Friday, July 13, 2012

Public Safety Broadband and the State’s right to Opt-Out…a new word in the dictionary

There are many things that come to mind when I hear the word "opt out". The first thing that comes to mind is the time I said no to an offer on my house only to watch the market crash and have to sell it for 25 grand less than the original offer. 

As part of the legislation for the Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) is the right for the State’s to "opt-out" and build their own portion of the PSBN.  I don't believe the Feds are making an offer; but instead, took the notion out of context in that there really is no "opt out" option.  

One must consider the fact that the State will have to take on a majority of the build anyways because they are physically located where the PSBN must be installed. More than 90% of the entire requirement to build the PSBN will have to physically execute from a local standpoint. Outside of design, governance and procedures for execution, which can be handled by FirstNet, the entire requirement for project management, project controls, engineering, contractor controls, on-site testing, and yes the Core connectivity, are just examples of some of the activities that will have to happen at the local State level. So why wait? If you wait it only puts more strain on the States financial and contracting resources – a strain that is having deep impacts on the State’s resources during this day’s market and economic conditions. 

Why does a State have to Opt-out at all? It’s naïve to believe that FirstNet will be able to do the entire program without the help of the States... and vice versa. Estimates currently put this network (when completed) to be around 70-100 Billion dollars. That’s more than twice the cost of the assets for Verizon and AT&T. The commercial carriers target 96% of the population; the PSBN has to target 98% total geographic mass of the United States. To believe that a single-vendor, single contractor, RFP solution will work may be ill-conceived...if not at least challenged in court due to non-compete and anti-competitive practices. It will have to happen at the State level. There are too many state and federal agencies involved. 

Anyone who has helped design, build, manage and maintain large complex networks can easily tell you that there are a number of things that have to be done way before we deploy a single box. For example: States have to take inventory of their existing assets; issue orders for other State agencies to take inventories. States have to align internal agencies as to who are viable Public Safety elements (and there are a lot more than you think). States have to coordinate and plan their Public Private Partnership for capital. The requirement for site acquisition alone will be complex in that multiple State entities, who will have access to the PSBN, will be integrating thousands of new or existing optimal sites for antennas, DAS and LMR solutions. Why wait? If a State doesn’t wait does that mean the PSBN won’t be built…of course it will.

Maybe "opt-out" is the wrong phrase. Maybe it should be stricken from the vocabulary and banned from the PSBN plans all together. It may be just me, but I believe there will exist no “opt out” option. Both the States and Federal Government will have to coordinate across the board anyway.

So what happens if a State does opt out? From what I can ascertain, nothing, it has to happen anyway and it will have to happen locally. So why wait? Of the simplest of terms why not start putting together the States Public Private Partnership? After all, the Public Private Partnership is all about how it gets funded and who its investors are; it has very little do to with the actual technology. In the end the technology will be the same, but how a State funds it will be different…. especially if we think that the Federal Government will magically fund the entire nationwide build out. On an opportunity like this even the simplest private investment strategy, in support of a public-private-parynership, will take longer than twelve months just to get it approved before the first payment happens. So why have to “opt out” at all? By the time a State’s legislative body can read this article the FirstNet Board would have been created. The time to act is now. But that may be just the driver in me. 

Just some guy and a blog….

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