Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, December 14, 2017

News and Commentary
It has been an interesting few weeks. As of now, FirstNet/AT&T has 36 of the 56 states and territories opted in, New Hampshire has opted out, and the deadline for opting out is fourteen days away. I say for opting out since if a state opts in by December 28, that is great for FirstNet, but if states don’t make any decision they will have opted in by default. It will be interesting to see how all this shakes out over the holidays. Also, this week, Verizon, once again, has decided not to bid on a FirstNet system. In this case, it is California. Verizon stated it will not submit a proposal to the state of California because FirstNet and AT&T have the system rigged. That is the second time instead of bidding on the project Verizon has made an excuse not to bid. It now appears as though Verizon’s only desire is to keep its existing public safety customers and perhaps convince a few more to join them.

I don’t understand Verizon’s recent moves. It did not show up to bid on the RFP, after the award to AT&T it said it had looked at it but did not need the spectrum for secondary use, but that it has always supported the public safety community, which is true, at least for the past ten years. After the RFP award, during last year’s APCO conference, Verizon announced it would build a duplicate network including a core and provide Band 14 services to its public safety customers. There are two issues with that, the first being that FirstNet holds the license for Band 14 so Verizon cannot simply put its customers on Band 14. If it is really to offer Band 14, a second SIM would be required in the device and another contract would have to be in place with AT&T. The other issue is that the way the law reads there will be only one public safety core (redundant of course) and therefore every public safety user on Band 14 must be connected to that core, and it is mandated that the one core will be built, managed, and operated by AT&T. For the past few months Verizon has been quiet and now it claims it won’t bid the California RFP because FirstNet and AT&T are not playing fair. Based on what I have seen, I am not convinced upper-level management at Verizon is 100 percent onboard with these efforts.

It will also be interesting to watch New Hampshire. It appears as though the first order of business for the state is to negotiate a full contract with Rivada. I certainly hope New Hampshire protects itself against the possibility that when the losses start to pile up for the vendor, the state is not stuck with the bill. The state and Rivada now have 180 days to provide a plan to the FCC to ensure that the Radio Access Network (RAN) build-out in the state will be fully compatible with FirstNet and that it will be upgraded as FirstNet/AT&T upgrades its network. It would have been fascinating if the state had opted out earlier because then we would have a parallel course between FirstNet and the state to see how both systems are developed and built out. As it stands now, New Hampshire will be somewhat behind the curve in implementing its network simply due to the federal agencies that need to approve the RAN (FCC), award a grant (NTIA), and enter into a spectrum lease for Band 14 (FirstNet). Read the Entire Blog Here 

FirstNet gives Texas emergency workers ‘ruthless preemption’ on cellphone networksSan Antonio Express-News
Dec 13 14:00 Ruthless preemption basically processes their messages and data before all others under the First Responder Network Authority plan, or FirstNet, a national public safety broadband network run by AT&T. Preemption shifts non-emergency traffic to another line when the line becomes crowded, allowing …

AT&T launches preemption for FirstNet customersRCR Wireless News
Dec 13 12:25 That category includes fire, law enforcement, emergency medical services, emergency managers, dispatch and Public Safety Answering Points, according to AT&T. Some limited priority for public safety traffic has been offered by wireless carriers over the years, but it has typically carried extra charges …

Missouri To Opt Into FirstNetWireless Week
Dec 12 14:25 Officials from FirstNet said that their discussions with Missouri included expanding wireless coverage particularly in rural areas and allocating network assets that could be deployed as needed to support public safety. First responders in the state received immediate access to AT&T’s existing LTE …

Sununu decision on emergency responder network due todayThe Union Leader
Dec  7 06:10 In New Hampshire’s case, that would mean creating a New Hampshire network with Rivada, one of the unsuccessful bidders that pursued the FirstNet contract to build the network, which went to AT&T. The state already has a tentative contract with Rivada, depending on Sununu’s final decision, which is …

LA-RICS reaches agreement with AT&T on transfer of region’s public-safety LTE network for FirstNetUrgent Communications
Dec 14 00:25 Incorporation of the LA-RICS LTE systemthe largest early builder public-safety LTE network in the countryinto FirstNet has been a priority for LA-RICS officials. In addition, Edson repeatedly has noted that LA-RICS built its cell sites to the public-safety-grade standard established by the National …

