Verizon has vowed that it will build its dedicated public-safety core network during the first quarter—AT&T has said the FirstNet core will be operational in March—and that it would match AT&T’s offering of preemptive access to public safety across its commercial network.

While FirstNet has a public-private partnership agreement with AT&T that include contractual language obligating AT&T to deploy the FirstNet system and meet certain criteria, Sorley said he believes that FirstNet’s oversight of AT&T should be especially attractive to public-safety agencies.

“More importantly, [FirstNet has] something that no one else has, and that’s a technical staff with expertise and access to ensure that that vendor does perform to those requirements,” Sorley said. “To me, the [idea that] ‘The check’s in the mail; we did it,’ is kind of too little, too late. I want somebody who can verify that you’re doing what you’re going to do. I think that was the general consensus of the PSAC.”

McGinnis agreed.

“Verizon does not have the public-private partnership to provide that oversight that FirstNet was built in with,” McGinnis said. “Its responsibility is to its shareholders.”

McGinnis also noted that Verizon repeatedly declined invitations to participate in the development of the nationwide public-safety broadband network.

“Frankly, they’ve had the opportunity to be part of our FirstNet dream—from the early D Block days through the RFP process—and chose not to commit to that public-safety dream,” McGinnis said. “Therefore, their priority and preemption—as far as I’m concerned—is too little, too late.”

In response to the positions expressed by McGinnis and Sorley, Verizon today issued the following statement:

“Mr. McGinnis and Mr. Sorley are entitled to their opinions,” according to the Verizon statement. “Ultimately, public-safety agencies will decide the provider they want to work with. Many of them have already chosen Verizon and we plan to continue to serve these customers in 2018 and into the future.”

In the more straightforward portions of their presentations during the NPSTC meeting, McGinnis said that FirstNet plans to issue task orders to AT&T for the buildout of the FirstNet system “in the coming weeks.” Sorley said that the PSAC plans to concentrate on working with AT&T to enable “bring your own device” (BYOD) usage of the FirstNet system—an important aspect for public-safety agencies that may not purchase subscription for its personnel.