Tuesday, August 7, 2012

First Responders Broadband Network and a States Right to "Opt In"?

The recent Federal legislation opening up the D-Block 700 Mhz broadband spectrum to Public Safety includes a clause for a States right to Opt-out. I would like to add some discussion topics about “Opt-In” part.  Just so you know, I am not an advocate one way or another…. I believe in doing what makes sense for the given situation.

These are just observations but to me the term “Opt-In” highlights a high-level effort of managing the build out of the Nations First Responder Network via the FirstNet organization in whole, where as the State will relinquish the build to FirstNet. In essence, FirstNet will be setup to be the “Program Management Organization” or oversight committee of a solicited “Program Management Entity” (thus the reference associated with a “one RFP solution” for the build). This is a very effective way to centralize the management of the build-out into one hierarchy of a support structure of which they can delegate down to the State level elements or sub-projects. But is this the right model for such a large and complex national build?

This model is an effective model if there is one business model in place, but when you have multiple and competing business models at the State level there will be vast amounts of complexities to overcome. For example: how would FirstNet, or the Program Manager, coordinate all the State entities through their individual audits for existing inventories of towers and fiber optic inventories? How would they “scrub” an entire national inventory of towers from all the State entities and owners? How would they manage the regulatory issues of individual State legislature bodies?  How would they handle the unlimited liability clauses mandated in their State Constitutions? How would they manage the investment and equity shares of State sponsored Public Private Partnerships to a level that will adhere to all parties involved, especially those parties that have established assets and money to help fund the builds? These are just a few examples. You can imagine a few think tanks coming up with a deluge of other issues. Do we have the time to go through all this?

Having a Federal Agency setup to insure execution of a standardized approach to project management, procurement, governance or technical interoperability is a good idea and can be achieved through this hierarchical approach. But at the State level wouldn’t a matrix model be well suited for ownership and implementation? One of the main aspects of the “Opt In” scenario will be the loss of potential recurring revenue models at the State level, to which the State could benefit from. In one observation a State choosing to “Opt In”, could allow the Federal Government complete control via a centralize build model, relinquishing the States ability to control any State sponsored Public Private Partnership, thus conflicting with the Federal mandate to use Public Private Partnership to “self fund” the network build out. Maybe what’s important at this stage of the game is the definition of Public Private Partnership to which there are many. Even a preliminary business case would address most of these concerns. 

Hopefully these issues will be addressed and come to light once the FirstNet Board is created. After all, with all the doom and gloom of past large-scale contracting IT and telecom jobs within State and Federal Programs, to which there are many, its best we build a solid business case of execution before we just start building the network.  Its through that solid business case we can easily address these types of issues.

Just some guy and a blog...

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