FirstNet will better assist first responders with communication during emergenciesNTV
Dec 13 18:40 Communication between first responders in disasters and emergencies are critical when lives are in danger. National FirstNet Broadband Project was created to help enhance public safety communications and to keep first responders connected in emergency situations. “After the 9/11 attacks on our …

FirstNet launches preemption as Verizon bows out of California RFPFierceWireless
Dec 13 17:00 AT&T and FirstNet launched ruthless preemption, giving first responders top priority to its network even during times of extreme congestion. …

First state opts out as AT&T’s FirstNet proposals reach crucial final weeksxmlpush
Dec 13 15:45 With just a little more than two weeks remaining before the deadline, 36 states and territories have opted into the nationwide network for first responders that will be built by AT&T (NYSE: T). But uncertainty remains for the Dallas telecom, which is contracted by the U.S. government’s FirstNet Authority for the job: 19 states and territories have yet to announce their choice, while one recently became the first to opt-out. Last week, New Hampshire…

The Downside of Net NeutralityScientific American
Dec 13 12:35 We particularly like that the FCC is now proposing to, Restore the determination that mobile broadband is not a ‘commercial mobile service’ subject to heavy-handed regulation. Essentially, the principles of the 2015 framework aimed to ensure equal treatment of traffic passing through networks.

FirstNet activates preemption for opt-in state usersStateScoop
Dec 13 10:55 With preemption, FirstNet users will not have to compete with normal commercial mobile traffic. Instead, first responders will have access to voice, text, apps and mobile internet service, regardless of how many users in a single place are accessing AT&T’s network. The service shifts non-emergency traffic …

Commerce Files One More Response Prior to Hearing on FirstNet FOIA CaseMissionCritical
Dec 13 10:03 Attorneys for the Department of Commerce (DOC) submitted one last response to a lawsuit surrounding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) before the case moves to a court hearing Dec. 15. read more

Results of 2017 National EAS Test Show ImprovementTV Technology
Dec 12 19:40 WASHINGTONA preliminary analysis of results from the 2017 nationwide EAS test in September show overall improvement compared to last year’s test, but the performance of TV broadcasters appears to have slipped slightly in one key area, according to a public notice from the FCC’s Public Safety …

How Much Does AT&T Stand To Gain From FirstNet?Forbes
Dec 12 15:30 Earlier this year, AT&T won a 25-year contract from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to build and run the first broadband network that will cater …

Federal initiative to focus on broadband access for rural cancer patientsAmerican Hospital Association
Dec 14 08:15 The Federal Communications Commission and National Cancer Institute have signed a memorandum of unde…

FCC Boss Claims Net Neutrality Hurts Small ISPs, But The FCC’s Own Data Proves OtherwiseTechdirt Corporate Intelligence
Dec 14 08:15 By now we’ve noted countless times how the claim that net neutrality hurt broadband investment is indisputably false . It’s not a debate. Public SEC filings, earnings reports, and numerous CEO statements to investors (who, unlike you, they’re legally not allowed to lie to) have disproven this canard. Data suggesting otherwise usually originates with ISP-paid economists more than willing to twist, distort, cherry pick and massage the numbers until they comply with whatever message is…

Preemption services now available for FirstNet primary users in opt-in statesHomeland Preparedness News
Dec 14 08:15 Now, with the launch of preemption on FirstNet, for the first time, public safety is ensured a ‘fast lane’ to connect. FirstNet will provide reliability, confidence and ability for first responders to be able to communicate during emergency operations. Virginia was first in to opt in, and we’re all in to ensure …

Why Dish Network Needs To Roll Out Services For Its Spectrum HoldingsForbes
Dec 13 14:35 In March this year, Dish Network raised $1 billion in debt to finance wireless and spectrum-related strategic transactions. In July, reports surfaced that Dish Network and Amazon could partner to set up a narrow band Internet of Things (IoT) network. While Dish has remained tight-lipped about any …

Thales to Supply Multiband Tactical Radios to ArmyExecutiveBiz
Dec 13 09:45 IMBITR is designed to support interoperability between joint and coalition forces through narrowband, wideband and satellite communications networks. The service branch ordered the radios as part of a network modernization initiative. SFABs are tasked to assist, advise and collaborate with foreign …

Summarizing the harms of the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rulesAmerican Enterprise Institute
Dec 13 09:15 The FCC proposes to strengthen transparency provisions so that consumers and innovators have more information about their broadband connection including network management, performance, and commercial terms. Ideally, consumers will use this information to drive greater customization of …

