By Richard Mirgon, Public Safety Consultant
This last week has provided some interesting news that is worthy of contemplation. I want to start with the blog about the Verizon Super Bowl ad. As we all know I have been very outspoken on Verizon’s lack of commitment to public safety I have to admit that was a good ad and most everyone agrees. Everyone agrees except a citizen who lives in that community. “Brodie” http://allthingsfirstnet.com/the-verizon-super-bowl-ad-is-problematic-heres-why/ who felt the ad was “exploitative”. Why? According to Brodie, “The people in the community where the tragedy they featured happened can’t use the product they’re selling.” Now maybe this community doesn’t have Verizon wireless service. Maybe Verizon is their local 911 provider. No matter what, it seems it has gotten someone’s attention in that community. This is one of those times you decide. Read what Brodie has to say and decide for yourself.
Another item this week I found highly interesting, were two comments in a news story from one public official. One was taking issue, once again, of the fact that the contract between the FirstNet Authority and AT&T is confidential. Yet at the same time this official is either hosting or participating in closed door meetings with Verizon for public safety where an NDA is required to attend. Did I miss something? Does this fall under “you can’t do it but I can”? This, like most other states, is a case where the public safety advisory board voted to opt-in and the Governor supported opt-in. This surely seems inconsistent. This also strikes me as the same type of activity that caused the interoperability problem in the first place. One person who wants what they want because they want it, forget about the rest. I don’t know, as I said it seems odd but you decide.
The second issue I have is this same public official likes to talk about competition. First, let me say it’s not Government’s role to create competition. Its Government’s role to provide services to their community when those services aren’t available and required or to protect the citizens of that community. However, if you want to talk about competition let’s check the facts here. The FirstNet authority set the requirements for the RFP after taking months of comments and input from public safety, federal agencies and the private sector. They did their homework to insure a system was designed based on public safety needs that could be built by any number of companies. Then a separate federal agency managed the procurement process and selection. After that a court reviewed that process during an appeal and found the process to be legitimate. The private sector then had the opportunity to compete. Several companies did and one vendor was selected. After all that, the vendor that was selected had to compete in each and every state and territory to win an opt-in approval, which was 100% successful. That same vendor must now go in and compete agency by agency and user by user to win that business. This is the same vendor who many times has said publicly that if they can’t provide the coverage and service to public safety they need to choose another vendor. Excuse me, what more do you want? Competition was a big part of the process and still exists.
At the end of the day public safety will do what’s right for their agency as they should. The vast majority of public safety supports FirstNet. I have seen a lot of amazing things in the last ten years that people have said would never happen, which have successfully happen with more good things to come. However we must remember it doesn’t take much to upset the apple cart. I remember clearly the day one major vendor, about 25 years ago, announced that they would not support P25 and how damaging that was to public safety interoperability and the safety of our first responders. As the world grew smaller the problems grew larger that billions of taxpayer’s dollars couldn’t solve.
Isn’t it time for everyone to be part of the solution so that we get the best possible outcome for public safety. What comes next should be our commitment to support FirstNet and engage FirstNet, ensuring it becomes the best public safety network the world has ever seen. We owe it to our communities and our first responders.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this company or any company with whom the author may be associated.
Richard Mirgon is a Public Safety consultant focused on FirstNet. He is a Past President of APCO International and has over 35 years of public safety and first responder experience. For more information about the author please go to http://www.next-paradigm.com/about/