Battle for Oregon’s State-wide Radio Net

Posted by Sam Churchill on

There’s a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse… and everybody in the village says, “how wonderful. the boy got a horse” And the Zen master says, “we’ll see.” Two years later The boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, “how terrible.” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight… except the boy can’t cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, “How wonderful.”
Charlie Wilson’s War

Two years ago Oregon budgeted $665 million for a state-wide radio network that would allow the state’s public safety agencies to talk with one another on their radios. But Democrats and Republicans balked at the expense, reports the Oregonian today, and rejected the proposal.

But the radio project — called the Oregon Wireless Interoperability Network — lives on says the newspaper today.

To keep it alive, Governor Ted Kulongoski and public-safety agencies are battling political resistance in Salem. State officials have now shaved the estimated cost to $414 million — most of it borrowed. But other lawmakers, including leaders in a position to stop the project, have doubts the state should push ahead while so many other essential services face cuts.

Supporters say Oregon needs a system that works better than cell phones, which have limited coverage and can crash in emergencies.

“One of the saving graces of this project is the way we’ve been able to find partners in this,” says Lindsay Ball, whom Kulongoski named in 2007 to run the project.

He says engineering changes in the original plan and partnerships with local governments have reduced the estimated construction cost to $414 million. Officials estimate it could cost another $25 million a year to operate it, and they acknowledge they don’t know yet where the money would come from.

But it’s primarily a voice network.

Cellular networks, by contrast, can deliver maps, photos and even video. And cellular operators AT&T and Verizon, could build a state-wide network — at no expense to taxpayers — if the FCC’s 700 MHz auction for combined public service/commercial service happens this year. Unstrung, says Verizon Wireless may complete its nationwide deployment of its Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology by 2014.

The FCC’s 700 MHz auction raised $19.6 billion for the U.S. Treasury with AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless accounting for the bulk ($16 billion).

700 MHz Spectrum Winners (2008)
Source: Telephony
  Bidder Total bids Spectrum acquired
#1 Verizon Wireless $9.36B C Block open access covering lower 48/key metro and economic areas
#2 AT&T $6.64B B Block metro licenses in large cities across the U.S.
#3 EchoStar/DISH Network $711M 168 E block (unpaired) licenses across the U.S.
#4 Qualcomm $588M E Block licenses in Boston, Los Angeles and New York City; placed sole bid on D Block public safety license (but didn’t win)
#5 MetroPCS $313M Single A Block license in Boston
#6 Cox Communications $304M 14 A block, 8 B block
#7 US Cellular $300M 25 A block, 127 B block
#8 Cellular South $191M 14 A block, 10 B block
#9 CenturyTel $150M A and B Block licenses in its LEC territory
#10 Vulcan Spectrum $112.8 $43.6 million for A Block” in Portland, Salem and $69 million for Seattle, Tacoma, Bremerton

But last year’s 700 MHz auction left the innovative 10 megahertz “D-Block” unsold. The “D Block” would have combined public/private communications services to create some 22 Mhz, in a nation-wide radio network. The public would get rural broadband, while first responders would get a network built without the taxpayer’s dime.

Unfortunately, the $1.3 billion minimum price the federal government set for the “D Block” was not achieved so it remains unutilized and will be re-auctioned, probably this year. The joint public/private spectrum required stiff requirements for 24/7 operation and universal availability.

Verizon’s C-Block coverage in the 700 MHz band appears nearly total right now. AT&T will cover 100 percent of the top 200 markets when their auction winnings are combined with their purchase of Aloha Partners’ 700 MHz spectrum in the lower 700 MHz band. Combined with their AWS spectrum coverage, AT&T will now cover 95 percent of the U.S. population with new cellular licenses. Both AT&T and Verizon plan to use LTE in the 700 MHz band for broadband wireless.

The architecture of Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network would be similar to New York’s Canceled Statewide Wireless Network, which failed to meet its performance criteria, according to NY state administrators.

Dave Houghton, director of emergency management for Portland’s Multnomah County (below) explains the goals of an exercise this April called Cascadia Peril.

The scenario for Cascadia Peril ‘09, is a major earthquake and a coastal tsunami. The three-day exercise test the region’s readiness for a magnitude 9 quake off the Oregon coast that scientists say is coming. The exercise ran from April 24th to April 27, 2009. It’s the first time that a volunteer mapping team posted critical data using online maps in a U.S. exercise.

Gregg Swanson, director of Humaninet explains that humanitarian organizations are increasingly aware of the promise of geospatial information systems, and are utilizing tools like Google Earth.

Humaninet’s Maps 2.0 tool enables humanitarian organizations to post, access, share, modify, and use critical, geo-referenced information in emergency relief operations, post-emergency reconstruction, and continuing development projects.

They need broadband access. They’re not going to get it with Oregon’s $414m OWIN network.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network, Emergency Mapping, Cascadia Peril, Commentary: Future of Public Safety Communications, New York Cancels Statewide Wireless Network, New York’s $2B Statewide Network Close to Canceling, M/A-COM to NY: We’re Good, NY Gives Tyco 45 days to Fix Network, NY State’s Public Service Net: Failure?, NY State’s Wireless Net Broken?, New York State’s $1B Wireless Net, FCC: What’s Wrong with 700MHz Public Service?, Senate Testimony on 700MHz Sharing, Public Safety: We Like 700MHz Public/Private Plan, Hearings on 700MHz Auction, TerreStar Roams with AT&T, Skyterra/MSV Get $500M, MSS: Battle Space, Verizon: LTE in 25 to 30 Markets By 2010, Verizon Makes its Move for Universal Service Fund, FCC Finalizes Rules on 700MHz: Limited Open Access, No Wholesale Requirement, AWS Auction: It’s Done!, RUS Funding for 700 MHz, Rural Broadband Gets A Plan, Cyren Call Proposes Joint Commecial/Muni for 700Mhz, AT&T Buys 700MHz from Aloha, Cyren Call to Manage Public Safety Spectrum, Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network, General Dynamics Wins IWN Contract, The Smartest Guy in the Room, 700 Mhz Worth $28B, and The 700 Mhz Club.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009 at 8:43 am .

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