I was recently watching the NASCIO presentation on FirstNet from last month. You can take a look yourself by clicking on this link: NASCIO Presentation.
It was a very good and informative video, and Jeff Johnson is a great voice for FirstNet. I’m concerned though that we keep avoiding the question about funding the PSBN. If you are creating your own business plan, then, naturally, you don’t want to have anyone present a competing model. The only way to keep this from happening is by keeping everyone in the dark and not telling anyone about your plan as it is being created. But, the fact is it won't matter, when the time comes for the Governor to take some action, the plans will be compared and the best model chosen. How much data and listening do we actually need in order to kick this thing off? It's only a telecom network, just because its going to be big, doesn't mean it will execute any differently. We can sit around all day long talking about the "what-ifs" to the point that we are so educated on the topic we can't move. FirstNet, needs to understand that the State's need to do their own business plan. If a carrier solution is presented as the plan for FirstNet, they will lose a lot of credibility in executing this network. FirsNet needs to do both, have a plan of commercial service, but focus on the State's business model first, then fill in the gaps with their carrier model if possible.
Mr. Fletcher stated, “Why would a Governor not want a network that is ‘O’ cost?” If that is the case you only have two ways of paying for it: taxpayers, or private investments. Taxpayers would be both Federal tax base and State tax base; so saying you will get a network for free is far fetch, because we all will pay for it. The only way to get a "0" cost network is with a Public Private Partnership where Private Equity pays for it as an investment. The carriers can be considered private investment as well, but it shuts everyone else out, once again, the State doesn’t get the benefit of monetizing the spectrum themselves -- you only get this through private investment. Plus, who will pay long-term? If a State doesn’t do a Public Private Partnership it will be the taxpayers that’s who, plus, the State would not be able to benefit from the monetization of the spectrum. The only real way this network will be zero cost to the State, and the taxpayers, is through private investment, and you can only attract private investment if there is a means to get their investment back -- plus some. The only model shown so far that accomplishes that is the P3 I have been profesizing about.
The Tribal idea that Chief Johnson brought up is actually a P3! Only in this case the Tribes were willing to be the Private Equity piece. It’s a good idea, but it doesn’t contemplate that the State needs to benefit from the spectrum, how else will it get management for the long-term self-sustainment piece? Are the tribes going to pay to manage a network statewide? Why?
Ms. Decker, State CIO for Nebraska, brought up a good point – if the State’s don’t say anything, and FirstNet comes in to build it, how many of us believe that FirstNet will actually put a dime into it if there are no customers? Unless FirstNet is planning on a commercial carrier acquisition, merger, or partnership, then they will deploy on the carriers infrastructure, but it will only cover the metro environments. The metro environments already have coverage today; it’s the rural areas we need to be concerned about. Once again, the only way you can cover the rural areas is by balancing need, revenue and private investment.
The focus on the State CIOs as the primary person for the State; the fact that construction has to happen at the State level no matter what; who the State will elect as users of the network, were all premonitions I made in the very first RFI response to the NTIA just as FirstNet was getting started. You can research my writings to see how, the things I warned about, are actually coming true -- no, I'm not Nostradamus. I'm a guy that has been in the telecommunications business for a long time. But, we are moving in the right direction, it takes awhile for some people to understand the full process of building a network. It’s like me trying to teach you my entire 25+ years in building communication networks in three months…. it just won't happen. Or like a Firefighter trying to teach me all about firefighting in three months…that definitely won’t happen. It doesn’t help that they didn’t start with a business plan (or maybe they did ;) ) but instead just came out with a vision of a carrier based solution to build the network, which totally set this whole thing off on the wrong foot... as I also professed.
In the end though, sooner or later everyone will understand that the best model, by no means the perfect model, is the Public Private Partnership framework, but I’m ….
Just some guy and a blog….