Thursday, September 29, 2016

FirstNet - Arizona puts out its own RFP to Opt-Out, but….

If you’ve had a chance to read the RFP that Arizona just advertised, then you must know that the RFP is a miniature version of the FirstNet plan. Essentially, the State is asking for a carrier to come in and build their network. About the only good thing about the RFP is that is a downsize version of what FirstNet is doing. The bad thing is the carrier plan won’t work, or isn’t optimal, on many fronts. Sometimes trying to enforce your own requirements only insures that you will get what you asked for. If you aren’t totally sure what you want and need, then you should rethink your approach. In the end, someone will be held accountable for any bad decisions.


First off, let’s look at the response situation to the RFP itself. The market will see this as an RFP that has been coordinated with a carrier prior to its advertisement, thus may not attract to many real followers. If the desire is to insure you have a carrier relationship to maintain current broadband services that are in use today, then a better solution would be to just keep your existing services and modify their contract to cover the new scope of services desired – a whole lot easier to deal with than going through an entire RFP process to ask for the same. Unfortunately, the market will see this for what it is, thus the State will either get respondents just throwing something at the State hoping that it sticks; or responses will be limited to a small list of carrier solutions that increase the risk of anti-competitive procurement steps that run a high risk of contention with market players; or the request just won’t get the players it needs.


Second, the RFP, as is the case with FirstNet, does not meet the requirements of the law. If the State uses this format, then in fact it may be held to the same standards that FirstNet is on the national deployment, i.e. HR3630, sec 6301-6302. Written in those standards is the requirement for “self-sustaining” and “self-funded” solutions. In this case, the State, through its partnership with the carrier, will only cover the major metropolitan areas and will lack the coverage required for the rural and wilderness areas – which by the way makes up the majority of the geography in the State. The State will eventually get to a discussion point with its carrier partner about building out to the rural areas. The number one question that will be the elephant in the room, is who is going to pay for it. The State will ask the Feds and the Feds will say no – or worse yet commit to an unfunded mandate; the State will then inform the carrier partner that they have to pay for it and the carrier will say no way, there isn’t enough revenue to be made to justify the expense; then it will roll back to the State, who will have to face the taxpayers to fund it because they already struck a contract with their carrier partner. So you tell me, do you think this is going to be successful?

Is it Worth the Effort?

Third; when you read the RFP you can see that there was some infighting within the State as to which way the solution should go – some say give it to their long-time carrier partner who hasn’t done them wrong in the past and is best suited to build such a network; some say give it to the market and use a true Public Private Partnership to create the State’s own broadband company. The fact this current version of the RFP slants the entire process towards a carrier who maintains its own spectrum, and the reliance upon a requirement to insure inter-carrier agreements are in place, only demonstrates the lack of knowledge of how a broadband network is marketed, designed and operated. It also creates the perception that someone has been taking from the cookie jar. Such actions should be cause enough for any real investors to shy away from, but the solution will move forward anyway only to be fraught with bad judgements, missed timelines, unfilled commitments and total misalignment that will eventually require a complete house-cleaning in the executive staff in charge of the entire thing, thus starting all over again, or worse yet, never repaired and always the boondoggle paid for by the State taxpayers and profited by those contractors that hold the best relationship with those that wrote the bid.

It Smells
The fact that someone like myself, who has 30+ years in the industry, and who has read the RFP in its entirety, can see the agenda that has been laid out, should raise a few red flags, especially within the elected officials of the State. It should also point out that this RFP smells of insider trading. In the end though, I do wish the State well in its endeavor. Unfortunately, unless your team comes with a real carrier, and you are willing to forgo the timeline of hassles, you won't get an endorsement from me, but I'm a nobody, so who cares right? If you do have the endurance and the finances to hold your own, which few of us have this day, then you should expect a long lifecycle of a boondoggle, thus lots of committed cash to your efforts for the long-run, if you’re willing to wait that long….or maybe not, who knows right?

Now don’t blame me, I just happen to be the one who is stating what everyone is thinking as it pertains to Arizona’s RFP. If you want to see what a good RFP looks like, you should read the Alabama RFP, that is what Arizona needs. Arizona has a chance to correct this, but it needs to move fast, there will be more RFPs hitting the market soon --- the wave is building are you ay be in the way in you aren't riding it.

Just some guy and a blog….

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