avoided at all costs. The subscriber model is the traditional business model of a commercial carrier. Such a objective would require cost control mechanisms of billing and operational support controls that are not necessary towards a private network. The revenue to self-fund this program would be based on long-term contracts as stipulated above. In essence the PSBN would act as a long term contract organization between the State regional offices and the State internal agencies (entities). Another important aspect of this setup is that it generates much more recurring revenue for the longer term that provides a reliable self-funding framework. Case in point would be the Department of Water Resources in California which has long standing contracts with 29 water districts and municipalities that have generated a cash positive inlay since its creation. Those contracts are in 50 year terms.
What data should States compile for the consultation process with FirstNet?
Response: Immediate compilation of the technical and tactical aspects of the local contracts that are utilized for the design, deployment and operations of current network plans. This will be imperative that a State compile a listing of internal State resources and entities that require access to the PSBN. This listing of internal organizations could be vetted through the FirstNet Board for adherence to Public Safety requirements and be further scrutinized for existing infrastructure that could be used as part of the PSBN build within that State.
On the “self-funding” aspect; the State could start to compile an internal State agency listing that shows what communication plans are currently under contract, under design or in the State Telecommunication Plans. As compiled against this list would be each individual State entities capital and operational costs associated with its current communication needs. This will provide an adequate annual figure for a long-term service contract as it pertains to the incorporation of the PSBN services. As an example: if a State entity currently has planned, or has already invested, millions of dollars into large-scale communication networks that could ultimately be provided through the PSBN network. This would act as a trigger for estimating a fraction of those expenditures that would be suitable for long-term standing annual service level contracts with FirstNet. This would mean that the FirstNet, or PSBN, would cover the technological curve as well as the risk of maintaining the complex communication solution for the State.
Another opportunity that is presented with the scenario is the impact of Public-Private Partnering. In essence the picture acquired from the long-term service level contracts are advantageous to private investment where as those contracts are viewed as long-term recurring revenue which acts as a great incentive. Such incentive and private investments could actually help recoup lost tax dollars spent on technologies already deployed; i.e. SMART Grid, LMR, P25, etc..