Sen. Jay Rockefeller has accused first responder equipment manufacturer Motorola Solutions of trying to undermine the FirstNet interoperable broadband public safety network that is paid for out of FCC spectrum auctions.
In a letter to Motorola Solutions President Gregory Brown, Rockefeller cited published reports that the company had paid outside consultants to "undermine FirstNet."
"Your company's actions to oppose this important effort to strengthen our Nation's public safety communications systems directly contradicts the intent of Congress, and it potentially endangers the success of a network that will benefit millions of law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders," Rockefeller wrote in his letter. "I will not stand by while your company continues to defend a business plan solely because you are unwilling to make the investments and commitments necessary to be a true competitor on the new level playing field for public safety communications equipment."
Rockefeller said that rather than trying to defend its dominance in a market for "costly, and often proprietary, equipment," (it makes public safety two-way radios among many other things) Motorola instead needs to start making devices for FirstNet.
Motorola would not comment directly on the allegations about the campaign, but in a statement reiterated its support for FirstNet.
"The need for a nationwide public safety network has been communicated to Motorola by its customers for many years on behalf of the millions of citizens they are entrusted to protect and serve," the company said. "We have not only listened, but appreciate and share their views. Moreover, we we're pleased to join them and dozens of public-safety organizations to support FirstNet. It should be noted that Motorola was a strong supporter of the legislation that created FirstNet, and the company believes the law that established FirstNet should be implemented to give all public safety end-users fair and reasonable access to this critical resource. Again, our objective is to help make FirstNet a success and enable local first responders to do their jobs more safely and effectively."
In his letter, Rockefeller acknowledged that public support, but said the company's private actions tell another story. He said the stories indicated that Motorola is "financing a public relations and lobbying campaign to erode support for FirstNet.
Motorola Solutions should not be confused with phone maker Motorola Mobility, which was acquired by Google in 2011.
The issue is near and dear to Rockefeller. FirstNet was proposed by the 9/11 Commission after the lack of communications cost--or at the least failed to save--lives of first responders in the Twin Towers. It was the driving force behind Rockefeller's championing of FCC spectrum auctions, most notably the broadcast incentive auction, to pay for it.