This week, tomorrow, the FirstNet Board will vote on the award of the FirstNet (Opt-in) RFP to AT&T. My bet is that this is just a formality for the FirstNet organization, but the Board itself will be the one put on the spot. The primary thing to look for will be the timeframe and expediency of FirstNet’s actions. IF FirstNet had followed all the rules then there should not have been any communications between FirstNet and the soon to be announced awardee. If FirstNet moves quickly to approve the plan AT&T has proposed, then we know collusion has been present. How else would you know, and approve, such a complex proposal unless closure of the proposal process was complete and that the process was verified by parent organizations? But, we will see.
The next step is for each of the Board members to put their own name on the approval – or not. No Freedom Congress to contend with just yet. What I want to know is what the new Trump Administration thinks about FirstNet giving the spectrum to a single carrier; the fact that FirstNet is a federal organization; and that this federal organization will be running such a complex broadband network. I mean, how does the FirstNet centralized federal solution help anyone other than FirstNet and AT&T? The federal government couldn’t even get a website up and running, so now we expect them to run an LTE network?
I’ve been following and commenting on FirstNet since its creation. I have a long career in telecoms (30+ years). If I can’t understand their business model, and how it will benefit Public Safety, what makes you think a board of 15 members of non-industry related officials could? Yes, there are a few board members with carrier experience, but that carrier experience is based on the same business model that AT&T operates on today, not a business model that Public Safety needs. The construct of a Public Private Partnership has never been done in the telecommunications or broadband industry before, why do we think the federal government can govern such a deal?
As I wrote about in the early days, I warned that if FirstNet will fail if it took the path of a federal organization running a complex broadband solution. The good thing is, or I guess bad thing, is that we should know relatively soon, two-to-three years from now, which is fast in government terms, on just how good FirstNet’s plan works out. If we see a large amount of Opt-out States, then we may get an answer much sooner. Or, maybe, the new Trump leadership within the Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, and/or Congress will realize that the wool is being pulled over their eyes and put a stop to all this.
To me it's just another play of a centralized administered role of a large federal program. The States need to do their own thing, pure and simple. By a State Opting Out of FirstNet is the best way to insure proper alignment with the law, plus afford itself an economic advantage for its own taxpayers. Can anyone demonstrate how the FirstNet plan aligns with the law? Name one aspect of the law to which FirstNet aligns, except for the creation of the board itself.
How will AT&T build, or retrofit, a broadband network that meets Public Safety’s needs? I mean you just can’t use the existing assets that AT&T owns and expect it to meet the standards required for Public Safety -- you can try -- but 6.5 Billion will not go very far. Won’t even come close to covering the major metropolitan areas, plus the anticipated cost of covering an assortment of datacenters, control centers and applications to support regional large complex broadband solutions. Putting Public Safety’s network on the existing AT&T infrastructure will be asinine and a redundant disaster. What would be different than what Public Safety pays for today…from the same carrier? The only real difference than what Public Safety has today will be the introduction of a middle man named FirstNet and a quasi-promise of catastrophic preemption – that just screams “indemnification”.
Let’s say a disaster happens in DC, like an earthquake, and the same network that AT&T uses also houses the Public Safety Broadband Network…. it’s a lot more than just installing some new antennas on an existing site. An earthquake doesn’t discriminate its users on a commercial network designed and outfitted for commercial services, thus the reason the networks come down during disasters. A carrier would much rather save the money on hardening the sights if they can sustain competition with low overheads. Responding to a downed tower after two weeks is no big deal to a commercial carrier – they lose a little money but aren’t held responsible for any deaths. Should they be? Case in point would be the Katrina Hurricane. Power couldn’t be restored for two weeks later. The commercial service couldn’t resume power, fill generators, or feed their cows without the local utility players. Given that the carriers existing infrastructure was design for 8-hour power backup generation, let alone that it was not installed to beat a flood, made their response to bring up the commercial network at two-weeks – minimum – but no carrier was ever held liable. Public Safety does not follow the same guidelines as a carrier -- lives are at stake. Those lives could be First or Secondary Responders, or the lives they are trying to save.
