(While I haven't followed the WISPA list very closely lately, I saw some postings there about Kelly that led me to believe that I should also post this on the WISPA General list. It was originally posted to the emergency-relief list.)

On Saturday, September 7, 2005, the team of WISPs pre-positioned at the former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas to provide Internet access for the large Hurricane Katrina relief camp there discovered that SBC has been onsite at Kelly for approximately one week installing communications infrastructure. SBC personnel stated that SBC would be able to provide all telephone and Internet access that the relief camp will need.

 To understand this turn of events, a brief sequence of events is in order.

1)   In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the FCC requested various entities nominally under its jurisdiction to keep it informed of capabilities and plans to restore communications in the affected area.

2)   PART-15.ORG responded to the FCC request, explaining that WISPs in the affected area were asking for donated systems and labor to provide Internet access to relief shelters and key agencies such as law enforcement agencies whose facilities were no longer usable or operational.

3)   Following up on PART-15.ORG’s input, the FCC requested PART-15.ORG to submit more detailed “capabilities” documentation. As part of such documentation, a “template” plan for providing communications to the recently designated relief shelter at Kelly Air Force Base was included. The “Kelly plan” would provide wireless backhaul, inter-base distribution, Wi-Fi in all shelter areas, VOIP telephony, and computers for shelter resident use, most of which would be operational within 48 hours of access to the base.

4)   The FCC was impressed with the “Kelly plan”, enough so to provide it to ARC Headquarters IT staff.

5)   On Saturday, September 3, PART-15.ORG was told by the FCC that “The Kelly Plan is a go.” (Exact quote.)

6)   Within 24 hours of “Go”, PART-15.ORG mobilized volunteers, donations, and began developing a management infrastructure to manage the numerous and overlapping tasks.

7)   For an entire week, the growing team of WISPs contacted Kelly personnel, made technology plans, arranged logistics, and everything else they could do without actual access onto the base. PART-15.ORG tried continuously to arrange access through their FCC contacts, and the local team pressed on its local contacts to arrange access.

8)   On Saturday, Sepember 10, the team of WISPs learns of SBC’s work at Kelly.

Learning of SBC’s work at Kelly was disheartening, to say the least. For one, the WISP team came fully prepared to install infrastructure equivalent to SBC’s efforts, but based on Wireless Internet technology, enabling the installation to be largely complete within 48 hours of access to the facilities… stymied only by lack of access to Kelly.

One of the most disturbing things about “Kelly WISP incident” is that the FCC and ARC squandered WISP industry resources by requesting support for Kelly- resources that would have otherwise been deployed to support WISPs working directly in the affected areas. The WISP community invested great effort in mobilizing resources to Kelly – equipment, labor, design time, formation of an extended management team, numerous conference calls, time taken away from jobs resulting in missed paychecks, submission of endless revisions of paperwork to the FCC, the sleepless nights spent planning for Kelly… the list goes on. It’s small consolation that PART-15.ORG learned a lot from the “Kelly WISP Incident” about how to put together a distributed organization.

In the aftermath of the “Kelly WISP Incident”, PART-15.ORG has now redirected the portions of its assembled resources for Hurricane Katrina Relief that were intended for Kelly and other FCC and ARC requests into direct support of WISPs operating in the affected areas, as WISPA has done from the beginning.

It seems to me that that in widespread disasters, organizations on the scale of PART-15.ORG, WISPA, and indeed the entire WISP industry may not be able to, by their nature, effectively interface with very large organizations on the scale of ARC and FEMA, and probably the FCC. There seems to be too great a mismatch between the WISP industry and its:
* bias for action,
* distributed membership that can see the conditions in an affected area and rapidly report them, and * ability to quickly mobilize support in the affected areas from fellow WISPs and the WISP industry to rapidly implement emergency communications with minimal overhead

In vivid contrast, the large organizations are:
* biased toward extended analysis, planning, and process,
* hierarchical – key decisions about what is needed are made at the top instead of in the field,
* responses are implemented on a strategic scale, which takes time.

Where the stakes are so high and time is short, the two may well be simply incompatible.

To clear up any potential misconception, this is Steve Stroh’s account of the “Kelly WISP Incident”. Any errors in fact are mine. I asked Michael Anderson for some clarification on points, and Michael knew that I would be posting this message, but he did not have any substantial input into what I was going to say, nor has he seen or approved the content of this message before it was posted to the list.

I request that you not make this message public. I will be putting out a more generic “WISPs weren’t needed at Kelly, redirecting those resources to directly support WISPs” statement for public consumption soon. I felt strongly that the direct participants in PART-15.ORG’s efforts relating to Kelly were owed a complete explanation and getting this out to the lists was my first priority.

 
Thanks,

Steve

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Steve Stroh
425-939-0076 | Skype: stevestroh2 | [EMAIL PROTECTED] | http://www.stevestroh.com

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