Friday, February 15, 2013

Response to Comment Request: State and Local Implementation Grant Program Application Documentation and Reporting Requirements


The following write-up is my response to A Notice by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on 02/12/2013, titled "Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; State and Local Implementation Grant Program Application Documentation and Reporting Requirements"

You can download the file from here

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Summary

In summary, I still find no indication of a business model, specifically associated with a Public Private Partnership model[1],[2], which can adequately address funding a national build-out of the National Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) -- most specifically the “self-funding” aspects using Public Private Partnerships as pre-determined in the legislation1. Until we can get a sense for what that model is, and how it is to be applied within the States, as well as its potential customers, then we should be concerned that there currently does not exist any framework for justification, nor clarification, as to what should be collected, for whom, from whom, and for what purpose. We can’t just start collecting inventories of assets, knowledge of business processes, and workflows, if we haven’t established a structure of what the entire solution is going to look like; whom its customers will be; and what the framework of a Public Private Partnership model that the States need to execute against.

As with the construct of a commercial, or private, telecommunications company it’s important that a new business follow its desired course of a model that ultimately leads to a gainful and cost-effective outcome; as well as balance the needs and desires of its clients with its functionality and capabilities as to create a demand for service. In this case that service is LTE Broadband provisioned under a private network and should be administered through a framework of a Public Private Partnership (P3). It is my recommendation, that through a business model, FirstNet becomes the National Headquarters (HQ) entity to all the statewide deployments of the PSBN architecture.  As the HQ element they will also provide oversight of the governance, technical interoperability and financial controls that will be executed under the jurisdiction of the established State and its respective P3 entity.

As part of any business, whether small or large, they all start with a seed of an idea that is ultimately driven by the elements of fiscal responsibility, and prudent attitudes that ultimately align with its long-term, short-term and immediate goals. In short we need to be creative in establishing the groundwork of a financial governance model that can be duplicated with the States and Territories. A solution that not only meets our demands of capital expense to design, build and deploy the network, but also the ability to sustain its operations costs for the long-term. What better way to do that than to capitalize on the use of the spectrum and the technology of LTE itself?

There is a great demand for broadband services within every entity that resides and operates within a given State and Territory. By capitalizing on the capabilities of the network we can monetize that demand. By monetizing that demand we can offer cheaper, more resilient and capable broadband services than the traditional commercial carrier market; as well as balance the needs of those organizations that require the service for their own business goals. Such a network business model is not fashioned solely on revenue producing goals, but primarily on the goal of balancing the business objectives and needs of all that partake. As a part of my recommended business model, the recurring income is there to balance the attraction and is used only to help fuse the interest of private equity to concentrate on a common goal with the State and the Nation.

In fusing the ambitions of all entities that take part in the business model, we can simultaneously bring value to the their past investments in existing communication infrastructures by renewing and utilizing existing assets that can support a solid infrastructure of backhaul and advanced service functionalities for a statewide PSBN, i.e. LMR, P25, Microwave, Towers, Fiber, etc.[3] By combining the specific demands of the users within the network, as well as a solid projection of recurring revenue, we can formulate a standardized RFP (Request For Proposal)[4][5] process that will invigorate the private market to invest into, and build, our entire network solution, thus avoiding taxation. This is more than just a typical investment -- in reality, it’s an investment into our nations infrastructure and national security that will allow us to lower our dependence on taxation through the State and Federal Government, which in the end helps us all by improving our economic outlook as well as eliminates a lot of procedural “red-tape”.
  
Comments are invited on:

(a)           Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information shall have practical utility;

For the benefit of FirstNet, or the NTIA, which I believe to mean the “Agency”, I feel the collected data can be useful, but more importantly its application at the State level carries more importance. It’s imperative to point out that such collection of data cannot effectively be used unless there is a structure of a business model that deploys an active Public Private Partnership (P3) model (per the legislation). If it is the intention of the Agency to formulate a business model based on the directives of the legislative passed in February, then it is also written that “Public Private Partnerships” should be utilized[6]. As of this date we have not seen any attention focused on any formulation of a business model using Public Private Partnerships.... at least not that has been made transparent to the public. Therefore it will be difficult for the Agency to layout a standardized approach for the States to follow when collecting such data.

