GAO Report Critical of FirstNet Buildout; Public Safety Dissatisified
February 3, 2020
While AT&T is meeting—or on track to meet—all of its contractual network coverage and adoption milestones for FirstNet, the wireless carrier is still lacking several key oversight elements, according a report by the Government Accounting Office.
AT&T is required to provide a current master schedule to FirstNet monthly, but the schedule falls short of a reliable schedule per GAO best practices.
“FirstNet uses a quality assurance surveillance plan to evaluate AT&T’s performance,” the report read. “However, FirstNet still lacks a reliable master schedule to review, communication with relevant stakeholders regarding contract oversight, and meaningful information on end-users’ satisfaction to gauge performance quality.”
Public-safety officials were dissatisfied with the quality of information received from FirstNet, according to the GAO, which noted that FirstNet had communicated few details on AT&T’s progress or FirstNet’s oversight.
“The lack of information has left stakeholders speculating about what, if any, oversight FirstNet conducts; sharing more information about the oversight FirstNet conducts could improve public-safety sentiment for and support of the program,” the GAO report said.
On the positive side, AT&T met the first coverage milestone, which was 20 percent of nationwide coverage by March 2019, and it is on track to meet the first nationwide adoption milestone by March 2020. However, progress in coverage varies from state to state, and adoption targets have been exceeded in most states but lag in others. FirstNet officials say differences from state to state are allowable, because the most important milestones are nationwide.
The GAO Report (https://www.gao.gov/assets/710/704058.pdf) was issued as AT&T faces competition from Verizon for the public safety community as evidenced by its emotion-tugging Super Bowl commercial, which was “not about what 5G can do” but about qualities of a public safety personnel.
On Verizon’s website you can find out what 5G can do, such as real-time intelligence, immersive training exercises, remote asset operations, and on-site augmented reality, using drones, mixed-reality lenses, smart-city sensors and other latency-sensitive IoT devices — all with the help of Verizon’s 5G network.
“[First responders] need to be ready…with a communications network capable of supporting next-generation technologies. So equipped, first responders could potentially help protect and save lives in entirely new ways—and be response ready,” Verizon’s website said.