Monday, April 22, 2013

What is the role of GSA in FirstNet? The Public Safety Broadband Network is nothing more than just a private LTE network.

From my interpretation and experience the GSA, or General Services Organization, is the agency within the federal government that takes care of most advanced IT and telecom necessities that are required by any of the federal agencies. But in this case I’m more interested in the telecom and cyber security portions.  How does GSA play in FirstNet? How will it interface with the deployment and the long-term maintenance? How will it interface with a State initiative under a Public Private Partnership?

The Public Safety Broadband Network is physically nothing more than a private 4G broadband network. It will be technically the same, as a commercially available broadband service, yet should remain physically separate for cyber-security concerns. The big difference is that it will be private, truly hardened and specifically used to support our First Responders during catastrophic events, but will remain isolated and inclusive of all the necessary secondary responders in direct support of the First Responders. Maybe not the only way, but undoubtedly the best way, to fully design, deploy and maintain this network will be through the use of State born Public Private Partnership and funded by private equity team, through a competitive process, and controlled by FirstNet Governance that maintains continuity and interoperability throughout all 56 states and territories.

How will the GSA perform its duties under such a framework of a FirstNet sponsored -- yet executed under a state born Public Private Partnership? The answer lies within the broadband requirements for the federal agencies using FirstNet as its broadband services company. A state sponsored, yet FirstNet supported, Public Private Partnership (P3) is nothing more than the establishment of a private broadband company that works at the state level, but gets its primary requirements from FirstNet.

Essentially the federal agencies that need broadband service under FirstNet will be viewed as clients on the network…. paying clients as is the case for most internal state agencies and entities…. to the state P3 broadband company. What those federal agencies will need is a representative who can help control the interface of requirements across boarders -- as well as inter-agency requirements. This is a game best played by a centralized organization like the GSA. With a standardized approach established by FirstNet, each state can initiate a similar inter-state interoperability solution that would allow for both technically physical roaming capabilities, as well as financial governance controls through interoperable service agreements between the states. With standing long-term service level agreements this makes life a whole lot easier for all the clients on the network.

Being that the States will have to build their own portion of the FirstNet network, within their own geographic and local requirements, it will be necessary to maintain continuity within federal multi-state or holistic geographic service needs. It should be noted that federal agencies like DHS, DOD, FBI, etc.., will all require unique necessities to accomplish their daily mission, but organically all these agencies, to include internal state agencies and entities, will all require the same basic elements: coverage, bandwidth and hardening. When collecting the requirements for the potential users within the State, or even the FirstNet national footprint, these 3 basic elements need to be addressed as to meet physical requirements of the broadband network. It doesn’t need to be made into something more complex that it actually is.

A fourth question that has to be answered in the recurring monthly payment (or annual) to the State based service infrastructure, which may cover multiple States, or geographic regions. But meeting such needs is drastically less complex than trying to augment a pay-per-use scenario, which would require a full billing and support solution at the state level, of which will drastically increase design costs for the entire capital solution. But then again it will be up to the private equity investors who will be awarded the State RFP as to whether or not they wish to invest in such infrastructure. With the priority 3 traffic patterns being off-loaded to commercial carriers, it may not be necessary. All private equity would have to account for is long term SLA agreements with fixed priority 1 and priority 2 clients who pay to access the State PSBN (Public Safety Broadband Network) infrastructure of services; insure that the technical specifications for broadband services are met (to include hardening); and insure that inter-state roaming functionality is in place.

These long-term SLA contracts between the State P3 and the federal agencies can be negotiated and maintained by the GSA, just as it does today. Or each federal agency can negotiate and control their own SLA agreements with each of the State’s P3 entities. Given the number of states, territories and the overall geographic landmass; it may be wise to just utilize a centralized approach through the GSA. This will be drastically simpler to accomplish than trying to use a “pay-per-use” model that is typical with the commercial carriers to which would have to be duplicated across a number of physical state and territorial boundaries.

Just some guy and a blog….

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