Intrinsically that data must have a reason for being collected. To collect such data just for the purpose of seeing what is available is counterintuitive to the practicality of its implementation to a Public Private Partnership model or business case. We may go through an entire process of collection only to find out that the data was actually not needed due to the fact that the Public Private Partnership and the business model ultimately affects the design and the revenue objectives, which may, or may not, include a lot of the data in its initial application.

It is my recommendation that once the Agency has formulated a policy for implementing a sound business plan, which envelops a Public Private Partnership strategy, and that can be conveyed to the States, it is at that time that guidelines for collecting the necessary inventory of assets can be made.  This will insure that we have a solid business model that can be used to fulfill the requirements of self-funded and self-sustaining operations. After all, what if we collect data from only four major Public Safety organizations and then later find out we need to collect from 86 (which happened to be the case in Oklahoma).

Therefore it is necessary to collect a certain amount of information to validate a structural relationship between all the States, and Territories, that can establish a framework of correspondence when applying the business model; ultimately delivering those guidelines to a State for the basis of initiating controlled Public Private Partnership. This data will highlight the interface with the controlling element of FirstNet yet at the same time maintain the business objectives of the State born P3.

But undoubtedly the most importantly step prior to the data collection period -- FirstNet must market its adoption of a Public Private Partnership model that the States can follow. Keeping in mind that the data collected must represent five primary steps (simplified version), FirstNet must:

1.     Formulate a Governance structure of Program Management controls.
2.     Formulate a Business Model using a Public Private Partnership methodology
3.     Establish the framework and templates for the States to use in implementing their own Public Private Partnership that is standardized and adopted by FirstNet and the NTIA.
4.     Establish the framework for State initiated RFPs that will be advertised to the Private Equity market.
5.     Finally, FirstNet must execute its governance approach to conduct oversight of the State’s progress in adopting and implementing the P3 model.

Once these steps are established then collection of State assets can begin (simplified version), States must:

1.     Collect data on all currently defined “Public Safety Services” Organizations[7] within a given State as defined by the Federal regulations.
2.     Solicit current operations and programs within the given State and how they will interface into the newly established company of the P3. Highlight an established alignment of business objectives between the State entities[8] and the PSBN solution where supporting causal effect is associated with broadband goals.
3.     For the given State outline projected recurring revenue from possible State entities that will pay for access to the PSBN solution. Use a two step process:
a.     Conduct a preliminary LTE Broadband design to meet their immediate business needs and use interoperability and design criteria as stated by FirstNet. The goal for this design is so that it meets the entities needs as well as can be assimilated into a statewide design.
b.     Perform a cost analysis of the entities preliminary design and convert annual cost of operations to a fixed annual payment for PSBN broadband service. Offset any existing infrastructure that the entity has by subtracting leasing or buy arrangements with the State P3. Provide this information to the State for incorporation into a State generated RFP as to demonstrate a projection of a recurring revenue stream that will attract Private Equity.
4.     Gather coverage requirements, broadband speeds and hardening requirements to be used in the State RFP that will be advertised to the Private Equity market. 
5.     Using the preliminary designs and inventories of entity assets the State can catalog those available assets from the entities, and the State itself -- that would include an inventory of enterprise based solutions, backhaul, towers, fiber routes and any other communication based assets -- that can be used in the infrastructure of the State PSBN. These become the available assets and reusable infrastructure and are conscripted into the State generated RFP that will be advertised to the Private Equity market.
6.     Combine and analyze the design, coverage and broadband speed desires from the entities and script them into the technical requirements section of the State’s RFP to Private Equity market.
7.     Combine and analyze each of the State’s recurring revenue projections into a financial market document to be incorporated into the State’s RFP to the Private Equity market.
8.     Execute and advertise State born RFPs to the Private Equity market for investment into a State sponsored Public Private Partnership that will accommodate for the capital and operational expenses associated with its deployment, and “self-sustaining” long-term operation of the PSBN solution, thus meeting the demands of the Federal Legislation.

(b) The accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information;

In reviewing the calculations I find that the numbers are grossly underestimated. They do not include all the necessary steps of collecting data from all the States and the State’s internal agencies and entities. Through a defined business model such elements of necessity would become apparent. With FirstNet’s adoption of a Public Private Partnership model; proper allocation of funding can be administered to the States to provide enough resources to fund the data collection process as well as the means to generate a Request For Proposal (RFP) that would be advertised by the State to the Private Equity market. Therefore, the accuracy of the agency’s estimate may be premature and flawed in its initial scope.

