FirstNet Releases Dozens of Final Interpretations

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) today released two public notices that include more than 60 final legal interpretations on issues raised in public notices released in September 2014 and in March (TRDaily, Sept. 17, 2014, and March 9).  As TRDaily reported when the FirstNet board authorized release of the public notices at a board meeting earlier this month (TRDaily, Oct. 2), the interpretations address high-profile issues such as the definition of “rural” and the fact that fee revenues from states assuming responsibility for building their own radio access networks (RANs) must be reinvested into the nationwide system.

But there are scores of other final interpretations of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which established FirstNet. There are a total of 62 final interpretations. FirstNet officials had said at the board meeting that there were 64, but three dealing with the definition of “consumers” were consolidated into one, according to FirstNet spokesman Ryan Oremland.

FirstNet said in the final interpretations on its first public notice that it “defines a ‘secondary user’ as any user that seeks access to or use of the NPSBN for non-public safety services,” and the prohibition on FirstNet directly serving “consumers” “does not prohibit or act as a limit on secondary users with which FirstNet may enter into a covered leasing agreement.”

FirstNet also said that the term “secondary basis” means “that any network capacity will be available to the secondary user unless it is needed for public safety entities as defined in the Act.”

As for the definition of rural, FirstNet said it will use the definition under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936  and has concluded “that a lower boundary (e.g., ‘wilderness,’ ‘frontier’) is not necessary to satisfy rural coverage requirements under the Act, and thus FirstNet does not intend to establish any such boundary.”

As for interpretations on issues raised in the second public notice, FirstNet said that technical requirements apply “regardless of whether the equipment will access or use the NPSBN via a FirstNet-deployed RAN or a State-deployed RAN.”

Network policies will also apply to states that deploy RANs, FirstNet said, and it said it could require network policy compliance “as a condition of entering into a spectrum capacity lease …”

FirstNet also said it is required to complete “the request for proposal process for the State in question, rather than the nation as a whole, prior to presentation of the plan to the State, assuming that FirstNet can at that stage otherwise meet the requirements for presenting a plan (and its contents) to such State.”

It also said “that ‘completion’ of the request for proposal process occurs when FirstNet has obtained sufficient information to present the State plan with the details required pursuant to the Act for such plan, but not necessarily at any final award stage of such a process.”

In addition, a governor’s decision is binding on all jurisdictions in a state and governors must await notice and presentation of a plan before making a decision whether to opt-out of having FirstNet build its RAN. Also, a state can either notify FirstNet within 90 days if it wants FirstNet to build the RAN or provide no notice within that timeframe. If a state decides to opt-out and fails to finalize an RFP within 180 days, it can’t submit an alternative plan, FirstNet said. In addition, if the FCC rejects a plan, the state can’t build its own RAN.

FirstNet also said “that the Act provides sufficient flexibility to allow the determination of whether FirstNet or a State plays a customer-facing role to public safety entities in a State assuming RAN responsibilities …”

FirstNet also said that “it can and must take into account funding considerations, including the ‘cost-effectiveness’ of an alternative state plan as it may impact the national deployment of the NPSBN, in determining whether and under what terms to enter into a spectrum capacity lease with a State.

“FirstNet concludes as part of its cost-effectiveness analysis in determining whether and under what terms to enter into a spectrum capacity lease, it (i) must consider the impact of cost-inefficient alternative RAN plans, including inefficient use of scarce spectrum resources, on the NPSBN, and (ii) may require that amounts generated within a State in excess of those required to reasonably sustain the State RAN, be utilized to support the Act’s requirement to deploy the NPSBN on a nationwide basis,” the public notice added. “FirstNet concludes as part of its cost-effectiveness analysis, it must consider State reinvestment and distribution of any user fees assessed to public safety entities or spectrum capacity revenues in determining whether and under what terms to enter into a spectrum capacity lease.”

FirstNet also concluded “that the Act requires that States assuming RAN responsibilities and charging user or subscription fees to public safety entities must reinvest such fees into the network. FirstNet concludes it could impose a reinvestment restriction within the terms of a spectrum capacity lease with a State.”- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily