County executive requests Bay Area LTE-network investigation
A county executive in the San Francisco Bay Area last week asked a U.S. Department of Commerce official to investigate the a $50.6 million broadband stimulus grant awarded to Motorola to fund the deployment of a 700 MHz LTE wireless broadband network for first responders in the region.
In a letter to Inspector General Todd Zinser, Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith stated that an “investigation is warranted and necessary in order to ensure that public funds are administered in a transparent and fair manner at all levels of government,” asserting that the grant was “secured in a manner that lacked transparency and prudence.”
This is not the first time that government entities in the Bay Area have requested that the grant dollars be reviewed. In his letter, Smith reiterated that the decision to team with Motorola in a public/private partnership was never voted upon by legal representatives of the government entities involved.
Last month, a review of the vendor-selection process by the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) determined that the procedure used was adequate, but Smith and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed have indicated that some key facts may have been misrepresented. In particular, both officials noted that the Bay RICS Policy Group — the entity on behalf of which Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern signed a public/private partnership agreement with Motorola — did not exist when the deal was done on March 15.
“Sheriff Ahern was not in a position to make the kind of representations that he made about the public-private partnership,” said Emily Harrison, deputy county executive for Santa Clara County, in an interview.
In addition to securing the $50.6 million grant, Motorola also agreed to pay a 30% match. Many industry observers question whether the 700 MHz network in the Bay Area can be funded without the almost $70 million in committed capital.
However, Smith contends that government entities in the region have not received adequate information about their financial obligations if they opt to participate in the broadband initiative.
“We would like for Bay Area jurisdictions to have the opportunity to take all relevant and pertinent information to our governing bodies in order to fulfill the requirements of the BayWEB project,” Smith states in the letter. “In order to do so, we request that information and documents related to the alleged vendor-solicitation process and the subsequent Motorola application and award be fully disclosed to the Bay Area agencies.
“We are puzzled and disappointed by the ongoing failure to provide this reasonable information, which in my view lends further support to the need for an investigation.”