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1/12/2009
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N.Y. State Public-Safety Network May Be Canceled

The contract with vendor M/A-COM took a sharp turn for the worse last August, when the state encountered three rounds of failed testing.

The ongoing battle over New York state's $2 billion Statewide Wireless Network (SWN) is reaching a climax as state officials are said to be preparing to cancel the project with the vendor, M/A-COM.

Designed to beef up the state's public-safety response systems in the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the project has been beset by delays as the network's vendor M/A-COM, a subsidiary of Tyco Electronics, has battled with a myriad of state agencies and officials over the network.

According to reports Monday, Gov. David Patterson is reviewing the controversy and is close to making a decision on whether to shut down the network.

The situation took a sharp turn for the worse last August when State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said "three rounds of failed testing" demonstrated that the network didn't "work right" and should not proceed. M/A-COM has countered that it "has met or exceeded" the requirements of the SWN and will defend that position.

The New York Times quoted M/A-COM's attorneys at the Weil, Gotshal, & Manges law firm as maintaining the state was preparing to use technical issues to cancel the network contract, although political and financial pressures were the real reasons for the anticipated cancellation. M/A-COM claims the state's Office for Technology (OFT), which has oversight over the contract, defamed M/A-COM over the contract.

M/A-COM's current stance on the contract hasn't changed significantly since last August, when it stated: "Contrary to public allegations made by OFT, Tyco Electronics has met or exceeded contractual requirements for the project and is prepared to vigorously defend that position."

At the same time, Comptroller DiNapoli laid out the state's basic complaint. At the time, he said: "New York is not much closer to a statewide network today than it was when this whole process started. After three rounds of failed testing, it is apparent that this system is not ready to move forward. M/A-COM has not met its contractual obligations, and New York can't afford to spend $2 billion on a system that doesn't work right."

M/A-COM has had various networking contracts with New York agencies, including public-safety units, since at least 1960. The ambitious statewide deployment -- which calls for a network of radio towers linked from Niagara Falls to the end of Long Island -- gained momentum after the terrorist attack.

The nation is covered by a crazy-quilt pattern of more than 5,000 wireless networks serving public-safety operations. An attempt last year by the federal government's FCC to roll out nationwide public safety networking through the sale of a piece of 700-MHz spectrum failed when no serious bids were placed for the spectrum. The FCC and Congress are attempting to reauction the spectrum in the future.

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