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Friday, February 25, 2011

NTIA's Strickling to Silicon Valley Governments on Stimulus Project Allegations: Drop Dead


StimulatingBroadband.com 02/25/2011 San Francisco -  Assistant U.S. Secretary of Commerce Lawrence E. Strickling yesterday kept on a collision course with the leaders of the two largest governmental bodies in Silicon Valley over the controversial $50 million BayWEB public safety broadband stimulus grant.
Assistant Commerce Secretary & NTIA Chief Larry Strickling, at Minority
Media and Telecom Council Summit of 2010
Strickling, who heads the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of Commerce, told officials of the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County, California that he and his agency would continue to move the project ahead at full speed.


The response came despite detailed, documented, and serious allegations by the two governments of substantial wrongdoing in the selection of the grantee, and outright charges of ethical breaches by public employees.


"We have taken your allegations seriously and reviewed the matter carefully," wrote the NTIA chief to Mayor Chuck Reed and County Executive Jeff Smith in a letter dated February 24, "but we decline to de-obligate, suspend, or otherwise impose high-risk special award conditions on the project on the grounds that such action is not justified at this time." 


San Jose & Santa Clara Document the Allegations, Again
Strickling was responding to the request dated January 18 by the two officials to have NTIA Grants Officer Ms. Sonja Wyatt "address the concerns raised in this letter by suspending the award pending corrective action." 


Reed and Smith have been calling for a series of federal reviews, a grant payment moratorium, and similar actions since they first leveled serious charges of ethical misconduct and mismanagement against regional managers responsible for BayWEB last September. In the January 18 letter, they also called on the federal Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to investigate and suspend the grant.  

Strickling's letter responded to the missive of January 18, and to ones of January 31, and February 15 by Reed and Smith in which they iterated, with greatly added detail, many of the the specifics of their previously expressed problems with the project. In particular, the Reed–Smith letter of January 18, which runs to 11 pages, includes 44 footnotes, and attaches 13 exhibits comprised of scores of pages, is itself the single most exhaustive documentation of the crucial challenges raised to BayWEB.

In the most recent documents, with the January 18 letter serving as the foundation list of and documentation of complaints, the Mayor and the County Executive stated again that the application filed in Round 2 of the federal broadband stimulus program by Motorola, Inc. (now Motorola Solutions, Inc.; (NYSE: MSI), did not have an authorized local governmen- tal partner as its federally required local partner.

San Jose and Santa Clara have said for months that the local partner mentioned in the application, the BayRICS Policy Group, did not legally exist when the application was submitted. The lead regional managers of the application process have said variously that the Group either did exist or was in formation at the time. This publication was the first to print the fact that all 4 of the primary agency managers of the process that selected Motorola are immediate former employees of the company itself.


San Jose - Santa Clara Call the Cops
The most serious action taken to date by the two governments has been to request an investigation of BayWEB by Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser.  IG Zinser confirmed in congressional testimony, given to the oversight hearing of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held February 9, that his Office was indeed conducting an investigation of the grant award. Given Strickling's intransigence and unwillingness to examine the allegations about BayWEB to the level of detail provided by the Silicon Valley governments, Zinser's probe is today the best prospect for a thorough federal look at the issue.

NTIA's Strickling Sees No Evil
Strickling's rebuttal of yesterday was even more obtuse than the previous statements of the regional public officials, all employees of the City and County of San Francisco. The Assistant Secretary of Commerce, a presidential appointee, fully avoided answering the questions at any level of detail, or with any documentation approaching that supplied by San Jose and Santa Clara County.

"Among other things, we relied on the statement of support received from key governmental units within the Bay Area, including Santa Clara and the City of San Jose, which indicated to us that jurisdictions such as yours would move forward expeditiously in the event of a grant award to cooperate in the construction of this network and successful completion of this important project," responded Mr. Strickling. 

The Administrator argued against the other major objections of Reed and Smith to the BayWEB project. The City and County had alleged the selection process of Motorola was improper, that the project was not "shovel ready" as at least rhetorically required of stimulus grants, and that the 700 MHz spectrum license issued under a waiver by the federal Communications commission had been improperly transferred away from the control of the four cities, including San Jose, to which the waiver had been issued. 

Additionally the two jurisdictions asked that the project be suspended until local governance issues could be resolved, and questioned potential costs of the project to be borne by local tax payers.

For each question Strickling had a response that failed to address the concerns of the officials, telling them that the project would move forward without them if necessary, but that it would move forward.


"It is vital that all interested parties move forward with all dispatch to ensure that the citizens of the entire Bay Area benefit from this project," stated the NTIA chief.

Resources:
The BayWEB Examination is our compendium of information on the project. We believe it is the most comprehensive such collection available. We have assembled links to all media coverage of the issue, to online documents secured by us from confidential and open sources, to documents secured by others and by this publication under federal and state public records filings, and to our own published reporting.

Note on awardee identification: The project grant was applied for by, and subsequently awarded to, the entity Motorola, Inc., formally traded as (NYSE: MOT). Motorola, Inc. was split into 2 new and separate companies, which both began trading on January 5, 2011.  The network infrastructure side of the business, all public safety equipment lines, and the network integration / management services divisions became Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI). We have retroactively re-tagged our BayWEB stories with the MSI ticker symbol. StimulatingBroadband.com

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