Wednesday, January 22, 2014

FirstNet...hellooo...anybody there? Anybody seen FirstNet around? I know they are here somewhere! Anybody seen our keys to the kingdom?

By now the States are wondering what the heck is going on with FirstNet. We are getting no real Intel on what their plan is; yet we understand that a State can execute a Public Private Partnership that is capable of fostering economic development and job growth specifically for the State’s needs. Why is it taking so long for FirstNet to just tell the Public Safety Community and the market place what the plan is? The more silence that permeates from FirstNet, the stronger the sentiment grows against the viability of a federal solution to deliver what is needed. This is not a game of who has the better plan, although the P3 is better ;), its about getting the build started. Let the States utilize the SLIGP grant money to start developing their own plans, if they so desire, frankly I think the amount of money needed to develop that plan is microscopic to what has to happen, so why wait for a mini-carrot from the Feds? It’s like going 5 miles down the road to another gas station just because its 3 cents cheaper.

Mark my word, outside of the State based P3 model, which could actually be the adopted framework of FirstNet, the only other plan for FirstNet has to consider would be a taxpayer funded model in partnership with the commercial carriers and program managed by a large defense contractor. Unfortunately such a model will ride the backs of both the State and the Federal tax base. To further complicate the solution FirstNet may seek private investment to help support their carrier solution nationwide, which would eventually confirm my intuition that their plan is for an AT&T, or Verizon, collaboration model. That would be like Verizon asking AT&T to help build their network and operations plan…. that will never happen. Why don’t we just give them the keys to the kingdom while we’re at it? The model still falls way short in addressing the primary issue of rural coverage. Someone has to pay for the rural build out, but who? My bet is that the State's will be left holding the bag. As I have stated in earlier entries to my blog, if the national carrier partnership model is bought off by a State, it will be evident after a few years that the money to sustain the network, and its future upgrades, will be left up to the State taxpayer to fund it.

The fact of the matter is, with all that hard work put in by the Public Safety community, to fight for their own spectrum, that work would be dwindled into a model that closely resembles a commercial carrier footprint. Further down the road the carriers will find themselves well positioned to take over the network, due to mismanagement and ill-fated services rendered by the government, eventually leaving them in control of the spectrum and ultimately squeezing out the prioritization of Public Safety to accommodate for their shareholders profits. If you lay with snakes, you’re bound to be bit, it’s their nature.

Let me ask this — if the carriers are moving away from actually owning their own infrastructure and off-loading it to third parties, i.e. AT&T Towers to Crown Castle or Sprints total outsourcing of all their RAN operations to Ericsson (2010), what do we think will happen if, and when, FirstNet solidifies its partnership with the commercial carriers? Will they want to stick around? Would they just try to control the spectrum allocated and thus the keys to the kingdom?

If the ill-fated objective is the cost per user (like around $30 per handset) for our First Responders, then how do you compete with free? Any taxpayer-funded solution will not be free. Even if, and I’m reaching here, FirstNet decides to acquire T-Mobile for it's quick build out, or form a P3 with two major carriers, it will still fall way short of touching the rural areas, and will, in fact, waste even more taxpayer money with an acquisition, or merger, and still be faced with the construction of the rural portions of the network anyway – actually the taxpayers would still be faced with that expense. Why not just shoot us now instead of going through the trial? There is a reason we still lack commercial broadband coverage to more than 60% of the geographic landmass of the United States -- it has to do with return on investment and the protection of revenue streams. By allowing the States to conduct their own Public Private Partnership with Private Equity, still leaves FirstNet in control, and it still delivers a one-network solution nationwide. It really isn’t rocket science to see that everyone wins in the P3 model. But then again I’m….

Just some guy and a blog….

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