First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board member Kevin McGinnis and Tom Sorley, chair of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee, criticized Verizon Communications, Inc., today, suggesting that the carrier’s public safety broadband offering pales in comparison to the FirstNet plan being offered by AT&T, Inc., and complaining about statements attributed to Verizon.
The criticism of Verizon came during a meeting this afternoon via teleconference of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council. Verizon is trying to compete with AT&T’s FirstNet offering building its own public safety core and also touting priority access and preemption.
Mr. McGinnis said Verizon has made incorrect statements about its network, including suggesting it has the only public safety grade LTE system. “That is simply not true,” he said. “Verizon does not have the unique public-private partnership to provide that oversight that FirstNet was built in with. Its responsibly is to its shareholders,” he also said.
He also disputed any suggestion that Verizon’s public safety core could be integrated with the FirstNet core. “That is simply a very, very difficult construct,” Mr. McGinnis said. “It would create extra layers of complexity in implementing the whole network and it would create unnecessary security complexity and risks.” He also suggested that Verizon’s offering of priority service and preemption was “too little, too late,” noting that the carrier did not submit a bid in response to FirstNet’s request for proposals (RFP).
Mr. Sorley echoed the criticism. He said that at a recent PSAC meeting in Atlanta, PSAC members “all basically agreed that it wasn’t a good idea” to permit Verizon to connect its public safety core to FirstNet’s core. “There’s been a lot of things going on in the market about people making claims that really aren’t provable or defendable,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re holding folks accountable for what they say.”
He stressed that FirstNet is responsible for making sure that AT&T fulfills the terms of its 25-year contract, noting that FirstNet has a technical staff in place to help do that. “I want somebody that can verify that you’re doing what you’re going to do. And I think that was the general consensus of the PSAC when we were in Atlanta,” he added.
In response to today’s criticism, Verizon spokesman Kevin King said, “Mr. McGinnis and Mr. Sorley are entitled to their opinions. Ultimately, public safety agencies will decide the provider they want to work with. Many of them have already chosen Verizon and we plan to continue to serve these customers in 2018 and into the future.”
In response to a question from TR Daily about whether Verizon rolled out preemption by the end of last year, as it said it would do, Mr. King said, “Verizon does offer preemption for public safety. We’re actually about to announce a specific example where we enabled preemption for a public safety customer on New Year’s Day. I can’t share more information on that right now but I hope to be able to in 24 hours.”
Also at today’s NPSTC meeting, the governing board approved recommendations to allow its LMR to LTE integration and interoperability working group to continue its efforts. The board also approved the final three best practice statements of the radio interoperability best practices working group and voted to permit the working group to continue to monitor issues.
Also at today’s meeting, Michael Wilhelm, chief of the Policy and Licensing Division in the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said he did not have an update on FCC action in its 4.9 gigahertz band proceeding. “It’s still on the Commission’s plate,” he said.
He also said that an item in the 800 megahertz band interstitial channel proceeding is “still very much alive,” adding, “It’s approaching the top of the pile. That’s about all I can say.”
Ron Hewitt, director of the Office of Emergency Communications at the Department of Homeland Security, told the NPSTC meeting that Feb. 23 is the deadline for stakeholders to respond to the nationwide SAFECOM survey, the results of which will be used in the preparation of an update of the National Emergency Communications Plan, which Mr. Hewitt said is on track to be released next year.
He also said that OEC is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the release of fiscal year 2018 grant guidance, which he said is expected to be released in March.- Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org