Monday, March 10, 2014

FirstNet and the Public Safety Broadband Network --- a silent coup is afoot?

In a recent article by Donny Jackson of Urgent Communications entitled “Seybold: Many FirstNet contractors being selected by DOC/NTIA, not FirstNet management“, Mr. Jackson quoted Andy Seybold about the hiring process for FirstNet. If this is true could we be seeing a coup within the Administration to control FirstNet? Or maybe DOC and NTIA have some doubts about the investigation being done on the transparency and “conflicts of interest”? Or could it be that FirstNet is ill prepared to do the hiring process? Or Andy could have just rubbed someone the wrong way? All are valid viewpoints.

“Decisions regarding many FirstNet contractor positions are being made by officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) or the National Telecommunications and Information Administration(NTIA), instead of being selected by FirstNet management, according to former FirstNet contractor and mobile wireless consultant Andrew Seybold.” (Jackson, March 2014)

I’ve had the entire weekend to think about this claim. What would be the reason for the NTIA and DOC to make all the hiring decisions for FirstNet? I understand the logistics of the hiring process can be daunting, but we all know that any introduction of a hiring manager into the equation means his/her interpretation of what a good candidate is. Plus, the HR process needs direction as to what is needed, who fits the mold and how much value the candidate should bring.

As it pertains to the investigation I could see where the attorneys are nervous about what is being perceived. I can definitely see where FirstNet is not prepared to handle the HR process, but what keeps tugging at me is the notion of a chaotic progression that hides the actual desire to implement a decision process, where as the DOC can introduce their own picks to take over FirstNet, essentially controlling the HR process.

By doing so, the NTIA and the DOC, are actually picking the organizations team members who will ultimately drive the organization; thus allowing them the ability to control the message and the course of events. But, the DOC and the NTIA wouldn’t act alone, or at least not without an approval from above. The next above step is the Presidents Administration. With all that is going on in Russia and around the world, I would assume that the future of FirstNet has been put in the hands of a staff member, most likely an attorney, who is making all the decisions and thus instructing the DOC as to what needs to happen.  

What if… the DOC, who was mandated by the President to take charge, actually is in a takeover bid of FirstNet and is using the chaos of the accusations to cover their tracks? It only seems logical that the Administration would see the consternation from the industry as a sign that things aren’t going well, and that maybe a few bad decisions were made, thus the need to take it over. Killing them softly comes to mind.

Put yourself in the place of the Administration. Two years ago the President instructed the Department of Commerce (DOC) to allocate the spectrum to Public Safety; then instructed them to develop the National Public Safety Broadband Network; along with that instruction they allocated $7 Billion to fund their efforts.

To kick the process off the DOC then ordered the NTIA to create the FirstNet Board, to which they handpicked all the inaugural members.  Since doing so, two years has passed and nothing has been done to create the network. The lack of a business model to build the network, based on the requirements specified in the Jobs Creation Act, are not being addressed; the States are constantly highlighting the fact that no real direction is coming out of FirstNet; questions surrounding funding are being perceived as dubious, backed by claims of lack in transparency and conflicts of interest that only fuel the fire. If I were running the show, and I had a very important election cycle coming up, I’d be getting very nervous that this debacle could actually become the nail in the coffin for our political plans.

If the plan is to take over FirstNet, then why a quite coup? Why not just publically state that you are not pleased with the progress and have decided to go a different way? Why make it into a long drawn out process, which only helps foster the fire of alternative agendas and ultimately destroys credibility within the taxpayer base?

One thing is clear; I have been in the telecoms industry for 25+ years; I’ve never seen a network take this long to get started. In the commercial world your investors would have walked on you after twelve months of no activity – and that’s being conservative. I’ve seen investors walk on the first meeting. Without a business plan you can bet they would have never even sat at the table with you, but I’m….

Just some guy and a blog….

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