About this blog

This is a blog about one of the biggest controversies you’ve never heard of; a debate that could change the way every first responder in America communicates in an emergency; arguments over some $56 billion federal dollars up for grabs.

The story starts well: Few ideas from Washington are anywhere nearly as good as the concept that we need a single national communications network for first responders, built with some of the very best spectrum and coordinated state-by-state so everyone responding to an emergency can talk to their colleagues.

Done correctly, such a network could also offer a whole new ballgame for rural broadband and economic growth. 

If. Done. Correctly.



Opera Singer Warming Up

Earlier today, New Hampshire reversed it’s “opt-out” decisionand decided to climb aboard the train of States opting in to FirstNet.

Florida, not willing to be one of the last holdouts, announced that they too will opt in.

That leaves California.

AT&T managed to run the table on this whole fiasco. Through deception, fraud, outright lies and lobbying, they guaranteed themselves a fat check from the government for at least the next twenty five years.

Same as it ever was.

Giving free bandwidth and $6.5 Billion dollars over five years to AT&T is about as intelligent as asking a redhead if she’s gaining weight, or just pregnant.

Further Citation Of FirstNet Rigging

Catching up on some posts I’ve neglected over the past week, I ran into a story today from Urgent Communications. They cite that Verizon decided not to bid on the California opt-out because FirstNet is rigging the game with onerous conditions.

Verizon issued a statement say i. Part that “Technical and financial requirements dictated by FirstNet’s draft spectrum management lease agreement (SMLA) saddled the state of California—through no fault of its own—with onerous and vaguely defined mandates in its RFP that impacted our ability to create a response we believe best served public safety and Verizon.

That’s a pretty lofty charge. One might think that a quasi-government agency rigging the game of contracting in favor of a single, highly connected selected vendor and big political contributor would be front page news.

Since the story came out…crickets.

FirstNet is mandating that California use the AT&T network set up no matter WHO they choose as an alternate.

Then, there is the dam burst of information over from the digging folks over at Vermont Digger.

A leak of documents connected to FirstNet was alleged, and AT&T jumped on the “proprietary information” bandwagon,

VTDigger reported that FirstNet opponent and government accountability proponent Stephen Whitaker tried to hand a copy of two consultants’ review of the FirstNet plans, which he had obtained from “a confidential source,” to the head of Vermont’s House Energy and Technology Committee during a recent committee meeting, with chairman Rep. Stephen Carr refusing to accept it on the grounds that it contained AT&T trade secrets.

Yikes, kids. If one hears hoofbeats, don’t expect a train…unless that train has Wikileaks onboard.

Three Card Monte

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been a few big developments on the FirstNet issue.

Colorado decided to take the initiative and step back to examine the Opt-Out process. This is one of those big developments for a rural state (Like Maine) that should signal all the other states there is something to look at, other than AT&T’s bloated unsupported vague promises.

The other shocker to me was the wake-up. A rural state like New Hampshire stepping back is an indicator. based on that logic, I can understand Colorado stepping back for a few minutes to see what what what.

This article over at RRmediaThis article over at RRmedia shows the issue behind the scenes. “Who Do You Trust?” is a good question, basing itself on the un-promise of AT&T.

A spicy tidbit from the article follows.

And we now find that AT&T has a clearly undefined path regarding incorporation of the D block spectrum. That band of spectrum — the very 10 megahertz that was required to ensure the future of American civilization — may or may not be implemented. To date, AT&T has advised that 700 MHz band 14 — the D block spectrum — will be added to new sites at some unknown point and will be added to existing sites as coverage or capacity is needed.

Somehow, I’m reminded of that old street hustle/con called Three Card Monte.

If you chose either one of the wrong cards, you lose. The only way to win is to be in on the scam, and it appears to me that AT&T is rigging the game in thier favor by picking themselves as end user contractors.

Doubt it? Another good dig over at RRmedia shows them pricing the phones they intend to sell.

You might not know the dealer and the guy suckering you in on the bet are working together, but they are. Their goal is to suck the last living dollar out of your pocket, and make you feel good about them doing it.

