Wednesday, November 1, 2017

FirstNet and AT&T get softballs thrown at them in the Congressional Oversight Committee meeting?

Just viewed the Oversight Committee meeting on the FCC website. First interpretation, and dominant emotion, is that it was a softball game for the Opt-In option to the AT&T and FirstNet solution. It is what it is. I have to say that Mr Sambar, although very gallant and dedicated to the mission, I’m afraid he is microtic in his view point.

One of the softballs thrown at Mr. Sambar was whether or not he had any comment from other parts of the testimony. In his response, he actually spoke about a statement made by Verizon, which was not in the session, where he spoke about being concerned that Verizon says that AT&T’s deal is a “spectrum deal”.  If that doesn’t scream favorability in the Committee Meeting, then I don’t know what would be. How does one inject a statement that wasn’t part of the session meeting when specifically asked if he had any statements about other comments from session speakers? Seems kind of lowballish in nature and unbecoming to inject a shot at your competition during a committee meeting.

In addressing Mr. Sambar’s statement about Verizon’s comment of “it’s a spectrum deal”, first, I’m not a big fan of either party, when it comes to this opportunity, but I also understand they are doing what they do best…compete with each other. What Mr. Sambar fails to understand is the view from above his paygrade. At his level, he views what he is doing as a mission – much like his career was as a Seal – a mission that is right in front of him. He can feel it, see it, and understand its course to its maximum potential. But, that's only good when there is overall alignment with the senior leadership above this effort, otherwise you are just viewed as a valiant and dedicated drone. I can guarantee you, the mission above Mr. Sambar is to maximize market share and profit, the primary way of doing that, in the carrier space, is by acquiring spectrum to push more content and services to its overall revenue base.

To the senior leadership of AT&T, they view Mr. Sambar’s activity as a subset to an overall mission goals. A subset that doesn’t provide a lot of revenue to the bottom line, in fact, the subset detracts from that bottom line more than it contributes, yet it does have more political points than profit. Sorry, there just aren’t enough Public Safety responders to justify the alternative. But, if AT&T can go along with the game of providing a “dedicated public safety network” for the purpose easing its political foothold to maximize its profit potential, then that’s a risk worth taking. So, if it really isn’t about Public Safety, then what is it about? It’s about AT&T’s effort to maximize its bottom line – plain and simple.  Too do that AT&T needs more spectrum… that’s just a technical and tactical fact.  If AT&T doesn’t expand its spectrum holdings, then it may fall behind in its ability to expand its service offerings, especially when their competition would be acquiring much more. I’m afraid Mr. Sambar may be left in the dark when it comes to the overall mission of AT&T itself, but as far as it has to do with FirstNet, then he is perfectly suited -- a dedicated operator.

Just another note, it was funny to hear Mr. Sambar make such a profound statement about it not being a “spectrum deal”, then Mr. Poth, not even 3 minutes later, start saying that Public Safety’s mission was getting the spectrum. Just an observation.

I need to address Mr. Stevens as well. He was put on the spot by one of the representatives. Rep. Doyle asked Mr. Stevens if the State of New Hampshire was aware that Rivada doesn’t have a network that it actually runs? He further asked what would the State do if a disaster happens and they need operational experience? I found the question to be biased in nature towards the AT&T solution and was deliberately positioned as a “gotcha” question to Mr. Stevens. The fact is, Rivada is partnered with US Cellular. US Cellular is a tier 2 carrier that covers more than eleven States. US Cellular has been operating and fixing networks, especially at the local level, more than AT&T and Verizon has. Mr. Doyle’s questions seem to have only illustrated the amount of egg on his face in this regard. I would suggest he get some better information prior to trying to sandbag a dedicated servant as Mr. Stevens and the overall mission of New Hampshire. Just doesn’t seem to follow etiquette for a State Representative from Pennsylvania to attack a civil servant in New Hampshire, but that may be just me.

It doesn’t matter how many questions you ask about preemptive service of dedicated networks if you install it on the same commercial network that fails during disasters. Mr. Sambar even stated that they lost 4% of all their towers during the disaster in South Texas. What he failed to mention was that it was 4% of the commercial towers in the metropolitan areas. Plus, 4% of 4 Million residents still means 160,000 residents were not covered. How many lives are expendable during a disaster? I can guarantee you that because they don’t even have towers in the rural areas, there were many more Americans at risk during the disaster. Why? Because AT&Ts revenue and profits aren’t substantive enough to build towers to those rural areas. Had AT&T had coverage in those areas, we would have seen many more towers down during the disaster. Rural towers aren’t built to the same standards as metro sites, and neither are built to the standards of what Public safety requires. Being that there is no revenue incentive for commercial service to those rural areas, then someone will have to pay for its deployment and consideration. I can guarantee you that it won’t be a profit driven company like a carrier.

Overall, the committee session was just another soft-pitch-softball game for FirstNet and AT&T. Outside of the representative from California, I didn’t see any real QA worth questioning. But what do I know I’m….

Just some guy and a blog….

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