GAO issues report card on FirstNet progress

By Jonathan Nally
Wednesday, 29 January, 2020

GAO issues report card on FirstNet progress

AT&T is achieving or is on track to meet all of its national, contractual network coverage and adoption milestones for the FirstNet public-safety broadband network, according to a US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released on 27 January.

As far as coverage is concerned, AT&T:

  • met the first nationwide coverage milestone (20% of the final expected coverage by March 2019), but coverage varies from state to state;
  • is on track to meet the first nationwide adoption milestone by March 2020;
  • has exceeded adoption targets in most states but lags in others.

Regarding the state-by-state numbers, FirstNet officials have said that variances by state are permissible, as its key milestones are national rather than state based.

While FirstNet has mechanisms to oversee AT&T’s performance, the GAO found that FirstNet:

  • lacked a reliable master schedule to review;
  • lacked communication with relevant stakeholders regarding contract oversight;
  • lacked meaningful information on end-users’ satisfaction to gauge performance quality.

“Having a more detailed schedule to review could improve FirstNet’s insight into AT&T’s deployment and strengthen FirstNet’s use of the schedule as a management tool,” said the GAO.

According to the report, when it comes to stakeholder communication, “Numerous public-safety officials GAO interviewed were dissatisfied with the level or quality of information received from FirstNet, noting that FirstNet had communicated little to no information 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.”

As far as end-user satisfaction is concerned, the GAO said that “FirstNet collects some information that could relate to end-users’ satisfaction, but this information provides limited insight into users’ experiences. For example, AT&T surveys some users to ask whether they would recommend FirstNet services, but a user might do so due to limited alternatives, not satisfaction.

“Although end-users’ satisfaction is not a performance quality measure in the contract, key practices call for using end-user satisfaction information as a metric to gauge performance quality,” the GAO said.

“By not using this information to inform FirstNet’s oversight or related activities, FirstNet could be missing an opportunity to increase assurance of the program’s long-term success.”

The full report and recommendations can be found here.

Image courtesy FirstNet.

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