By Richard Mirgon, Public Safety Consultant
In their FCC filing this week https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/109232757302914/4.9%20Ex%20Parte.pdf they stated “I reiterated Verizon’s opposition to late-filed proposals by some parties that have recently suggested an assignment of the 4.9 GHz band to FirstNet and its partner AT&T.” Some parties????? Let’s be clear, very clear, “some parties” are public safety!!! Please let me help define it further. Those “some parties” are the vast majority of every major public safety, first responder association along with a petition that now has over 800 signatures representing first responders in every state. The other statement about allocating it to “its partner AT&T” is absolutely factually incorrect. First and foremost, no one in public safety has said that. What has been supported is the allocation of the spectrum to the “FirstNet Authority” and that they would have determine the best way to use the spectrum and because they are tied do the department of commerce they would have to go through an open and transparent process on determining the best use of the spectrum for public safety. Verizon also fails to recognize that much of that spectrum is currently being used by local government.
Now, for those who don’t fully understand FirstNet, let me explain. “FirstNet” is the public safety broadband network that is being built under a contract that AT&T was awarded. The “FirstNet Authority” is the legal entity that issued the contract after a lengthy competitive process to build the network. The FirstNet Authority is an independent authority with a board of directors made up of public safety officials and a mix of industry experts to help guide public safety. Within the FirstNet Authority there is a large Public Safety Advisory Council made up of first responders and representative from first responder associations that provide advice and guidance to the Board. When someone or some company stands in opposition to FirstNet or the FirstNet Authority they stand in opposition to public safety and they vail that by saying “some parties”.
Because of this structure outlined above, if the FirstNet Authority was granted access to the 4.9Ghz spectrum by the FCC they would have to develop an open and fair process on how to use this spectrum to support public safety. Additionally, if granted access, there would have to be a process to protect and/or include the current users of 4.9Ghz, assuring they are not harmed.
Verizon sees FirstNet and the FirstNet authority as being a competitor. Well, that is like a private security firm seeing law enforcement as a competitor. They are not, nor is it the same. FirstNet is public safety’s network we asked for from congress, which congress agreed to create. Verizon had the opportunity to compete for the FirstNet contract and they purposely decided not to. They apparently have chosen to work to undermine public safety and public safety’s network. Using passive aggressive statements like “some parties” is absolutely shameful.
It should be noted, T Mobile is also in opposition to public safety having access to the 4.9GHz spectrum. Their filing can be viewed at https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/10923083404576/T-Mobile%20Ex%20Parte%20Letter%20-%20September%202020%20Ex%20Parte%20Meeting%20-%20Umair%20Javed.pdf . They too, could have bid on the FirstNet Authority RFP but chose not to.
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 https://www.next-paradigm.com/about/
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.