Rockefeller aide says letter rebuking Motorola Solutions ‘stands on its own’
Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller, D-W.V.—long a champion of the nationwide public-safety broadband communications network being built by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)—rebuked Motorola Solutions for its alleged effort to undermine FirstNet in a letter sent to Greg Brown, the company’s president and CEO.
In the letter sent last week, Rockefeller referenced media reports that indicated Motorola Solutions has financed a public-relations and lobbying campaign designed to “erode support for FirstNet’s work and mission.”
“The construction of a nationwide interoperable public safety network threatens the current dominance your company enjoys in the public safety radio device and equipment market,” Rockefeller wrote. “But it also represents a long-overdue step forward for public-safety communications. Everybody must now work together to maximize the limited resources we have to build this network.”
Rockefeller concluded by telling Brown to cease the campaign and to “work constructively" with the FirstNet board of directors.
When the story first broke, Politico—a website focused on national politics—alleged that Motorola Soutions supplied public-safety officials with a sample letter they could use to express dissatisfaction with the activities of FirstNet’s board of directors. Subsequent stories alleged that Motorola lobbied state and public-safety officials to take similar action.
Rockefeller’s letter to Brown cites no specific examples of wrongdoing, only the media reports. When asked today whether Rockefeller’s investigators had uncovered any evidence of the alleged wrongdoing, a spokesman for the Senate Commerce Committee—Rockefeller chairs the committee—only would say that “the letter stands on its own.”
When asked why Rockefeller would wait until now to reach out to Brown—the story broke in June—the spokesman declined to comment.
A Motorola spokesman today also declined to comment on Rockefeller’s letter, but he provided the following statement:
“The need for a nationwide public-safety network has been communicated to Motorola by its customers for many years on behalf of the millions of citizens they are entrusted to protect and serve. We have not only listened, but appreciate and share their views. Moreover, we were pleased to join them and dozens of public-safety organizations to support FirstNet.
“It should be noted that Motorola was a strong supporter of the legislation that created FirstNet, and the company believes the law that established FirstNet should be implemented to give all public-safety end-users fair and reasonable access to this critical resource. Again, our objective is to help make FirstNet a success and enable local first responders to do their jobs more safely and effectively.”
In a press briefing held during last month’s Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference, Bob Schassler, Motorola Solutions’ senior vice president of government solutions, said that the company is working closely with FirstNet, and that reports indicating a “controversial situation” between the two entities “have been exaggerated” to some extent.
“We’re trying to understand their perspectives. We’re trying to share our perspectives. And we’re clearly trying to figure out how we can be a strong ally to FirstNet,” Schassler said. “Obviously, we’re biased, but we feel like we can be of major assistance in their mission that they have, and hopefully they feel that way. It’s obviously our job to convince them that that’s the case.”
Currently, Motorola Solutions is working with the the Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications Systems Authority (BayRICS) to build a 700 MHz public-safety LTE network in the San Francisco Bay region—the company not only is the equipment vendor, but also the grant recipient for the project—and is the vendor for public-safety LTE systems being built in the state of Mississippi and Harris County, Texas.
With reporting by Donny Jackson.