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New York emergency wireless scrapped

State cancels billion-dollar contract

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New York state has scrapped plans for a statewide emergency network on the (not unreasonable) grounds that the contractor can't make the thing work as promised.

The state has already spent $54 million since the contract to build the network was awarded to M/A-COM back in 2004, but it hopes to get that money back - as stipulated in the contract. M/A-COM placed $50 million in an escrow account to cover the state's losses in the event the kit didn't work, money to which the state has now requested access.

However, M/A-COM disputes the failure of its OpenSky product, claiming that the system might have a few teething problems but that the state is trying to wriggle out of a contract it can't afford.

According to the state, problems include microphones randomly switching on, sticky volume controls, and simple device failure. The project was planned to provide emergency connectivity across the state after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre demonstrated how vulnerable the existing communications networks are. The statewide network will cost $2.1bn, assuming it gets built.

New York state is still adamant that the network will be built, but that M/A-COM has failed to fulfill the contract and must pay back the money already spent, while M/A-COM reckons they've fulfilled the contract and that the state is trying to stop the network being built. With such large sums involved, a court case seems inevitable, during which the communications network of New York State remains as vulnerable as ever. ®

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