By Richard Mirgon, Public Safety Consultant
I find it interesting that Verizon has said the problem occurred in the Customer Service Department. I do not believe that is correct and I believe the documentation shows that not to be correct. (We have posted the document on our site.) In reviewing the email attached to the FCC filing it clearly indicates that the Verizon Account Manager was one of the individuals who was responsible and was engaged with the fire district. I have never had an account Manager who couldn’t solve a problem like this or couldn’t find the person to solve such a problem. This was not the fault of a “Customer Service Department”. The Account Manager was engaged and in the email pawned them off on customer service.
Now this gets better. I don’t want to point fingers at an individual or individuals who are doing their job that may be in accordance with company policy. If you review the emails in more detail what you will see is the name of an additional Verizon employee who was copied on this issue. This person appears to be a Verizon Vice President, according to a LinkedIn search, who was copied on the emails discussing this problem. This person either didn’t read the email because it wasn’t important or this person intentionally did not engage to solve the problem. My points are simple. Verizon executives knew or should have known failed to take action to help their public safety customer during an event that was threatening life and or property. Secondly Verizon has intentionally taken steps to point the blame at an inanimate object the “Customer Service Department” and in a press release by a Verizon Senior Vice President is quoted as saying “…we didn’t live up to our own promise of service and performance excellence when our process failed some first responders…”. Really, “our process failed”? No Verizon as a company failed and people, your executives, failed to take action to support your public safety customer.
As to their recent announcement not to throttle.
Back in another life I worked in the intelligence community and we called this type of language a “talk around”. People talking around the subject in an attempt to avoid disclosing the truth or something they shouldn’t be disclosing. In this effort to avoid full disclosure everyone should review Verizon’s new commitment to not throttle during disasters. There is a “gotcha” in it. This line was in the San Jose Newspaper quoting a Verizon spokesperson which said, “Public safety workers would be throttled if they exceed their contractual data cap for the third consecutive month. If exceeded for the third straight month, data speeds would be reduced to 3G speeds, according to Erwin.” I got some news for Verizon. Fire season in most years is normally about 5 months out west and in California it goes on much longer. This reminds me of games children play where the rules change and there is always an exception.
I have been told, but I have not seen this document yet, that the fine print on the “new” public safety plan has a requirement that most agencies won’t be able to operationally execute on. Some of these requirements would be having the correct password, account number and pins to release any caps. Verizon fails, again, to understand that when responding to an emergency first responders must focus on saving life and property not who has the password. As a former department head overseeing public safety tech here’s one more tidbit for Verizon. Most first responders won’t know they have been throttled and won’t have time to call someone. All they will know is that it simply isn’t working and they will go to Plan B, if they have a Plan B.
And what about this announcement that, “Verizon will lift all data caps on public safety workers for unlimited data plans in California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii”. Take note, another perfect example of Verizon not understanding public safety. For those who have never been part of a western wildland event the Incident Management Teams are made up of first responders from many states. You could easily and probably do have incident teams from Colorado, Utah, Texas or anywhere working in California. What is Verizon going to do about those users data cap and how are they going to be identified? And also let’s be clear in this special treatment of a few states, disasters are still occurring in Nevada, Montana and other states. It would appear they are not as important to Verizon.
Verizon keeps saying they want interoperability with FirstNet. Why would anyone allow a company that minimizes major events, has complex terms for data plans and sees these significant issues as “process” problems, be their provider if they can’t be upfront when there is a problem? Can they be trusted to be connected to a mission critical public safety network? Not in my view.
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/