Such cost burdens must incorporate the data collection process from not only the State organizations itself, but the State Agencies and Entities that reside within it borders. On average you can estimate roughly 1-months worth of work for each entity within the State at a cost that is indicative of the entities complexities and size.

Note: We have conducted a paid data collection analysis that follows the outlined data collection process for one of 31 State electric cooperatives within the State of Oklahoma… that being Tri-County Electric Cooperative that covers the 3-county area of the Panhandle between Texas and Oklahoma. Through the State Electric Cooperative Association we also performed outreach to the remaining 30 electric cooperatives and have full buy-in to move forward with the same process provided that the State issues an MOU per the guidelines of the Public Private Partnership model as laid out by FirstNet and/or NTIA. You should further note that using our preliminary designs, cost estimates, inventory collection and cost modeling we project that the electric cooperatives would bring in as much as $155 Million annually in recurring revenue to the State P3 in Oklahoma using fixed annual contracts of broadband service over the State PSBN[9]. The electric cooperatives make up only one of the many Priority 2 Public Safety Service and Support organizations within the State. Plus, by having them as clients on the PSBN P3 opportunity they also manage to cover more than 70% of the States rural geography. Following the completion of this study it was presented to the Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, and was reviewed by the State CIO Alex Pettit, who ultimately presented it to Governor Fallon honoring full support. Now it is in a “wait and see” mode as to what business model FirstNet will act upon. This may also drive the discussion for the “Opt Out” issue.

Following the example above, it is with a very strong recommendation that this same model can be adopted and executed in every State and territory in the Nation.

(c) Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and

As was outlined above the quality, utility and clarity of the information to be collected will be best administered once the adoption of a Public Private Partnership model that the States can follow. It should be known that most of this data is best collected at the State level and that each State, who is operating under the guidelines of a Federally supported Public Private Partnership model, will hold the responsibility to make sure its business objectives can be clarified in a State advertised RFP. That process of the RFP needs to be established by the FirstNet Board or the NTIA as well. By doing so will insure that the “quality, utility and the clarity” of the collected data can be affectively displayed to the public and the Private Equity respondents. We won’t know what data is needed to be collected until the State has a better idea of who, what and how the solution needs to address when it comes to meeting the business case objectives. 

(d) Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

As with any large telecommunications deployment there are pre-established data base applications that specifically meet these objectives (nothing new within the telecommunications vertical). The sub-contracted construction firms and integrators use these tools on a daily basis.
Each of the State’s internal agencies and entities will have to submit viable data that has to be fed into such applications. Unfortunately there is no way around the footwork that has to be done. Frankly, you may not want to just trust the data that comes from automated means. In past experiences such data tends to lack the essentials needed for a particular requirement. These collection methods must follow a strategy of conceptual design, detailed design, and ultimately aligned business needs of the data itself. Every entity within a State is going to be different. Case in point: Electric Cooperatives cover more than 60% of the entire geography of the Nation. Small company boards usually run these coops therefor don’t have a standard way of collecting their data, nor storing their data. In order to collect data from these types of organizations there will need to be some type of a standard template for them to follow. It should be envisioned that this kind of standard template would come from the State, who is ultimately working on the premise of what FirstNet provides them.  But, formulating this standard template needs to match the needs of the State Public Private Partnership arrangement. Therefore, the burden of collection will be outlined once the specifics of the business needs are known – which hasn’t been established yet by FirstNet

Ultimately a database of assets is a crucial piece to any broadband service company -- which a State generated P3 entity is.  Such information will be stored in varying degrees of data and network operating scenarios, which would be controlled, or interfaced, via typical IT infrastructures within the P3. This will also be duplicated throughout the State and the State’s entities. In essence we are building the piping infrastructure for all the entities that need the broadband service, but in reality each of these entities will be building their own Managed Virtual Network Operation (MVNO) on top of the broadband infrastructure deployed by the State P3. To further complicate the matter, you will even have MVNO type architectures covering multi-state implementations, or regional based solutions, i.e. DHS, DOD, etc., so the process flows and information flows between multiple agencies and entities starts to multiply – which is just another form of managed service opportunities controlled by information management processes and procedures for the industry in whole.




