Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Open for Debate - Angry Taxpayer or Disgruntled Dealer - You be the Judge!

I couldn't help but notice some of the comments on the Firehouse Forum thread regarding our July eNewsletter.  The originator of the thread seemed to feel that my reason for calling for adherence to the rules meant that I (and my company) were trying to "stick it to fire departments".  This seemed like a good lead in for my message of today

To begin, it should be noted that it is not possible to "stick it to someone" unless they have placed themselves in a position to be "stuck". Additionally, I go way beyond being a disgruntled vendor.  The fact is that my major concern should be the same as those I serve. Namely, I expect federal grant dollars to be spent for the specified purpose that benefits those who provided the money.  If, as taxpayers, we commit millions of dollars for the purpose of building an interoperable communications network, then I expect that money to be spent for the intended purpose.

Every purchaser has the obligation to stay within the published guidelines while getting the maximum return on investment.  I don't have a problem with purchasers having a vendor preference as long as the taxpayers are getting fair value for their investment. If that investment means purchasing closed standard systems or equipment that does not meet operational standards, THEN, I have a problem.

When an applicant has been granted funds for licensing a communications system by the FCC and then operates their system in a manner not consistent with FCC Rules and regulations, that is illegal and subject to fines and possible forfeiture of a radio operating license.  When that user places a system on shared frequencies using a centralized trunking system on VHF or UHF, they must either have FB8 repeater frequencies cleared of interference to other users, or consent from co-channel users if using standard FB2 repeater frequencies.

When the user, or their representative does not disclose the true facts regarding the operation of their radio system to the FCC, they can cause virtually total disruption of communications systems operated by other public safety agencies. Worse yet, when another agency complaints, these rule violators ignore the complaints with total indifference to the the harm caused by their actions.  It is THEN when I have a problem. 

So you see, it is much more than just selling (or not selling equipment).  It is about doing the right thing, for public safety agencies victimized by illegal radio operation by those who have little or no concern for others.  It is about stopping a continuing practice of vendors selling systems that lock the user into a proprietary source of equipment.  It is about a sales scheme that is totally contrary to the goal of true interoperability, and it is about being sick and tired of millions of taxpayer dollars being wasted by those who don't play by the rules. If that makes me a disgruntled vendor, so be it, but as things unwind, some of you are going to find there is a price to pay for breaking the rules.  If you think that's wrong, write your Congressman.  I did! 

Burch Falkner
At your service!