FirstNet launches ruthless-preemption functionality for ‘primary’ public-safety subscribersUrgent Communications
Dec 12 17:40 After the carrier was awarded the FirstNet nationwide contract in March, AT&T officials vowed that preemptive access would available to primary public-safety FirstNet subscribers by the end of the year. While some public-safety entities have used commercial broadband services for years to support …

FirstNet documents reportedly leaked in VermontRCR Wireless News
Dec 12 12:40 At the time, Whitaker criticized the rejection of the FoIA request and told the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council in an email that there was a need for more transparency by FirstNet and precisely what privacy, reliability and accountability compromises we are being asked to make …

Massive IoT, the new focus of IoT standardization: 5G AmericasTelecom Lead
Dec  7 04:15 Today, Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA) is already gaining attention and it is anticipated that cellular-based technologies such as LTE-M (Machine) and Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) will become the leading LPWA standards by 2020. This would allow operators to choose from several Cellular IoT (CIoT) …

Digital communications are revolutionising the railway businessITWeb
Dec  7 02:15 Then there is LTE’s narrowband component, a low-power, highly dedicated way to add sensors and other IOT systems to the railway without deploying a new wireless network. “It costs billions to maintain all the equipment every year,” Frisch explained.” Just saving a tiny bit of that maintenance cost will …

Verizon Decides Not to Bid on Calif. FirstNet RFP

Verizon Communications, Inc., has decided not to bid in response to California’s request for proposals (RFP) seeking an alternative to the plan it received from the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) (TR Daily, Nov.20).

“Verizon remains committed to supporting public safety customers and agencies in California and across the country. Unfortunately, after carefully and extensively reviewing the state’s RFP requirements, we have chosen not to bid on the state of California’s RFP,” Verizon said in a statement. “Technical and financial requirements dictated by the draft Spectrum Management Lease Agreement (SMLA) saddled the state of California’s RFP – through no fault of its own – with onerous and vaguely-defined mandates that impacted our ability to create an RFP response we believe best served public safety and Verizon. Vigorous competition that allows the industry and the marketplace to continue to grow and innovate is in the best interest of public safety and should be everyone’s shared goal. Instead, we believe FirstNet and its corporate partner are rigging the game in order to stifle true open competition. Our decision not to submit an RFP response in no way impacts our work with public safety customers in California. We continue to support them every day, including actively working with public safety officials during the ongoing southern California wildfires.”

To compete with AT&T, Inc., FirstNet’s network partner, Verizon is building a public safety core and offering priority access and preemption to public safety agencies.

State and local officials in California have been critical of aspects of the FirstNet state plan and the potential $15 billion termination fee included in the draft SMLA that it received. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

AT&T Attorney Complains About Release of Vermont FirstNet Report

An attorney for AT&T, Inc., is complaining about the release of an unredacted version of a report prepared by a consulting firm for the state of Vermont before it decided to opt into the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system last week (TR Daily, Nov. 29). The report concluded, as did another report by an outside party, that the state should opt into the network rather than seeking to build its own radio access network (RAN). AT&T is FirstNet’s network partner and will build the RANs for all opt-in states.

Stephen Whitaker, a Vermont resident and open government advocate who is a party in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking FirstNet records, has argued that the FirstNet process has been too secretive and that opting in would not be a good deal for the state or its residents. Last week, he released an unredacted version of a FirstNet report prepared by the Coeur Business Group through a contract with the Vermont Agency of Digital Services. He also released a report done for the state by Televate LLC, a public safety consulting firm, which also recommended the state opt into FirstNet.

In a letter dated Wednesday to Mr. Whitaker, William Dodge, a Vermont-based attorney for AT&T at the law firm of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, said that AT&T “has learned that you may have come into possession of confidential and proprietary information, including company trade secrets. Based on public reports of a November 29 meeting of the Vermont House Energy and Technology Committee, we have learned you are in possession of an unredacted report commissioned by the Vermont Agency of Digital Services (and prepared by the Coeur Business Group) regarding FirstNet. Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, December 7, 2017

Public Safety Networks LMR and FirstNet Working Together

There is still a lot of confusion out in Public Safety and elected official land about the future of Land Mobile Radio (LMR) as FirstNet is deployed, and there is still the issue of the eleven major metro areas slated to lose the T-Band and their LMR systems if we cannot convince Congress to make some changes to the law. I was happy to see that during the recent webinar held by Mission Critical Magazine, Chester County, PA speakers were questioned as to whether LMR will be replaced by FirstNet, they responded with a resounding NO! (Chester County was the first countywide fire dispatch system I designed and installed in the early 1970s.) However, it seems there is still an issue of spreading the word, not so much to the public safety community but to IT departments and elected and appointed officials responsible for the budgets, both capex and opex, that fund LMR systems.