NH Biz Paper Calls Out ‘Misleading’ FirstNet Ads

Calling out advertising that she flatly calls “misleading,” reporter Liisa Rajala at the New Hampshire Business Review has offered the best case yet for why the nation’s so-called first-responder network, FirstNet, deserves the “fiasco” label. She notes that “… while the intent of FirstNet was to create an interoperable public safety broadband network with the goal of allowing first responders to communicate across agencies and states, the result has been confusion and questions over the billions of dollars already spent on a system that is not yet in service and appears years from being so.”

She then outlines why New Hampshire is leading the nation among potential “opt-out” states. Let me explain again that Maine was an early opt-in state, apparently ignoring the issues that have surfaced in New Hampshire. Of course, one of the people involved with advising Gov. LePage left public service, after more than a decade, to join AT&T right after that decision was made. Oh, AT&T is the national contractor for FirstNet.

Unlike the state of Maine, Ms. Rajala does not seem to be buying whatever AT&T/FirstNet is selling, and it’s worth noting that the major issue in NH, just like in Maine, is service to northern rural areas.

More info here

Department Of Commerce Sued Over FirstNet FOIA

Was traveling last week, but this tidy tasty tidbit toppled over the transom today.

FirstNet claims to be exempt from FOIA because, well, they say they are.

Not so fast. Stephen Whitaker and David Gram are thinking that might be a bit wrong, and have asked a Federal Judge to issue an expedited ruling. They sought information on comments regarding state opt-out questions, and were told to go peddle fish.

Ah, but the stench of unsold fish now comes before the court, much to the delight of those like myself.

Sometimes, an exemption really isn’t an exemption.

In Federal Hearing, N.H. Stands Against FirstNet

John Stevens, the New Hampshire statewide first-responder interoperability coordinator and “state point of contact,” was not shy at the big House of Representatives oversight hearing in D.C. on Wednesday.
In written testimony submitted for the hearing, he demanded that the House subcommittee on communications and technology “… hold FirstNet accountable and take steps to ensure that FirstNet provides a full explanation of the numbers it has released, complies with the intent of the law, and provides a fair pathway for each state to make its opt-in/opt-out decision free of undue duress.”
New Hampshire has not “opted out” of the federalization process, but has balked at the opt-in option as well. Stevens testified that “… we are confident that, as a result of the process we have engaged in for the last two years, New Hampshire is now in receipt of an alternative FirstNet Plan that will address coverage on a statewide basis and will also deliver to our first responders a network that will be at little or no cost to the subscriber,” he added. “Isn’t that the very reason why the law was established and FirstNet was created, to provide the tools that will allow first responders to communicate in times of emergency? Unfortunately, states are now being threatened with outrageous and indefensible penalties that deter states from even considering an opt-out decision. It honestly makes one believe that the SMLA is fraught with fictitious and erroneous figures only to apply pressure on states to opt-in.”
While FirstNet pushes back at calling its proposed fees “fines” or “penalties, the testimony also notes that “New Hampshire has been advised… of a termination penalty, ranging from $10,609,059-$608,568,423, that will be imposed if for some reason the designed network should fail. Other states have been advised that their termination penalty payments will be in the billions and billions of dollars. Can we honestly expect that states could assume such risk, when all they are trying to do is represent their first responders by providing the best possible coverage? And if the penalty was to be assessed, where does that money go? To AT&T? These figures are absurd, and they are accompanied by spectrum payments in the tens of millions of dollars, adoption disincentive payments, adoption payment levels at 5 years, and adoption payment levels at 20 years. What are we promoting here, public safety and the ability to provide better service to our citizens, or lining the pockets of corporate America?
You can watch the House hearing here: https://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings
Meanwhile, the nation’s capitol became the latest jurisdiction for AT&T altrnatives, according to Urgent Wireless, which backgrounded that “… the District of Columbia (D.C.) this week released its request for proposals (RFP) in an effort to solicit bids from vendors willing to build and maintain the alternative radio access network (RAN) in D.C., if the mayor decides to have the district pursue the “opt-out” alternative to FirstNet.
D.C. officials issued the RFP on Monday, with bids due on Nov. 27. D.C. is the 15th state or territory to issue an RFP without having the governor announce an “opt-in/opt-out” decision. As with all RFPs to date, the D.C. procurement would result in a contract only if the district managed to secure all of the “opt-out” approvals from the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), as well as a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet.