Urgent Matters

Don’t be too quick to judge New Hampshire harshly for signing deal with Rivada

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Last week, New Hampshire signed an agreement with Rivada Networks to build the RAN in its state, if it decides to opt out of FirstNet. Did the state jump the gun, or was it merely keeping its options open?

Last week, the state of New Hampshire’s governor and executive council voted unanimously to conclude its procurement process and sign a deal with Rivada Networks for the exclusive rights to build and maintain the LTE radio access network (RAN) for the state, if—and this is a very big “if”—New Hampshire opts out of FirstNet.

Many in the public-safety community have been outspoken in their criticism of New Hampshire, arguing that the state has jumped the gun on its decision to opt out of FirstNet (for those not familiar with FirstNet, “opt out” means a state or territory chooses to build the RAN instead letting FirstNet and its partner do it; no state will be allowed to not have a FirstNet system within its borders).

Only time will tell whether such criticism is warranted, but there are some aspects of the New Hampshire-Rivada Networks agreement that many people may have overlooked. Here are some statements that I’ve heard recently, with some context that should be considered:

“New Hampshire already has decided to opt out.” Many observers saw the announcement about Rivada and figured that New Hampshire effectively has decided to opt out of FirstNet, despite the fact that the contract explicitly states that New Hampshire has not made an opt-out decision, noting that it may never actually have Rivada Networks build anything.

This is supported by statements from officials from both the state and Rivada Networks that nothing will be built until New Hampshire makes a formal opt-out decision.

Others have argued that those are all just words. While New Hampshire legally has not made an opt-out decision—from a legal perspective, it’s not even an option until the state plans are presented next spring—the agreement with Rivada Networks effectively is a prejudgment that the state plans to opt out of FirstNet, many have stated.

But there’s a major flaw to this argument: The law states that each governor will decide whether his/her state or territory will pursue the opt-out alternative, and New Hampshire doesn’t know who its governor will be next spring. Current Gov. Maggie Hassan is running for the U.S. Senate, and voters are going to the polls today to vote in the primaries for the governor’s race.

Not only would it be irresponsible for a state to prejudge whether it will opt out of FirstNet even before seeing what FirstNet and its partner will offer the state, it is logistically impossible in New Hampshire, because no one knows who will be governor when the decision has to be made.

(Random thought: I wonder if the FirstNet opt-out decision is—or will be—a campaign issue in New Hampshire? Of course, that would require folks to understand what FirstNet actually is, much less what will be involved in making an opt-out decision.)

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

98112 (not verified)
on Sep 13, 2016

New Hampshire is acting very strategically, and frankly - yes-doing its due diligence. Every single time some momentous action occurs in the NPSBN (FirstNet) arena such as the NH contract event; the initial reaction by some is to diminish those steps taken that could remotely position a state to do what it has determined to be best for its responders, taxpayers, and all affected.
FirstNet erred early on by paying patronizing lip service to public safety and its known interests and needs Then going full speed ahead with a "take this and eat this" approach for public safety while appeasing the carriers through the actions of the FirstNet Board. The FirstNet vision has always been above all directed on how to make this about the well being of the carrier industry, not about public safety first and foremost.
Now as the clock winds down and the much touted FirstNet partner is selected; all states would be wise to take a lesson from New Hampshire. There are some serious issues with how this entire "ACT" has been governed out of D.C.. It is abundantly clear decisions were made, transparency was vanished, and doors were closed from day one. Long before FirstNet was even stood up. Public Safety is now a mere cover for a well planned wind fall to other interests before those of the PSE's responders.
Every state should acquaint itself with this entire effort, and evaluate all of the past-present-and future elements and value of FirstNet.
If they do so-I have no doubt that what New Hampshire has done by positioning themselves for maximum benefit and options to choose from; and not that of the only one served up by FirstNet will be repeated many times.
The NPSBN is an essential concept, and one of huge advantage to responders. FirstNet and their to date questionable methods are not and NEVER were the only way to achieve the goals of the NPSBN.

John Celentano (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2016

Donny:
I'm glad you clarified the New Hampshire situation.
One prospective bidder believes that the Rivada solution is using proprietary technology that ultimately will prove to be more expensive for the State.
As you explained, it's not over til it's over!
John

Phil Burks (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2016

"(Random thought: I wonder if the FirstNet opt-out decision is—or will be—a campaign issue in New Hampshire? Of course, that would require folks to understand what FirstNet actually is, much less what will be involved in making an opt-out decision.)"

Wow! GREAT thought! And educating the public on FirstNet IS going to be tricky! Look how long it's taken all of US, who have a clue!

Scott Newman (not verified)
on Sep 14, 2016

From a pure logistics point of view, it is insane that ALL States and territories aren't following suit already. 270 cumulative days isn't enough time for most large municipalities to complete their due diligence and select a product in the best interest of their constituents, let alone an entire state. It would actually be more negligent to sit back and hope for the best in the FirstNet proposal, as it clearly may not be in the best interests for all involved. By the time they really conducted a fiscal, governance, business case and use analysis on the FirstNet plan, they will have no time to develop their own. Sure the states may be able to wait until the State Plan to actually release their RFI/RFP, but they most certainly should have the entire package ready to release by the time that State Plan comes in.

The States wouldn't wait around for some other entity to provide with a plan for roads, bridges, or other infrastructure - they'd look into multiple alternatives, because that's in the best interest of public money. So what, pray tell, makes FirstNet so special?

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Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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