The fact remains, if you don’t install an entire physically-separated solution, with the hardened specifications that Public Safety really requires, then all you’re doing is wasting taxpayer money and time. The PSBN solution must be an isolated, hardened, and protected network, but there isn’t enough existing capital to make that happen (6.7 Billion). So, who will pay for the second network in FirstNet’s plan? The State taxpayers that’s who.
The law states that the Public Safety Broadband Network must be “self-sustaining” and “self-funded”. Going to the taxpayers to help fund FirstNet’s plan is not “self-funded” and “self-sustaining” – thus is breaking the law as written. In fact, FirstNet’s plan is not even a Public Private Partnership. FirstNet’s plan is simply a diversion of taxpayer money and a complete hand-over of Public Safety spectrum to a national carrier – plain and simple. Some could say that this has been FirstNet’s plan from the start. They understood that Public Safety couldn’t build its own solution, thus the failure of so many LMR programs, thus had to find a way to divert the spectrum to, what they viewed in their own minds, as the only viable option – the carriers. Their only mistake was the true power of the Public Private Partnership and the State’s ability to execute. To execute such a complex tasking the solution has to be done at the State level. FirstNet’s centralized, top-down, solution will not work.
It may be obvious to some that the States have long realized the blunders and the altered agenda of FirstNet, thus the recent release of the 5th RFP advertised by the State of Colorado. That brings the State of Michigan, New Hampshire, Arizona, Alabama and now Colorado in line to execute their own P3 to build their own statewide Public Safety Broadband Network. The fact may be that all the chatter of State Opt-Outs and RFPs is an indication of a resounding lack of support for the centralized federal model, especially given today’s political playing field. If the FirstNet model were so great, then why would a State even need to advertise an RFP and ask for a comparative solution to FirstNet’s? Why not just put all your faith in the plan that you know will work? Even the State of Arizona put out a miniature version of the FirstNet plan and has not been well received – not a lot of proposals for their RFP. Yet, the little State of New Hampshire had more than 5-bids for their RFP. Maybe we should listen to all the chatter and view it as an indication of distrust in the federally provided solution.
Why are we so scared about the State generating revenue? Creating profit from a goldmine does not make you a bad person. I don’t care if its 10 Billion or 200 Billion to build the Public Safety Broadband Network, if all that capital is spent within the United States. That’s a good investment into jobs and economy that fosters even more improvements in our local economies. But, instead what we have is all the spectrum going to one carrier who will allow Public Safety to take priority during an event. Why can’t we just do that today? If that’s the case, why do we need to construct a new network and just give all the taxpayers money over to the carrier today while at the same time giving the carte-blanche to the spectrum, which by the way will undercut the rest of the competition and allow AT&T to garner another monopoly?
The fact remains that the FirstNet Board members are about to put their backing behind just such an effort. We need to remember those board members, and hold them accountable later when it fails. We need to set an example of how bad things can get when the federal government tries to create and run a broadband network. This vote will go into the history books as a disaster – you can mark my words as a 30-year veteran working in the telecommunications industry. Who among us would want to have our name recorded in the historical record as backing such a disaster? But, as I have stated in the past, this is the government and these are ideological approaches led from the last administration, so why would we expect anything different? We need to stop trying to force this FirstNet solution onto the Public Safety community. Most importantly we need to stop trying to put this on the taxpayer’s dime…my dime. Would you like it if I came into your house, told you I was going to build you a big fancy network, then slyly charge you for it, even when you already have the same system up and running today – with the same provider? If I am going to spend my own money to give myself a better network, then I am going to install it, run and profit from it myself. I don’t need any middle man coming in and telling me what I need and don’t need when using my own money.
But again that’s just me….
Some guy and a blog…..