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FirstNet Has Now Been Awarded...What’s Next?

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced on March 30 that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has awarded the nationwide broadband network (NPSBN) contract to AT&T. The network will provide first responders the advanced communication and collaboration technologies they need to help them do their jobs safely and effectively.

The IAFC has been a fierce supporter of FirstNet since its inception. Once built, emergency responders for the first time will with the first nationwide, high-speed, broadband network dedicated to public safety. It will also create innovative opportunities for EMS and the way we integrate into the healthcare system.

Now that the contract has been awarded what’s next for FirstNet? Members of the FirstNet outreach and design teams will work closely with the designated single officer or governmental body of a state to develop and deliver a network deployment plan that meets their needs.

FirstNet will then provide the governor of each state or territory with a notice of the completion of the request for proposal process; the details of the proposed plan; and the funding level for the state or territory. Upon receipt of the plan, a governor will have 90 days to choose whether to participate in the plan provided by FirstNet or conduct its own deployment of a radio access network (RAN).  If a governor decides to opt out, he/she is required to notify FirstNet, the National Telecommunications Information Agency (NTIA), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). After providing the notification, the governor has 180 days to develop and complete requests for proposals for the construction, maintenance and operation of the RAN within the state. The state is required to submit an alternative plan to the FCC that is interoperable with the NPSBN and complies with the minimum technical interoperability requirements under the act.

If a governor decided to opt-out and build its own RAN, this will undoubtedly delay the process of building out the RAN in the state and will ultimately delay the buildout of the NPSBN. IAFC members should be contacting their FirstNet State Points of Contact to get up-to-date information about their specific state plans and provide input as their governors decide whether to opt out of FirstNet. If the states allow FirstNet to build out the RAN in the states as it will result in the nationwide broadband network being built out in a shorter time frame.

You may have heard, one of the bidders on the FirstNet procurement, Rivada Mercury LLC, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government over what it says is the illegal and “wrongful exclusion” of the consortium from the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) procurement process for a partner to build and maintain a nationwide public safety broadband network. The lawsuit delayed the award of the contract until now. FirstNet had planned to announce an award of its contract by Nov.1, but it said in late October that it was still working on the procurement. Earlier in the process, pdv Wireless received a notice that its consortium had been eliminated from the competitive range. pdv Wireless chose not to protest its elimination from the process.

The consortium asked a federal court to grant declaratory and permanent injunctive relief blocking the Interior Department, which is handling FirstNet’s procurement, from awarding a contract without “including Rivada Mercury in the competitive range, conducting discussions with Rivada Mercury in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulations which governs the procurement process.

Now that the court has ruled and found that FirstNet conducted the procurement properly, AT&T has been awarded the nationwide broadband network contract.
Rivada Mercury has the right to urge governors to opt-out and build their own RAN. The statute allows that to occur.
We urge IAFC members to make their voices heard and participate in the process and provide governors their views on whether the governor should allow FirstNet to build out the RAN in a state or to opt-out. If a governor decides to allow FirstNet to build out the network with AT&T this will accelerate the buildout of the network and provide public safety the needed broadband network.

Chief Gary McCarraher is chairman of the IAFC Communications Committee. Jim Goldstein is IAFC staff liaison to the Communications Committee.

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