Thursday, October 12, 2017

Why should Firstnet, AT&T, and all these Opt-In States take notice of New Hampshire?

The primary reason the Governors of the opt-in States should take notice, is because of the timeframe New Hampshire took to investigate the best option. That Opt-Out call, made by the state SEIC committee, was not just the right thing to do, but it was a solution that followed two years of development. All the opt-in states have conducted their investigation within the last nine months, most of them only took 2 to 3 months, to come up with their potential alternative solution. Had the forced timeline not been administered by the Department of Commerce, and FirstNet, most of the States would’ve had ample time to consider an alternative to the opt-in solution, but due to the time constraints, and the non-committal of the State towards a true RFP award, resulted in the potential respondents not taking the State's alternative RFP seriously.

By taking the alternative route two years ago, the State of New Hampshire presented a possible alternative solution to the marketplace that was viable enough for any potential respondents to offer their proposals. This was well before anybody started saying "we have not decided to Opt-Out yet". You may recall, the State of New Hampshire was able to corral five potential bidding teams as respondents to their RFP. Any and all States that followed the New Hampshire bid were tainted by the "we haven't decided to Opt-Out clause". Their RFPs were advertised as non-committal to an actual award. Why? A non-committal attitude would discouraged any potential respondents to building a reputable response. That "we haven't opted out yet" statement only started because FirstNet threw a fit about not getting a chance to offer their own solution. What it really demonstrated was an unwillingness of the States to trust the Federal Government to do anything, let alone construct a viable solution for one of the most advanced communications network ever devised. But, here we have it, I don’t hear FirstNet calling a foul because of the States not having enough time -- in fact, its just the opposite. Why would any organization want to commit funds, resources, and time to a costly proposal effort of which the State may not honor? In my mind, this may have been the FirstNet tactic all along, as a means to discourage any potential competition to their opt-in solution.This may have been a great tactic for FirstNet, but it will be a disaster for those States that opt-in.

In recent press articles, the Senate has been questioning the viability of the FirstNet business model, most specifically its ability to be self funded and self sustaining. The reason we are seeing such questioning, is because of the lack of access to the awarded business model that AT&T presented to FirstNet. There have been multiple freedom of information act requests that have all been denied as of today, in fact, there is now a class action lawsuit to get the FOIA requests executed. Stand assured, FirstNet and AT&T will fight tooth and nail not to disclose anything. If we had access to the business model proposed, then everyone may find out that their business model lacks the ability of a self funding capability, as well as its sustainment functionality, and is in fact only viable to the metro environments that AT&T currently has coverage in. Such a solution will drive all the States to pursue their own solution. Why? Because AT&T’s ability to fund the rural development of Public Safety Broadband is strictly prohibited to its own internal business model of pursuing the volume of consumer traffic. In short, Public Safety does not have enough volume of traffic to justify a build out to the rural areas and the consumer traffic isn’t there either, else there would be a tower— although not to Public Safety Grade.

6201, shall require deployment phases with substantial rural coverage milestones as part of each phase of the construction and deployment of the network. 

In the end, if the State wants to build out to the rural areas, of which was one of the primary reasons for establishing the Public Safety broadband network, then it will have to reach back into its own State coffers to pay for it. If that is indeed the case, then the FirstNet plan, and business model, are already a failure primarily due to the fact that it will not be self-funded, nor self-sustaining and doesn’t cover the rural areas. A State having to go to its taxpayers to pay for the deployment of FirstNet in order to cover the rural reaches of the State’s geography would define the Opt-in solution as going counter to what the law states. It is written in the law, that the State and FirstNet, must deploy the Public Safety Broadband Network as a self-funded and self-sustaining solution that meets the need of Public Safety.

I have been in the industry for almost 30 years now, and I have seen many of these types of networks take hold. You can rest assured, that if it were my decision, I would have never approved, let alone awarded, such a contract to a carrier. That does not mean that there isn’t a solution for a carrier. It just means that the solution and the business model that FirstNet has moved forward with is faulty. My experience, knowledge, and education tells me that this business model, no matter who put it together, was never going to be a success. But, it is the government here, so we can expect the complete idiotic ideas be driven to fruition anyway.

After 10 years of deep research in the space, and of the market, I have concluded that the only viable path for self sustainment, and self funding functionality, can only be administered through a State RFP in the award of a public private partnership that enables a private consortium of investors to come in and completely fund a statewide build out of Public Safety broadband. Through such a business model, the State would be able to reap the benefits of a balanced public and private venture that will intrinsically deliver its own self sustainment capability. Any interstate, or regional solution, will not form the basis of a sustainable business model. The FirstNet centralized model under one carrier model will not succeed. The cost of inter-governmental regulations, state legislative processes, and federal bureaucracy put a stake in such a solution, that is why a state-based public private partnership is the only viable solution for deploying the Public Safety broadband network.

After two years, this is exactly what the state of New Hampshire is moving towards. A public private partnership driven by a consortium of private investors to fund the creation of a private broadband company in partnership with a major tier-two carrier to deliver operations and commercial services, while its major partner contractor builds it.

The basis for this newly created broadband company will be to prioritize public safety broadband access over its implementation of commercial services, such a business solution goes contrary to what AT&T is offering for its opt-in solution. The AT&T solution does just the opposite, it utilizes its commercial services, then prioritizes Public Safety onto it. One has to remember that such a solution was designed for the commercial services venue, such an architecture is designed specifically to meet commercial services needs, not public safety needs, that is why the commercial carrier can sustain a certain amount of outages during a disaster. Public Safety does not have the luxury, especially when lives are at stake.

In the end, the state of New Hampshire‘s ability to clarify its position and outline a viable strategy, given a justifiable amount of time, holds true credibility and viability towards its opt-out solution, of which all states and their governors should take note. Any state that believes it can obtain a true opt-out solution with a shortened timeframe of just a few months, is only kidding itself and is definitely not fooling the market.The fact is, most of these opt-in States are just taking the easy way out, because they have come to believe that it is the only viable solution given the timeframe, which is entirely false. I wish the State of New Hampshire much success, as it, once again, takes the lead in establishing a true Public Safety Broadband Network for the Nation. I truly look forward to seeing its future success in the Granite State.


PS.. There is a lot of confusion about the "25-year contract" for a State to run its Broadband Network. This is not true, in actuality the law doesn't state any requirements around what a State has to contract at all. The word that was spread around, by FirstNet, in that any Opt-Out State has to make its contract similar to their proposed solution. Regardless, a 25 year contract, or better yet, a 75 year contract looks good in a any contract, but the fact is that any contract can have renewal terms to just a few years. In essence, the declaration of a 25-year contract is moot. You can do whatever contract you want, because the law does not specify anything, thus absence of the law.



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