Verizon Promise – FirstNet Contract , Which would you rather have?

By W. Brent Lee, Public Safety Consultant

So, here we go again! Recently Verizon announced their version of a public safety dedicated private core being “generally” available starting March 29th. What does generally mean? It means they are going to be extremely vague as to if it will work everywhere and for everyone. How do they get away with telling you “generally”? Because there is no contract holding them accountable. They had the opportunity to prove their commitment to public safety and didn’t. They have made numerous comments about why they didn’t: “we didn’t need the spectrum”, “we were involved in other issues”, and the one that they continue with today, “it’s just another commercial network”.

AT&T on the other hand stepped up, responded to the RFP, made commitments and signed a contract. AT&T can’t make statements like “we promise” or “generally available” because of the contract and because of their commitment not to provide just another “commercial network” but a truly “dedicated public safety network”. By the way, it has delivered that core network, available today and not “generally.”

According to Verizon, “Public-safety users are going to be set up on a customer-by-customer basis, ensuring we are hand holding our customers and they have the necessary qualifications.” For me that begs the question, “what are the necessary qualifications?” Who determines the “necessary qualifications”? What mechanism is in place to ensure those qualifications are continually met? Great deal for Verizon. No contract holding them accountable to public safety. No oversight whatsoever when it comes to the security of their network and the user’s information. Of course, Verizon has said they themselves will assure it. We all know what can happen when companies police themselves!

Let’s look at AT&T. Again, there is a contract. There is a commitment to FirstNet of guaranteed priority and preemption, not just a promise of it generally. There is a contractual commitment as to the necessary qualifications and all that goes with it. There is oversight by FirstNet to ensure AT&T lives up to that contract and commitment.

Verizon now supposedly will open their own app store later this year. AT&T will also have their official FirstNet app store available soon. What would you as public safety rather have? An app from a company that has no commitment or oversight, or apps from the company with oversight and contractually must ensure their work?

One last thing, AT&T and FirstNet have made it clear. Only FirstNet subscriber’s traffic will be on the FirstNet core, completely separate from commercial traffic. Verizon, as far as I am aware, has not made that commitment in reference to their public safety core.

It comes down to this, promises are broken everyday without penalty. Contracts are binding with potentially severe consequences. As public safety, which would you rather have?

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.

W. Brent Lee is a retired Law Enforcement Official, public safety consultant and Past President of APCO International with over 30 years of first responder and public safety experience. Having spent nearly half of his career managing communications functions Brent is a major supporter of FirstNet and all it will bring to public safety.

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3 Comments on "Verizon Promise – FirstNet Contract , Which would you rather have?"

  1. Brent, The administration and marketing departments of Verizon have missed their true calling. Instead of marketing wireless products and service, they should be running campaigns for political hopeful. Lots of empty promises.

    AT&T is building an encrypted FIPS 140-2 network core to provide public safety with the highest level of security that has been seen to this date. Verizon has stated time and time again that “We’ll be interoperable with FirstNet” Now I want anyone that believes that to hand over the keys to their home to the first Verizon representative that promises interoperability with FirstNet. That’s exactly what would need to happen since FirstNet is providing end to end encryption. Verizon needs that encryption ‘key’ to communicate between cores. Someone wants us to believe that by interconnecting a secure network with an unsecured network, that by some snake oil magic the whole conjoined networks will be secure and trusted.

    So if someone you know desires to run for political office, just hand them an Verizon employee directory.

  2. powgeek@gmail.com | April 16, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Reply

    In my area, AT&T has failed to provide adequate coverage to even think about using them for Emergency services. This article sounds very biased and I do not think FirstNet has done it’s due diligence to understand coverage models in all metro and rural areas. If you were just talking voice service, then AT&T would be satisfactory, but their data in our region is very bad and has zero coverage in specific areas that for EMS, LE, and Fire would have issues.

    AT&T also had extremely bad support for us. We had a few lines on a government account, and it took 3 months sometimes before we got a response. Reps continually changing and no one seemed to know who was supporting what area. So if AT&T cannot fix their account support and coverage model, then they are definitely a NO for us. I would like to see FirstNet work with all carriers, and not just AT&T. Pigeon holed into a single carrier is not good emergency management.

    • I would agree AT&T has failed in both coverage and support in a number of areas across the country. However, as mentioned in the article, AT&T is under contract with FirstNet to ensure coverage (urban and rural) as well as improve operational and customer support. Verizon on the other hand has no oversight to ensure their coverage today remains tomorrow. Unlike Verizon, AT&T can’t simply make a decision to just “change coverage” any time they want. You said it yourself, “so if AT&T cannot fix their support and coverage model, then they are definitely a NO.” Under the contract they must do exactly as you ask.

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