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Our $7 Billion Emergency LTE Network Might Just Be Broken
by Karl Bode 08:17AM Wednesday Mar 05 2014
Our belated attempt to build a nationwide emergency LTE network has already faced criticism due to board members' close ties to wireless carriers; the organizations investigation of itself not exactly eliminating those concerns. That was followed up with concerns about potential budget shortfalls, with insiders concerned the $7 billion doled out to the program may not be anywhere near enough.

More than a decade after the events of 9/11 highlighted our awful emergency communications infrastructure, and another two years after the LTE network was proposed, it appears that the project is stuck in an unsurprising patch of dysfunctional purgatory. A report by Government Technology written by a FirstNet State Point of Contact for Washington doesn't paint a flattering picture.

In the report, Bill Schrier notes that in addition to the scrambling by carriers to get their share of this $7 billion, there's a scrambling among agencies to get their share of the money as well. This cash rush appears to have caused gridlock, with very few actual networks or even employees to show for it:
I think FirstNet has about 25 federal employees working for it. Their goal, I believe, is to have 100 or more full-time staff to do the work. Gee, two years into a $7 billion project and only 25 full-time staff have been hired!?...key positions go unfilled, such as the CIO and CTO positions.
Schrier goes on to note that other emergency networks that were under construction at the time the project was proposed were also put on hold -- meaning in some instances our emergency communications networks are worse off than when we started. While it might be a little early to label this another broadband boondoggle (Schrier promises the people who are involved are competent and intelligent) there's a few unmistakable signs that it could easily turn into one if somebody doesn't give the entire thing a swift kick in the digital posterior.

topics flat nest 

Rockville, MD

not too early...

to label this another broadband boondoggle. This is just another opportunity for corporations and the politically connected to steal money from the public.


Re: not too early...

We should have hired the Koreans or Japanese to do the program. It would have been up and running with world class quality.
Cry "Havoc" and let slip the dogs of war!


Glen Head, NY

No Problem is Insurmountable

...if you throw enough taxpayer money at the problem and then stick them with the bill for usage charges! I would not be surprised to see an increase in the USF or a new tax, sorry "FEE" since we do not impose new taxes, to support a new carrier slush fund.

It amazes me that with our supposedly free press, none of this waste and malfeasance really gets exposed. Frankly I suspect it will only get worse as we the people footing these bills continue to get treated like suckers while the politicians and CEO's at the telecom's continue to line their pockets as fast as they can.
I support the right to keep and arm bears.

Mechanicsville, VA

What emergency LTE network?


Tech Nut

Fort Lauderdale, FL

Re: What emergency LTE network?

said by ropeguru:


Exactly?! Why not simply have the carriers build it and then run it and we simply use theirs? I mean why start something we have no idea how to do? This is why government is a scam and simply doesn't know how to do anything right!
"The relationship between what we see and what we know is never settled..."

I Void Warranties

Billings, MT

Here's an idea..

How about the government give the project to small companies who aren't money-hungry a**holes that want a few $b to line their pockets?

But wait, that might actually make sense.


Stupid idea

Just get service from Verizon. We don't need YET ANOTHER network.

No Relation To The Bobcat

Wappingers Falls, NY

Re: Stupid idea

This would be the same Verizon that for ten years could not keep signal running to save my life, and 97% percent of calls ended by being dropped? NIMBY

Orange, CA
said by BiggA:

Just get service from Verizon. We don't need YET ANOTHER network.

We had a mere 5.8 Earthquake here about 5 years ago (no one injured, barely any damage, I think the news found a brick chimney that came down somewhere), and it shutdown the wireless networks of all carriers for over an hour, because everyone was making the "are you OK?" type calls. I could only get through to my wife via a land line.

We've seen the same thing with 9/11. Also with Katrina, but that was largely because of massive damage. But in a nutshell, when something big happens, don't rely on any cellular network to get your message to someone (or 911 for that matter) because the cellular networks WILL go down.

They are simply not up to the task of everyone trying to use their cellphones at the same time. That's why I keep a landline at my house, because as long as the infrastructure itself isn't damaged, it is likely the only way to get a hold of people and/or emergency services. Your cell phone will be useless in the first few hours.
"I reject your reality and substitute my own!"


Re: Stupid idea

I'm sure that the government could get a contract for a higher QoS priority with Verizon for order of magnitude less than it would cost them to build their own network. Also, when VoLTE goes live on their network with B4 and B13, the whole overloaded call thing will be a thing of the past, as the network will be able to adapt it's data capacity to support an almost infinite number of phone calls.

AT&T's network already has MASSIVE voice capacity, and once their quad-band LTE network has VoLTE, it will have virtually unlimited capacity as well, although their specs for backup batteries and generators, while good, aren't as good as Verizon's.

Buffalo, NY

Re: Stupid idea

This is actually already available for voice calls on the Cell network. It is called Wireless Priority Service (WPS). I'm not sure that there is a similar service for data traffic....



Re: Stupid idea

Then there's the answer.

Also, even on today's networks, text messages will usually go through since they use so little network capacity.


Kansas City, MO

Because what you want in an emergency...

Because what you want in an emergency is a network that can be taken down for miles with a 9volt battery.