Friday, August 12, 2016

FirstNet - NPTSC complains about fresh eyes and fails to see the bigger picture?

Well, well…it seems Mr Steven Brill hit a nerve. I have toiled with the rebuttals from Public Safety (NPSTC), but I’m afraid they are missing the point. It has been more than 4 years since “FirstNet” started – a fact nobody can deny. What NPSTC needs to understand is that it’s not about Public Safety at all. What Mr Brill is trying to convey is that a federal program to deliver such a complex broadband solution nationwide is in disarray. I did not interpret Mr Brill’s comments as an attack on Public Safety, but rather on the lack of real insight into creating the network.

I’ve been in the industry for 30 years and have never seen a network constructed from such a lofty position with such ambitious goals without first coming up with a business plan. I would never tell a Fire or Police Chief how to construct a police force and how to manage them, and you can take my advice or not, the fact remains we can’t construct a broadband network from the top-down by a bunch of lawyers. FirstNet was given the task to build the network FOR Public Safety, but if FirstNet hasn’t even constructed a single State by now, how do we expect they will get all 50 plus 6 territories? FirstNet should have built consensus on a business plan that everyone would have accepted before it started vying the carriers for information. It’s not FirstNet’s fault, it’s the lawmakers who think that they can write a law, have the President sign it, and then everything will just magically happen. As I stated from the very beginning, we need a business plan. Coming up with an “objectives based RFP” is not a business plan, it’s an invitation for the carriers to come in and takeover. So if there is anybody to blame for the past 4 years, and nothing to show for it, it lays directly at the feet of FirstNet…not Public Safety.

Any network veteran will tell you that this whole solution should have started small and based on an entrepreneurial spirit of creativity scripted within a business plan that builds efficiencies into product introductions to meet the demands of its users. As I hinted to from the very start, FirstNet was never going to succeed taking this route and I’m afraid it is only going to get worse from here.

FirstNet will award their RFP to a carrier consortium and program manager – someone like AT&T partnered with General Dynamics purely because of its size and scope. This will only create more confusion, animosity and resentment throughout the market to which Public Safety will be on the receiving end, especially if “Public Safety” thinks that 4 years is not long enough to build even one State solution. Such blindness only makes Public Safety look like they don’t know what they are doing – which is exactly the case – they don’t. After all, I wouldn’t try to design, build, operate and maintain a Police force, thus I don’t expect Public Safety to know how to build a broadband network, especially one so complex. But it was Public Safety that put their trust in FirstNet -- it is FirstNet that is not delivering here.

FirstNet failed to realize that you can’t build this network from the top down and it definitely can’t be built without even analyzing your market of users and the product offerings you need to sell. You can spend all the money you want on putting together a federal level organization to design, build, operate and maintain the entire nationwide solution, that doesn’t mean anyone at the State level will trust that you have what’s best for their local presence. You can’t just come in and expect Public Safety is going to buy an add on service to which they are already getting for cheaper. It doesn’t matter what the Public Safety guys say they need. Such interaction between the Federal and State governments will never fall under the decision matrix of Public Safety – it will always fall upon the Governor level (another layer that isn’t in the business of building broadband networks). The Governor will always do what’s best for the entire State and its fiscal standing. The fact remains that the State will be responsible for its portion of building its own network…it’s written in the law…they just don’t know how much yet.

If NPSTC has anyone to complain about, it should be the stewards of their solution – Mr. Brill is just stating the obvious from an outsider’s point of view. Anyone who has been closely tied to everything going on with FirstNet are positioned well within the frying pan and thus have a hard time trying to get back out. Essentially, Public Safety is so informed that they have lost focus on the bigger picture and what the perception is from the outside. For example: large government program worth Billions, not being advertised to well to the general public, and being pushed forward during an election cycle. It’s easy to see how someone can state how bloviated this has become.

In the end, there is one thing for sure…. FirstNet needs to change….and they need to do it now if they want to survive through this election cycle. Did you ever ask yourself why it is written in the law that FirstNet would be an “Independent Agency” within the Federal Government? I can tell you it wasn’t because they had confidence in the federal way of doing business, else they wouldn’t have wanted it “Independent”. At this point though, FirstNet, needs to scrap its notion of building a large carrier type of solution and focus on the States (a State) to design, build, operate and maintain a true infrastructure solution from the ground up that supports broadband. FirstNet also needs to sever its ties to the carriers and come clean. The carrier business model will not work in this instance – apples and oranges. If you want the carriers to improve, just introduce competition and I can guarantee you they will move on.

But what the hell do I know I’m….

Just some guy and a blog….

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