Thursday, March 30, 2017

FirstNet makes asinine statements? Whose fact checking FirstNet?

Just read an interesting article about FirstNet and thought you too may find it interesting as well. The article was entitled, “FirstNet, NTIAofficials provide insights to ‘opt-out’ process on eve of award announcement.” (Mar 30, 2017 by Donny Jackson) This is my interpretation of statements made by some of the officials within FirstNet itself. Now, I’m not dogging someone personally, so don’t take my statements literally as an act of defiance of the individual, but sometimes the truth hurts.

“How much they would have to pay FirstNet for use of the spectrum licensed to FirstNet and for any revenue sharing”. Brian Hobson, FirstNet's Director of State Plans.

I find it odd that FirstNet, Mr. Hobson, thinks it will get any revenue from a State to use spectrum it already owns. The spectrum is actually allocated to “Public Safety” not “FirstNet”.

(a) IN GENERAL.—The Commission shall reallocate the 700 MHz D block spectrum for use by public safety entities in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

So in reality, if FirstNet proceeds with its current course, FirstNet may end up having to pay the States instead? What the law demonstrates is that “FirstNet” was created to work for “Public Safety”, not the other way around. This means FirstNet shouldn’t expect to be paid by its parents…it’s an allowance not a paycheck.

The law further stipulates that “FirstNet” cannot obtain any revenue for the use of the network, so how exactly, and why exactly, does FirstNet think it was going to get paid for access to spectrum that they have no control over in an Opt-Out State? Here’s what you can find in the law:

Note: The term “Commission” actually means the FCC, not the NTIA, or FirstNet. The NTIA is under the FCC.  
(ii) COMMISSION APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL.—Upon submission of a State plan under clause (i), the Commission shall either approve or disapprove the plan.
(iii) APPROVAL.— If the Commission approves a plan under this subparagraph, the State—
(I) may apply to the NTIA for a grant to construct the radio access network within the State that includes the showing described in subparagraph (D); and
(II) shall apply to the NTIA to lease spectrum capacity from the First Responder Network Authority.

As you can read yourself, nowhere in the text does it say anything about paying “FirstNet” anything. Why should the State pay FirstNet to use its own spectrum anyway? It’s not the State’s fault that FirstNet presented a crappy solution for Opt-In, plus the D-Block was granted to Public Safety, not FirstNet. FirstNet works for Public Safety in this regard, not the other way around.

You can also see the one liner that says, “(II) shall apply to the NTIA to lease spectrum capacity from the First Responder Network Authority”. This is where the “FirstNet Organization” and the “FirstNet Board” differ in the opinion of the Opt-Out State. This is being interpreted as “approval” has to be sought from “FirstNet”, which is not true. The State applies for the spectrum use from the NTIA, but the FCC has already allocated the spectrum to FirstNet, so the NTIA has to reallocate the spectrum away from FirstNet and give it to the State. All approvals for an Opt-Out State are actually handled by the FCC, not the NTIA, or FirstNet. Understand? I know it’s all semantics, but it is the government doing what government does best. FirstNet was pre-allocated the use of the spectrum in the case that a State decides to Opt-in, so the law only stipulates that they have to reassign the spectrum for that geographic area to the State if it chooses to Opt-Out. Short and simple. Who actually is “FirstNet”, is it the organization or the board? I keep picturing a scene from the movie “A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” and the administrative process.

In essence, if you read the law you can easily see that the sections following the establishing of the “FirstNet Board” and until the State Opt-Out clause, the entire law has everything to do with “FirstNet” and what it can and cannot do – not the State. So for a State that chooses to Opt-Out, then the sections prior to the establishment of the FirstNet Board, and following the SEC. 6302. STATE AND LOCAL IMPLEMENTATION, are the only sections in the law a State has to be concerned about. All the other sections pertain to “FirstNet” and its ability to act as a “private broadband company” or “Independent Agency”. That’s just the way the government wants to confuse everyone by providing their own term for "private". 

But, just to be clear within those FirstNet sections you can find the following:

(d) REQUIRED REINVESTMENT OF FUNDS.—The First Responder Network Authority shall reinvest amounts received from the assessment of fees under this section in the nationwide public safety interoperable broadband network by using such funds only for constructing, maintaining, operating, or improving the network.

Note, this clause says nothing about the State at all and only refers to what FirstNet can do and how it must reinvest what it makes. The law specifically states that a State can use its revenue if collected through a Public Private Partnership.

To help you, as the reader, to understand, all we are observing is that the Law designates two sides of execution:

            1. Opt-In: FirstNet acts as the “private broadband company” for the "Opt-In" States thus its own public-private-partnership with AT&T.
            2. Opt-Out: The State creates its own “private broadband company” and executes through its own chosen public-private-partnership.

With that being the case, and FirstNet is acting as the “private broadband company for the Opt-In States”, then it needs to pay specific attention to the following part of the law:

(2) RENEWAL OF LICENSE.— Prior to expiration of the term of the initial license granted under subsection (a) or the expiration of any subsequent renewal of such license, the First Responder Network Authority shall submit to the Commission an application for the renewal of such license. Such renewal application shall demonstrate that, during the preceding license term, the First Responder Network Authority has met the duties and obligations set forth under this Act. A renewal license granted under this paragraph shall be for a term of not to exceed 10 years.