It is no wonder some people are confused since we keep seeing comments, press releases, and experts talking about how soon Mission Critical Push-To-Talk (MCPTT) is coming to FirstNet, and how some still believe the off-network 3GPP standard known as ProSe will be a factor. However, even the developers of the public safety system in the United Kingdom have realized they won’t be able to provide reliable off-network PTT over LTE. For that reason, they are planning to use Tetra radios with simplex or talk-around. The more the experts talk about the technology issues with Mission Critical PTT, the more they seem to be losing sight of the fact that the technology over the network is only part of the issue. If the network itself is not mission-critical, PTT over the network cannot be mission-critical, even if it is called “Mission Critical PTT” (MCPPT).

It is, I believe, vitally important that those in government who make decisions about funding LMR radio systems, upgrading them, keeping them running and operational understand the dilemma the standards body, labs, and pro-MCPTT folks have created for the public safety community. There have been instances where public safety officials are presenting their next year’s budget and they are questioned by the budget committee about why public safety still needs to invest in LMR technology. The public safety officials usually make a good case for why, but one or more of the budget committee members have heard from technology experts that MCPTT will be real and will be rolled out in 2018. They simply do not understand that every day public safety bets their lives on their communications systems. Read the Entire Blog Here Continue reading

Correction: New Hampshire Opts out of FirstNet

A story in yesterday’s [Dec. 7] TR Daily incorrectly described the process that could lead up to an opt-out state having to negotiate with First Responder Network Authority over the terms of the build-out of a radio access network (RAN) if its opt-out bid is rejected by the government.

If the FCC rejects the state’s opt-out plan, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 “directs that the deployment of the state’s RAN will revert to the plan proposed by FirstNet,” notes the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. “If NTIA disapproves the state’s [spectrum lease] application, the state will need to enter into discussions with FirstNet regarding how and when the RAN will be built in that state, since the Act does not specify that FirstNet must build that state’s RAN as initially proposed,” NTIA notes.

Courtesy TRDaily

Andy Seybold Public Safety Advocate, November 30, 2017

FirstNet Coverage and PTT. I hope everyone who was able to take time off for Thanksgiving enjoyed the holiday and I want to thank all the public safety personnel who worked last Thursday so the rest of us could spend time with our families and friends. During our trip east, I was keeping tabs on coverage provided by AT&T where we were traveling and while in several states, I talked with the public safety community about today’s AT&T coverage and what might still be needed. Even though a state such as Arizona or Maine has already opted in to FirstNet, it does not mean the public safety agencies are required to make use of the FirstNet/AT&T broadband network. However, since AT&T has already invested a lot of money in the public safety community, and has allocated more money and resources to bring FirstNet up and operational as soon as possible, AT&T would like to have as many public safety customers onboard as possible.

In Arizona where the overwhelming perception within the public safety community was that AT&T’s coverage is not as good as at least one other network operator’s coverage, those who have acquired AT&T devices and done some testing have found that AT&T coverage has increased since they last looked at it. Granted, there are still some spots that need to be covered but several public safety agencies have stated that the FirstNet/AT&T coverage in their jurisdiction is sufficient to join FirstNet and then work with AT&T, federal grants, or in some cases even self-funding additional coverage that AT&T will then include in its overall footprint. There are still some major differences in coverage in some areas, but while it is not possible to see the official FirstNet/AT&T coverage maps over the build-out period, reviewing coverage maps on FirstNet.com shows that most of the areas of concern will be covered.

One thing I have found confusing not only for FirstNet/AT&T coverage but for the other nationwide networks as well, is that it is difficult to identify where a network operator owns and runs its own network and where it has contracted with rural carriers to provide coverage to their subscribers. This is important to know because some rural carriers have not yet rolled out LTE and are offering only 2G and 3G, and we are not privy to their build-out plans. I believe that because of the increased push for rural coverage for first responders, as well as the need to provide coverage for rural businesses and citizens, we will see a renewed effort by all of the carriers. As I have mentioned before, we are having success with county and tribal governments that know they want and need coverage beyond what FirstNet/AT&T will bring to their rural areas. Read the Entire Blog Here Continue reading

Vermont Announces It Will Opt into FirstNet

Vermont today became the 34th state or territory to announce that it will opt into the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), despite concerns about whether such a decision represents the best option for the state. “It is important that Vermont’s first responders have the best service and access to an interoperable network that is expected to advance and adapt with new technology through the next 25 years,” said Gov. Phil Scott (R.). “Vermont faced the choice of building its own network or using the federal solution. After thoroughly considering the technological, financial and operational aspects of both options, I believe the federal plan will more quickly and sustainably provide our public safety community with the network it needs to continue its valuable service to Vermont.”

