Is Our Emergency LTE Network Plan Getting Hijacked By Verizon?
FirstNet Board Member Claims Shady Dealings Afoot
In September of 2011 the National Preparedness Group released a report
stating that national U.S. emergency networks still aren't up to snuff a decade after the events of 9/11. Several Congressional efforts to build a nationwide LTE network have stumbled over the last few years courtesy of partisan gridlock, though the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 did
create the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which according to its website
is supposed to objectively help coordinate the build of an 700 MHz LTE-based emergency broadband network.
Except back in April, one FirstNet board member started claiming that shady dealings were afoot
, most notably that those with ties to industry's largest players (primarily Vodafone, Verizon and AT&T) had started conducting secret meetings, making decisions outside of the board room, hired outside industry consultants with ties to industry, and that those with actual security and emergency backgrounds were being elbowed out by industry insiders. Paul Fitzgerald, an Iowa Sheriff and a FirstNet board member had this to say back in April:
"The plan was developed largely by consultants who were not engaged in a fair, transparent, objective manner as required by the law, whose qualifications in relation to the public-safety communications have never been disclosed or demonstrated to the board, who have prior relationships with certain members of the board who come from the commercial wireless world, not the public-safety community, and who are paid amounts that have never been disclosed to the board as a whole," said Fitzgerald.
FirstNet is denying any impropriety
or that a secret plan has been built, though this sounds like fairly standard operating procedure where Verizon, AT&T and government money is concerned (after all, their lobbying power far outweighs that of actual first responders and those with a non-financial stake in the results). FirstNet's new GM, Bill D'Agostino, is conveniently coming to that post directly after employment at Verizon. Fitzgerald meanwhile continues to insist that a plan heavily relying on Verizon's network has been constructed covertly by Verizon, and that further public meetings will be theatrical in nature.
We will probably wind up with a functional emergency network eventually, but it will ultimately cost taxpayers significantly more once the incumbents get done gaming the system to obtain their pound of flesh.