What this means is that if FirstNet fails in its mission to be a “private broadband company for the Opt-In states”, thus the concern with all the States that choose “Opt-Out”, does FirstNet meet its obligation? Ahh sooo! Now we see why FirstNet fights so hard against State Opt-Out plans -- they’re worried they will lose the right to the spectrum and it will be reallocated to the States. If that is true, then what happens if the State got its right to use their portion of the spectrum from the FCC and FirstNet doesn’t exists anymore? Nothing actually, the law doesn’t stipulate anything about an Opt-Out State and whether or not it succeeds, it only specifies if FirstNet succeeds. Don’t forget, the law was signed 5-years ago, so we are halfway through FirstNet’s requirement. Why don’t we hear any press about this little line item? Maybe this is why FirstNet had to sign the agreement with AT&T so fast?

Even if it’s a bad deal, FirstNet has to agree to the AT&T terms else face its own death, regardless of whether or not the deal calls for FirstNet to deploy its Public Safety solution on the existing commercial infrastructure of AT&T – which, by the way, Public Safety already deploys on today. The entire reason for Public Safety getting their own spectrum was so that they could physically build their own private Public Safety Grade Network and prioritize Public Safety over everyone else. The notion that “speed to market for Public Safety” is a fallacy when it comes to the FirstNet and AT&T partnership. Maybe speed to market so FirstNet doesn't lose its spectrum?  In short, AT&T gets the better of the deal by getting the same spectrum it was willing to pay Billions for 10-years ago -- for free -- thus will be able to expand its network against its competitors easier than it has anticipated increasing its profit margin and nailing the competition; and AT&T doesn’t have to really upgrade to any real hardening standards and only gets its solutions from FirstNet – not the Public Safety community or the Technical Advisory Commission. It’s called cutting corners and taking heat through the politics for the higher payoff later, which benefits AT&T. Lesser of two evils? Do you really think AT&T is going to harden their existing network to accommodate just the public safety community?

When all is said and done, it was the FirstNet Board who stated in their first week, “who better to install our network than AT&T”.  In the meantime, FirstNet puts the “Opt-in States” at a high risk failure due to the chaos associated with the use of the spectrum; all while at the same time forcing the State to buy something it already has. AT&T has a low risk, win-win, solution for themselves here.

“The statute only allows the grant amount to only be for the amount needed to construct the RAN—not operate, maintain and improve [the RAN],” MacBride said.

“Grants would be based on a total of $5.5 billion for all four phases—construction, operation, maintenance and operation.” Carolyn Dunn, director of NTIA’s state alternative plan program (SAPP)

These two statements also ring a bell. So what happened to the other Billion that was in the bank for FirstNet? Who provided them a Billion dollars and for what? I thought the amount that FirstNet still has in the bank – minus the wasteful spending they already spent – was actually $6.5 Billion. Am I missing something here? Or was this some type of figure that depicts expenditures to come? If I’m concerned, you should be concerned. Maybe they can explain a little more about the short comings in the budget – maybe an FOIA request?

Did you also notice that the two statements contradict each other? Which is it? Do we get to use the grant funding for construction, operation and maintenance or not? The law specifically states that a State can use its funding for the construction of the network.

 (2) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit the State and a secondary user from entering into a covered leasing agreement. Any revenue gained by the State from such a leasing agreement shall be used only for constructing, maintaining, operating, or improving the radio access network of the State.

So that pretty much nails those statements. Anybody need any further clarification? There’s always a BUT(t) out there somewhere. 

Dunn stressed the need for states pursuing the “opt-out” alternative to demonstrate their ability to maintain “ongoing interoperability” with FirstNet throughout the 25-year contract period….the operative word here is ‘ongoing,’”.

In actuality, the law states the following:

(C) SUBMISSION AND APPROVAL OF ALTERNATIVE PLAN.— (i) IN GENERAL.—The State shall submit an alternative plan for the construction, maintenance, operation, and improvements of the radio access network within the State to the Commission, and such plan
shall demonstrate—
(I) that the State will be in compliance with the minimum technical interoperability requirements developed under section 6203; and
(II) interoperability with the nationwide public safety broadband network.

Nowhere in the law does it say anything about an Opt-Out State having to interoperate with a 25-year contract. It only says that the State must maintain "interoperability with the nationwide public safety broadband network” – not FirstNet. I wonder sometimes. Anyone see the word “ongoing” or the word “FirstNet” in the law? I don’t.

You should further note, that the State has to be in line with the technical standards developed in “section 6203”, which is actually defined by the “Technical Advisory Board”, which is separate from FirstNet, and it is this organization that actually has the responsibility of setting the standards – not FirstNet.  By the way this Commission also sets the standards for FirstNet itself, not just the State.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT.—There is established within the Commission an advisory board to be known as the ‘‘Technical Advisory Board for First Responder Interoperability’’.

I feel as though FirstNet needs a Fact-Checking website sometimes.

“Do you have the ability to stay in lockstep with FirstNet on any upgrades to the network on any patches, any security upgrades, whatever? It has to be done in absolutely lockstep; you can’t be ahead of FirstNet, and you can’t be behind, because what will happen is that you will lose the ability for a public-safety person coming in from another state to have the same level of service. So, everything has to be in lockstep; you have to be ready to do that with all of the testing and all of the work that goes into those things.” (Dunn)

This is a real asinine statement. The law says nothing about a State having to work in synchronicity with FirstNet. So what happens if the State’s implementation, of their own Opt-Out network, is going better than FirstNet? What happens if the State is way ahead of schedule deployment compared to FirstNet? What if the State works better with the OEM manufacturers of devices? What if the State’s requirements for Public Safety needs don’t align with some overarching federal public safety need? What if local First Responders need a special radio because they are in a zone with specialized nuclear storage facilities? What if a State doesn’t need a specific technology that FirstNet is pursuing? What about the Tenth Amendment? Does this mean the State has to wait for them? Or does this mean FirstNet has to be in “lock-step” with the State? Asinine statement. Next!

But who really cares what I say. I’m….

Just some guy and a blog…..

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