A news release noted that the decision announced today “follows the recommendation [the governor] received earlier this month from Vermont’s Public Safety Broadband Network Commission (PSBC), which recommended Vermont opt-in to the federal plan [TR Daily, Nov. 20]. The commission considered the federal plan and a proposal from an alternative vendor submitted through an RFP process. In its recommendation, the PSBC focused on service, coverage and risks of both options.”

“Today’s opt-in decision means that FirstNet/AT&T can begin work immediately in Vermont,” said PSBC Chair Terry LaValley, who is the state’s FirstNet single point of contact (SPOC). “Due to the all-bands approach by AT&T, first responders will have immediate access to all bandwidth owned and operated by AT&T in Vermont, including priority calling. AT&T will also use funds allocated to FirstNet to increase the number of cell sites in Vermont within the next five years — many in areas where first responders currently lack good coverage.”

Vermont is the 32nd state, in addition to two territories, to decide to have AT&T, Inc., FirstNet’s network partner, build its radio access network (RAN). It is the eighth state to opt in after issuing a request for proposals (RFP). Governors have until Dec. 28 to make opt-out decisions.

A draft spectrum manager lease agreement (SMLA) delivered to Vermont by FirstNet said that the state could have to pay up to $173 million if it opted out and then terminated the lease with the federal government to use the FirstNet spectrum.

But at a Nov. 1 House hearing, FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth stressed that FirstNet will work to “minimize” the impact on states and first responders of opt-out states that fail to fulfill the terms of SMLAs. He also said that the agreements provided to states are only “working draft” documents.

The news release issued by Gov. Scott’s office today noted that “Televate, a technical consultant hired by the PSBC to evaluate the plan, recommended that Vermont opt-in. An independent review by the Coeur Business Group, which was contracted by the Agency of Digital Services to analyze the opt-in/opt-out options, also recommended opt-in. An evaluation of the financial risks conducted by the State Treasurer’s Office expressed significant concerns regarding the financial consequences to the state and its future borrowing capacity in the event of an election to opt-out.”

“Governor Scott’s decision is a win-win-win for the state, its public safety community, and everyone who lives, works or visits in Vermont,” said FirstNet board member and former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. “The FirstNet Network will modernize our emergency communications infrastructure, help create jobs in the Green Mountain State and ensure that our first responders have the best tools and technologies to keep our communities safe and secure.”

“I’d like to thank Governor Scott for his leadership and commitment to public safety, which is clear and unwavering. Opting in to FirstNet puts Vermont’s first responders on the cutting edge of innovative communications, helping them operate faster, safer and more effectively when lives are on the line,” said Patricia Jacobs, president of AT&T New England. “Vermont’s first responders, residents and visitors, alike, will all benefit from the FirstNet solution, which won’t cost the state a dime to build, operate or maintain.”

But Stephen Whitaker, a Vermont resident and open government advocate who is a party in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking FirstNet records (TR Daily, Oct. 6), criticized Gov. Scott’s decision today.

“I just think it was a preemptive strike to try to defuse the legislative authority,” he told TR Daily. “I think it was a dirty trick.”

He noted that a Vermont legislative counsel said in a recent memo to a state legislator that state lawmakers have a right to review the governor’s decision on whether to opt in or out of FirstNet (TR Daily, Nov. 27). He also said that a decision should be delayed until FirstNet, AT&T, and others respond to questions posed by Rep. Peter Welch (D., Vt.) in the wake of the recent House hearing, which they are expected to do next week.

In prepared remarks for a meeting on FirstNet today of the Vermont House Energy and Technology Committee, Mr. Whitaker complained that the FirstNet review process by the state, like FirstNet’s and AT&T’s processes nationally, had been secretive.

“The absurdity of this game of whack-a-mole with secrets when we are evaluating life and death communications seems to have no end absent legislative action,” he said. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily