Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FirstNet - Dry Runs on the Electrical Grid - Killing two birds with one stone

Why does the attacks on the PG&E electric sub-stations in California matter, and what impact does it have on the Public Safety Broadband Network? It’s quite simple; without power nothing works…including Public Safety.

It’s a fact that Public Safety has never really considered the electric grid as a Public Safety entity.  In reality though, when a disaster happens, who is usually the first people the First Responders call on? The electric companies! These aren’t some third world labor force, they are Americans, and, they happen to be the same people that pay taxes. I’ve been to more than a few rural meetings with Police Chiefs and all too often found out that their real day job was actually working for the electric utility…. awkward.  Without power First Responders will have a difficult time getting anything done, especially when all we hear about is all the advanced technologies they are using to help save lives…that technology needs power.

The attacks on the substation in California could have been avoided if the public safety community and the electrical utility players were on the same sheet of paper. Carpe Diem! We now have a chance to bring both of these worlds together. Through FirstNet the State can established a broadband solution that is all-inclusive of utilities, public safety and many others. The inclusion of all “Public Safety Service Organizations” is enacted in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012, which established the FirstNet organization and allocated the D-Block spectrum for public safety needs, but how exactly would they work together? Through a Public Private Partnership -- more specifically utilizing the Myers ModelTM.

Through the Myers ModelTM the State can be inclusive of the demands, the requirements, and the monetary needs of its Public Safety solution for the State, as well as the utilities, where as the introduction of private investment will help stimulate job growth and private investment, while at the same time allowing for players, like the utilities, to have their demands for securing the electrical grid met, as well as accommodating their need for advancing their own technological needs, all as a support mechanism for the State’s needs. This would mean knocking out two birds with one stone without hitting the taxpayer’s pockets.

The Department of Energy has mandated that all the electrical utility providers must upgrade their generation, transmission and production capabilities into what has now been termed “SMART Grid”. Essentially, the SMART Grid is an all-encompassing electrical grid that has built-in capabilities of load sharing, protection and security, but there is one big underlying issue, the lack of spectrum dedicated to the utility space and their need for broadband coverage. The utilities are actually the largest owners of telecommunications, even bigger than most carriers, especially if you combine them. The telecommunications aspects of utilities actually cover more landmass than the carriers, where as the carrier’s cover only 40%, the electric grid covers more than 65%. Whereever there exists power lines, exists telecommunications. Telecommunications is what makes the power network work, without it the providers would not be able to watch over the network, nor capture any of its revenue -- and there is a lot of revenue. For telecoms they collect abut $50-$100 a subscriber monthly, for utilities they collect on average $300-$500 monthly.

For Public Safety their big concern is cash flow, coverage and sustainability. This is where FirstNet and a partnership at the State level can help. The one big thing that the utilities can do, and do quite well, is pay for their needs and the ability to incorporate technological requirements through a large swath of geographic areas, i.e. American Electric Power Corp (AEP) covers 11-states with towers, fiber and data access points, and has installed assets totaling more than $55 Billion; of that $55 Billion you can bet that their technology based assets, i.e. Information Technology; data storage; power data support solutions; as well as their required telecommunications assets, will total at least 10% of that sunk cost, meaning operational expenditures of more than $5.5 Billion is spent on technology within a given timeframe. In the end, the utilities can bring the cash and the demand, essentially they are, not only considered a public safety and national security interest, they’re also the perfect customers for the Public Safety Broadband Network (along with Transportation and others).

Through a partnership the utility can achieve what it needs in meeting the demand for SMART Grid, they can also utilize the partnership, and the broadband technology, as cost cutting efficiencies associated with just delivering power; Public Safety gets its hardening demands, coverage requirements and some great paying customers. Just such a partnership would “kill two birds with one stone” -- securing the electrical grid and broadening our reach of Public Safety, thus eliminating the risk of another terror attack on the United States. 

But then again I’m….

Just some guy and a blog…

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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)