Monday, May 16, 2016

Is FirstNet a Lame Duck, Cooked Duck, or Politically Ideological?

I’m attending the Broadband Summit here in the District of Columbia. While attending I noticed a few themes that struck me. One theme is the lack of States attending and second the overall summation of those States that did attend were very vocal about the need of funding and resources.

The lack of attendance of State representation can demonstrate a few things; lack of interest, lack of confidence, or the idea that a change is coming. My gut feeling is that the State’s are seeing a mixture of all the above, thus the low attendance. Does this mean that FirstNet has been cast into the pit of Lame Ducks? Me personally I love the taste of Duck, but that's another story. What should FirstNet take from this notion? How should it proceed?

There are a couple of routes FirstNet could choose in moving forward; the first being the realization that they need to play ball with the Opt-Out scenarios, or, stand and fight against the flow of common sense. Being that the FirstNet leadership has been at this since 2012, my gut feeling is they are dedicated to their cause and will not be responsive to any other solution other than their own. This means the lines are being drawn and ultimately, if left in the hands of government action, will be partisan politics. What really confuses me is the ideology approach to coming to a similar solution.

If the continuance of FirstNet hinges on an ideological approach to deploying FirstNet, then FirstNet is not only a Lame Duck, but a Cooked Duck as well. Why would you risk not cooperating, being relentless on your own solution,  only making the entire FirstNet “Opt-In” solution undesirable? I sat with one of those States and I was quite surprised that the decision to Opt-In was already made. I can understand the notion to commit to a business solution if you fully understood all the available options, but in this case that analysis was not done, which leads me to believe it is being done purely along political lines. I base this on an overly simplistic view of how FirstNet will come in, pay for everything, and that all the State has to do is pay to use their own network based on an availability payment taken from the taxpayers of the State. If I were a State Governor then this would raise some major red flags.

Essentially, if you go through the steps associated with such a plan, you will quickly start to notice that the “Opt-In” solution actually goes counter to the Law as it's written. Does that mean they are breaking the law? How do you gain any kind of tax relief, job creation, or middle class tax relief by actually charging more taxes; giving State jobs away to the Federal Government; and not reaping the benefits of revenue creation in using your own network to help ease the middle class (and pay for Public Safety)? Maybe it's just me, but that just doesn’t make any sense…unless it were an ideological point of view….or just naive. My guess is the ideological viewpoint is the basis for such a stand. If it is, then there is little chance of changing those minds. Those that deal in such actions are already sold and have already convinced themselves to what is right and what is wrong and anything you do or say will not change their minds. Unfortunately, the only people that will suffer from such ideological stances will be Public Safety and the citizen. Then again I’m just an old telecom guy that has been building networks for 30 years – not an attorney.

Another viewpoint is that the allocation of spectrum, and the creation of the Public Safety Broadband Network, was all just pork and actually has nothing to do with the Act itself. But the law is the law and it is explicit of its use of the Public Safety Broadband Network and its inclusion in the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012”. Does this mean anything, well no, especially if you are being ideological and partisan in your approach. In some minds the entire FirstNet solution is a pure political play of controlling a large – profitable – broadband solution, keeping their own measly job, and pushing their own agenda. In short, it's all about money and pushing ones agenda.

Let’s forget about all the conspiracy theories and just focus on the political stance. Now I’m no rocket scientist, but you can google the definition of the political leaning States. From what I can analyze there's a solid contingency of 35 Red States, roughly 13 Purple States (Swing States), leaving roughly 2 solid Blue States. Now if I’m a betting man, my gut would tell me that the risk associated with the success of an “Opt-In” buy-in is far from being realistic. Even if all the Purple States went Opt-In, plus you added the 6 territories, you still don’t even reach half the States. FirstNet will need upwards of 90% of the States to Opt-In to have any chance to be successful. Don’t know about you, but those are some steep odds, steep enough that I would never bet on, but I don’t gamble – especially with taxpayer money – but some do. So do you still put all your money on a federal FirstNet centralized nationwide solution? Or do you bet on what you can do within your own State’s borders? Possible something you actually have some say in and have more influential control?

As I’ve stated in the past, it's not about the technology, or even who runs your solution, it's all about what is best for Public Safety, Americans and the State -- think locally, support locally, control locally and execute locally. FirstNet still has a role, just not the way they think they do.

But whom am I other than….

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)