Conclusion

To succinctly recap, I would refer you back to a concept of envisioning FirstNet, and the PSBN itself, as just another national broadband company that happens to be a consortium of multiple state operating broadband companies. As with any such company it needs to know what assets it has and how these assets operate so that decisions can be made for the advancement of the company in whole. But in this case we can be inundated with information flow unless we first manage to articulate what the business is about so that the information that comes back is specifically addressing the needs of the new company. Therefore, I would plead that the NTIA, and FirstNet, truly consider the outcome and the affect of its decisions when trying to move forward without scoping its business model, plus its intent to relay that modeling approach to each of the States and Territories. By not considering the true path of a functional Public Private Partnership will only create a path of long-term confusion and waste that will ultimately lose the support of its potential clients as well as the constituents that support them.







[1] HR 3630 – Sec. 6208 (B) COVERED LEASING AGREEMENT.—For purposes of subparagraph (A), a ‘‘covered leasing agreement’’ means a written agreement resulting from a public-private arrangement to construct, manage, and operate the nationwide public safety broadband network between the First Responder Network Authority and secondary user to permit— (i) access to network capacity on a secondary basis for non-public safety services; and (ii) the spectrum allocated to such entity to be used for commercial transmissions along the dark fiber of the long-haul network of such entity.

 [2] The Public Private Partnership Model is in effect the Business Case/Model.
 [3]  “Specifically, the Act requires FirstNet to consult with State, regional, tribal, and local governments about the distribution and expenditure of any amounts required to carry out its responsibilities, including (i) The construction of a core network and any radio access network build-out; (ii) placement of towers; (iii) coverage areas of the network; (iv) adequacy of hardware, security, reliability, and resiliency requirements; (v) assignment of priority to local users and selection of entities seeking network access; and (vi) training needs of local users.” (Federal Registry, 2013)
 [4] HR 3630 - Sec. 6206 (B) issuing open, transparent, and competitive requests for proposals to private sector entities for the purposes of building, operating, and maintaining the network that use, without materially changing, the minimum technical requirements developed under section 6203;
 [5] “FirstNet is responsible for, at a minimum, ensuring nationwide standards for the use of and access to the network; issuing open, transparent, and competitive requests for proposals (RFPs) to build, operate, and maintain the network; encouraging these RFPs to leverage, to the maximum extent economically desirable, existing commercial wireless infrastructure to speed deployment of the network; and overseeing contracts with non-federal entities to build, operate, and maintain the network.” (Federal Registry, 2013)

 [6] HR 3630 – Sec. 6208 (B) COVERED LEASING AGREEMENT.—For purposes of subparagraph (A), a ‘‘covered leasing agreement’’ means a written agreement resulting from a public-private arrangement to construct, manage, and operate the nationwide public safety broadband network between the First Responder Network Authority and secondary user to permit— (i) access to network capacity on a secondary basis for non-public safety services; and (ii) the spectrum allocated to such entity to be used for commercial transmissions along the dark fiber of the long-haul network of such entity.




 [7] The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Act) became Public Law 112-96, 126 Stat. 156 (2012). It states in section (27) PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICES —The term ‘‘public safety services’’—
(A) has the meaning given the term in section 337(f) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 337(f)); and
(B) includes services provided by emergency response providers, as that term is defined in section 2 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 101). Section 337(f) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 USC), it states under sub-section (f) Definitions: The term ‘‘public safety services’’ means services-
 (A) The sole or principal purpose of which is to protect the safety of life, health, or property;(B) That are provided-
(i) by State or local government entities;
or
(ii) by non-governmental organizations
that are authorized by a governmental entity whose primary mission is the provision 
of such services; and
(C) That are not made commercially available to the public by the provider

[8] State “entities” can be defined as any State Agency or private organization. Typical entities could be priority 1 and 2 users of the network such as; Police, Fire, EMS, Utilities, Transportation, Agriculture and Forestry. Each State has a number of State entities that can be classified as Priority 1 or Priority 2 users during any given incident.


[9] HR 3630 – Sec. 6208 (B) COVERED LEASING AGREEMENT.—For purposes of subparagraph (A), a ‘‘covered leasing agreement’’ means a written agreement resulting from a public-private arrangement to construct, manage, and operate the nationwide public safety broadband network between the First Responder Network Authority and secondary user to permit— (i) access to network capacity on a secondary basis for non-public safety services; and (ii) the spectrum allocated to such entity to be used for commercial transmissions along the dark fiber of the long-haul network of such entity.
 


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Moto

Words to Live By: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” (Steve Jobs)