May 2011 Inbox
May 05, 2011
Following are comments we’ve received from readers about recent online and print news and articles. If you’d like to comment on an article, email edit@RRMediaGroup.com
Nice spin job... Shame most of it is total bs.
I agree, there should be no fee to narrowband and it should have been communicated long ago — the means to process without a fee.
I also agree the applicants should be able to request a return of the fees that have been paid.
It’s good to see others are working toward what is right, in a world where so much is wrong.
In response to “Narrowbanding Education?” in the May issue of MissionCritical Communications on Page 6
Richard Harper's letter reminds me of the U.S. Post Office. There are always "postage paid" items from the post office "advertising" food drives, buy stamps online and change your address. But if the price of postage goes up, I don’t receive a postcard or other communications from the post office to my mailbox. I'm magically supposed to know that the price has gone up.
Well, that is the government operation that charges for mailboxes at the post office where the mail comes to and gets sorted for local delivery, but doesn’t charge for non-post office delivery, which I bet costs much more. I guess it makes sense if one doesn't think about it long.
Thank you for highlighting the issues of competition in both the Project 25 (P25) and Long Term Evolution (LTE) public-safety market. We see some posturing and conflicting explanations from the vendors and certain public-safety entities that are buying public-safety systems.
There are three quotes that should be highlighted:
1) Motorola emphatically states it does not manufacture or sell proprietary public-safety systems. It is widely known that Motorola has, indeed, sold P25 systems with proprietary features that exclude the full use of the system by non-Motorola subscriber units. Whenever possible, Motorola takes steps to discourage non-Motorola radios even after vigorous Compliance Assessment Program (CAP) testing of P25-complaint radios. P25 is not really a standard and allows many features to be exclusively proprietary within the suite of so-called standards.
From the article “Motorola Solutions Responds to Lawmaker Questions about Public-Safety Competition” from May 10: “Motorola does not manufacture or sell any proprietary public-safety networks,” said the letter from Motorola, signed by Karen Tandy, senior vice president of public affairs. “The public-safety market is highly competitive.”
2) As part of the justification to maintain a relationship with Motorola for its statewide P25 system, one state included the following statement in the sole-source, no-bid hearing documents. Note the statement in the paragraph below: “The STARCOM21 system design and technology is proprietary.” This seems to be in conflict with No. 1.
From the state of Illinois sole-source, no-bid contract justification hearing documents, April 20: “If services, what are the unique qualifications this vendor possesses? Provide specific, measurable factors/qualifications: The STARCOM21 network is the only statewide, digital, public-safety radio communications network solution available in Illinois. The network was built, tested and is being operated by Motorola, according to the state’s standards and requirements. The STARCOM21 system design and technology is proprietary. Motorola, the owner and operator of the STARCOM21 network, has managed the contract with the state and has provided excellent service for almost 10 years. As a result, Motorola is intimately and uniquely familiar with the state’s operations, and Illinois’ regulatory environment. Motorola is also an industry leader in radio communications, having built 32 statewide networks in the United States.
3) Even with competitive bidding, once a system is implanted in a state or region, and as others want to acquire similar equipment or capabilities, the neighboring agencies plan a “me too” approach and use their neighbor’s contract to allow them to waive bidding and revert to a sole-source, no-bid posture. Once this method starts in a area, the over-reach of the incumbent vendor becomes ubiquitous. So the vendor only needs to win one bid, and the other contracts fall in line with cessation of competition thereafter. Great news for the first-in-the-door vendor. In my state, this has allowed the vendor to lock up competition for network provisioning for two decades, and the me-too no-bid contracts are like an Illinois prairie fire whipping throughout the counties and municipalities.
“Texas Gets Broadband Waiver, Officials Address Motorola Contract” from May 17 states: “Barbara Armstrong, assistant Harris County attorney, said the contract awarded to Motorola Solutions earlier this year was procured using a cooperative agreement contract from the Houston/Galveston Area Council (HGAC). Armstrong said the state’s Interlocal Cooperation Act allows cooperative agreement contracts among governmental entities for efficiency, effectiveness and cost efficiency. The act allows an entity to use another entity’s competitively bid contracts to procure goods and services.”
Conclusion: There is still a suppression of competition, and where there is competition after the first contract is consummated and as others come on board through purchasing consortia, competition is, in essence, terminated. But most folks are A-OK with these arrangements. Nothing to see here, move along …
Western Will County Communications Center (WESCOM)
American Radio Relay League Information Manager Dan Henderson states: “The 420 – 440 MHz band is not public-safety spectrum …”
In the Detroit area, it is public-safety spectrum.
City of Southfield, Mich.
It appears that Congress is concerned about competition in the broadband public safety marketplace by looking at the competition in the Project 25 (P25) public-safety marketplace. While Motorola’s response may appear to be reasonable in the statistics on broadband sales to date, it would be good to look into the P25 sales history. Were the two contracts Motorola secured for broadband sales openly bid, or were they sole source, no bid? For instance, if all of these sales were sole source, no bid, then 100-percent of its sales were from this contract method. All contracts are two-sided, meaning, both the seller and buyer were involved in the scheme.
If the inspector general or Congress would like to carefully review the sales of P25 trunked radio systems (TRS), they should pose the following question to all producers/manufacturers of P25 TRS: “How many sole-source, no-bid contracts for trunked radio systems have been awarded to your company since the beginning of P25?”
Because the answer(s) to this question exists in the public domain
, if the manufacturer refuses to answer, the data would be available by way of clipping services or a search of public records.
The results would lead one to be able to answer three questions:
• What percentage of all P25 TRS were sole source, no bid?
• What percentage of all P25 TRS were awarded to Motorola (and every other manufacturer) regardless of competitive bidding?
• What percentage of all P25 TRS were awarded to Motorola via a sole-source, no-bid scheme?
The opportunity was missed to get answers:
If the broadband space is more competitive than the perception of the lack of competition in the P25 space, great. But please look at the P25 market space to see how competitive the market really is or is not.
Will the 2011 Safecom grant guidance apply to broadband grants similar to P25 grants, meaning, if federal funds are to be used, then the project must be openly and competitively bid?
Western Will County Communications Center (WESCOM)
There are two key issues when it comes to the use of LMR by public school districts. The first is the lack of a districtwide communications plan. Radios are purchased without a centralized plan and set of purchasing criteria in place. Many districts issue requests for proposals (RFPs) for radios of a particular make and model without consideration for the features they need or use. Many districts refuse to consider radios other than the specific make/model named in the bid document. Schools districts and the taxpayers would be much better served with the development of a districtwide communications plan that included technical specifications based on a needs assessment not brand loyalty.
The lack of a districtwide plan has also given rise to a runaway proliferation of FCC licenses in many districts. Instead of applying for a master license that includes all or most of the radios used in a district, many districts hold an individual license for each school. That is a waste of the local dollars spent on licensing and of the FCC's time and resources needed to administer the licenses.
Most school districts have a curriculum plan to teach their students. They would do well to develop and use a technology plan that includes their telephones, computer and radio networks. They would also serve themselves and their taxpayers well to go right to the 6.25-kilohertz digital radio technology the FCC has spelled out in its narrowbanding report and orders (R&Os).
Paul J. Toth