Thursday, September 15, 2016

FirstNet -- What was New Hampshire thinking!

There has been a lot of speculation around New Hampshire and whether it is Opt-Out or Opt-in. New Hampshire is getting a lot of press because it took the initiative to get out front of all the hoopla surrounding Opt-Out and Opt-In and has already taken the step towards understanding the Opt-Out alternative. This is all good. But, New Hampshire fell into this "comparison scenario" between Opt-Out versus Opt-In, out of sure luck. The fact is New Hampshire is just a microcosm of the larger picture of States that understand commonsense has to take over at some point in time.

New Hampshire’s effort from the beginning was to Opt-Out, but things got heated once their plans were known. The majority of stakeholders within the State wanted to Opt-Out so that it can take control of its own future, especially knowing that the interest would fall to the larger States once things got moving. It’s a good move for New Hampshire, now they just need to stick with their decision and move forward, but here came politics to ruin the day. Waiting for FirstNet’s solution is no solution at all – I wish it were -- but things didn’t go as planned for FirstNet.

Once FirstNet had the rug pulled out from under their original plan to partner with a large carrier, FirstNet was forced to recreate an “objectives based RFP” – something they should have done since day one. But, moving forward at this stage of the game confused the masses, thus it became apparent that FirstNet was not going to produce anything within the near future that could accommodate the States – a fact that has not changed. In response to their RFP they received few bids, bids that do not align with what they need to do. How do I know this? I don’t even have to know who the respondents are to know that there is no business case that FirstNet can create that will enable it to become a “national carrier”. Plus, it’s a given fact that there will be States who will never have a federal answer to a local problem. I’m afraid FirstNet lost credibility at the start with its carrier plan; then lost support for its ability to deliver a solution the States could use; now they have lost the ability to take part in a State’s Opt-Out plan. Having the States accumulate all their known stakeholders, assets and resources then put them into a database does not produce a business model. 

New Hampshire is a perfect example of what will happen if FirstNet does not take part in a State’s plan by allowing the State to take the lead on its deployment of FirstNet. I helped respond to the Opt-Out RFP that New Hampshire put out. Nowhere in the process, in the RFP, or in the talks during our presentation, was there any discussion about how FirstNet was taking part in the States effort – outside of technical interoperability. Even when we got into discussions about the shareholder arrangements for funding parties, or the revenue distribution for the State, FirstNet was never mentioned, thus will not be part of the future plans if the State wishes to Opt-Out – something FirstNet really needs to consider. Positioning itself with the States is the only way FirstNet, the organization, will survive. 

Another great example of what I’ve wrote about in the past, is how New Hampshire has timed its Opt-Out comparison with the high risk impact of politics. There will be an administration change for New Hampshire shortly with a new Governor, it may go Red for the first time in a long time.

“New Hampshire has had a divided government since 2011. The office of governor of New Hampshire has been largely controlled by Republicans for the past century, though Democrats have held the governorship since 2005. However, the November election may be Republicans' best chance in several years to win back the governor's seat—incumbent Governor Maggie Hassan's (D) decision to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 has left the governor's seat open, potentially ending the decade-long Democratic control of the office.” (BallotPedia)

In past writings I warned of the impending presidential elections. If you think New Hampshire is facing a tough political fight, imagine what it’s going to be like for FirstNet in 2017 with a new presidential administration hell bent of cutting spending and reorganizing the Federal Governments intentions for the foreseeable future. I can guarantee you that FirstNet will be one of those “boondoggles” that a new administration will take a close look at.  Any State facing the same situation as New Hampshire should understand that if you don’t take action now, and are committed to waiting for FirstNet, you may be waiting awhile.

Any State that thinks the Opt-In solution is the only way for them, then they will be forced to help fund their portion of FirstNet’s buildout in their State – don’t take my word for it read the law below. That demand for taxpayer funding will draw an enormous amount of criticism from its local constituents, especially when the State is facing shortfalls in funding. Such criticism will further the strain on the political situation for opting into the FirstNet solution, especially when opting out of the solution will enable the State to gain so much more. What happens if FirstNet starts to get its own political problems due to the general election -- which runs a high probability of happening? After all, who doesn’t want to create more local jobs, bring in more revenue for the State, and provide a boost to the local economy for the rural areas?


If you decide to Opt-In:


"the First Responder Network Authority shall provide to the Governor of each State, or his designee—
(A) notice of the completion of the request for proposal process;
(B) details of the proposed plan for buildout of the nationwide, interoperable broadband network in such State; and
(C) the funding level for the State as determined by the NTIA. "

The fact remains that if a State Opts-In it will have to pay its portion of FirstNet’s build in their own State. If you Opt-Out you get to control your own buildout, your own contractors, you get a truly funded solution and you get to reap the benefits of added revenue to a State’s coffers, plus you get to apply for your portion of the $6.5 Billion left in the FirstNet budget. If you are a State Governor, and not trying to Opt-Out, then you may be played the fool and be overtaken by the political quagmire to follow.

In the end, what New Hampshire has done is a great thing for FirstNet, even if they don’t feel so. I can guarantee you that it will be better for the State and anyone with commonsense and the guts to stand up and take charge should be commended for doing so.

But who 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)