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.