Public Safety Advocate: Where FirstNet Stands

Fri Dec 9 15:00:32 2016

The smoke has cleared after the press reports of the Rivada Mercury court filing for being removed from the final phase of review of the FirstNet RFP by the Department of the Interior (DOI). In my own post about this I mentioned I thought the DOI could, if it wanted to, still award the contract. However, upon review of other articles written later than mine it appears as though the DOJ (as opposed to the DOI) agreed not to award the FirstNet RFP until at least March 1, 2017.

My Public Safety Advocate Special Edition discussing the Rivada Mercury court filing elicited a larger than usual number of responses from my Public Safety Advocate subscribers (it’s free), those it was passed around to, and those who read it on Linkedin.com. Comparing the number of responses to the total of my subscriber base and the LinkedIn readership, it was almost a 6% response and I did not receive one negative comment. Most were “You hit it right on the head,” and “You are right, I also believe Rivada Mercury loses even if it wins the court case.” This number is hardly representative of the U.S. Public Safety community but the emails came from Public Safety people in at least 24 states and one tribal community. The usual response to my weekly posts is probably less than 1% of the combined readership.

Now there is more information out there that has been reported and is worth noting. If the court rules in favor of Rivada Mercury, it means it could be included in the final portion of the RFP FAR process (you have to love all the acronyms). However, if it loses it means Rivada caused the Public Safety community and FirstNet yet another delay. I don’t know if in a pre-award case Rivada would be able to appeal the decision but if it does it would certainly lead to even more delays.

According to some this could lead to dire consequences for FirstNet and the Public Safety community but I am confident that even with the delays FirstNet and the federal government will prevail. What I am not so thrilled about are the delays on top of the already almost inexcusable delays, piled on top of the slow pace of the federal system. I promised my wife once the network is up and running and populated with as many Public Safety personnel as possible I would retire, stop writing, consulting, and providing my educational sessions. The way things are going I guess I could turn 100 and still be sending out these weekly blogs!

There is a balance between wanting to assist Public Safety and making money for the company expending billions of dollars up front to build the network. There are, of course, many costs associated with being visible within the Public Safety community and preparing for the RFP response. Hundreds of hours are expended and thousands of dollars are spent but each and every potential bidder faces similar costs and takes the same risks. I was part of a very large, expensive team put together by a bidder, that, it turns out, pulled the plug on the project. It ate the costs it incurred because it did not believe upon close inspection the opportunity would be favorable to the company, and that others would probably be better suited to providing the network. However, it knew its initial investment would be a risk. The decision to stop work on the RFP was based purely on a financial model for this particular company and the way it operates. For this company, at this time, it was the right call.

Companies bidding on projects take a risk and expend time, effort, and money. It is the way things work. As mentioned last week, I have been on teams that filed complaints and lawsuits and teams that walked away after a bid knowing we had done the best we could. I have also been on winning teams and carried the purchase order back to the office. When we lost we did not complain, we learned from our mistakes and bad judgement. When we complained and lost in a court of law, we withdrew. The few times we won by complaining or suing we really lost in the end.

I have to believe those who decided to exclude both pdvWireless and Rivada Mercury were thorough and careful when they made their decisions. They had to anticipate there could be a legal challenge to their actions, therefore I am willing to bet that all their i’s are dotted and t’s crossed, checked, and double checked.

It is up to the court to determine the outcome of all of this, and FirstNet and the potential winner and its partners will have to wait some more, as will the Public Safety community. But I can tell you that every time first responders are faced with a major incident and need coordination, video, data, and other broadband services they will remember why they do not yet have them.

All of the bidders were interested in making money for sure, but some are as interested in serving the common good and helping the Public Safety community as they did before FirstNet was born as well as afterward. The issue to me is which of the RFP respondents are more interested in turning a profit as quickly as possible and which are willing to be in this for the long haul as an investment that will not only pay dividends to the company and its shareholders but to the Public Safety community as well.

Andrew M. Seybold

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