Last week, Richard Mirgon published Part 2 of his series condemning Verizon for mucking up the water by essentially lobbying states to not Opt-In to FirstNet (or are they lobbying states to explicitly Opt-Out?)

He references two articles that suggest Verizon doesn’t take responsibility for public safety issues. The first was an instance where a Sheriff in Colorado could not make 911 calls with his Verizon phone. The issue turned out to be a problem with CenturyLink’s fiber backhaul network. A Verizon Wireless spokesperson pointed out (rightly so) that they could not guarantee “redundancies” in other companies’ networks.  The Sheriff is quoted as wanting to hold Verizon Wireless accountable for this and Mirgon uses this as an example of Verizon “failing to take responsibility”.

Sorry Mr. Mirgon, I’m on Verizon’s side on this one. The days of the AT&T phone monopoly are gone. These are complicated systems. The Sheriff should be railing at whoever screwed up the CenturyLink fiber, not Verizon.

The second article references 8500 “rural” Verizon customers in areas where Verizon does not in fact operate its own network.  Due to high usage, the roaming fees Verizon is paying exceed what they are charging the customers – so they’ve been told to find service elsewhere. Seems reasonable to me. Mirgon has an issue with Verizon for not hanging on to unprofitable customers and suggests that it doesn’t have the corporate culture to “support rural America”. Huh? This is only 8500 customers – most allegedly huge users of data (one family was at the 50 GB level but objected because they have an “unlimited” plan).

My take: the argument that Verizon should be not lobbying states to Opt-Out of FirstNet needs to be made rationally, not using articles from probably third-rate newspapers in the middle of nowhere (sorry rural America) as evidence. Mirgon’s citation of two instances that don’t pass the common-sense test as evidence of Verizon’s lack of public safety experience and committment is bogus.

The relevant arguments surround the history of the RFP and why Verizon (presumably) did not bid, and what it was told the consequences of that would be. In an article in Washington Technology,  Michael Maiorana, senior vice president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, suggested that Verizon didn’t bid on the FirstNet contract because of its structure. His comment:

“We chose not to bid on the FirstNet RFP because it was essentially structured as a spectrum deal,” he said. “We were not interested in commercializing FirstNet’s spectrum and we didn’t need extra network spectrum to build out our nationwide network.”

Ok, fair enough. But did Verizon at least respond with its concerns as a rationale for its “No Bid”. Some have suggested it was the silent partner in the Rivada bid….?  Verizon should have simply responded with its rationale for its “No Bid” and then all of this wouldn’t look like sour grapes. But because they sat on the sidelines, that is exactly what this now looks like.

But did anyone really think Verizon and AT&T would get along on this? They are the de-facto wireless duopoly in this country and exist to tweak each other.  And so this will continue to play out and the important metric for FirstNet will be how many states decide to Opt Out. In the meantime, A Wall Street Journal article in August quotes Verizon representatives as suggesting they are building priority access into their network to be used by first responders. Calling it the “private network core”, it will be available in 2018. Despite AT&T’s FirstNet win, Verizon controls (by its account) 67% of the police, fire and first responder market and clearly its not going to walk away from that.

If I’m on the FirstNet payroll, I’m probably pretty nervous on how this will play out. For the rest of us spectators, it looks like the fight is just getting started….and who doesn’t like a good fight?