September 20, 2016-The state of Alabama has issued a request for proposals (RFPs) seeking bids to build and operate a public safety broadband network in the state if it decides to opt out of having the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) partner build its radio access network (RAN).Responses to the RFP, which was issued through the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), are due Oct. 14.
The RFP notes that the governor will have 90 days after getting a state plan from FirstNet to decide whether to have FirstNet’s partner build the RAN in his or her state, or to pursue an alternative plan. “If the Governor of Alabama decides to opt-in to FirstNet’s Plan for the State of Alabama, a contract may not be awarded as a result of this RFP,” it said.
The RFP noted that the Spectrum Act, which Congress passed as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, doesn’t require opt-out states “to return the profits from any … spectrum leases to FirstNet. Rather, the Spectrum Act explicitly authorizes states to use ‘revenue gained by the State from such a leasing arrangement’ for the purpose of ‘constructing, maintaining, operating, or improving the radio access network of the State.’” FirstNet’s legal interpretation is that states that assume responsibility for building their own RANs have to reinvest fees revenues into the system. “Regardless of whether a state opts into FirstNet, a state, local government, or eligible nongovernmental organization (‘NGO’) may also retain for their use any revenues generated from their operation of a public safety network using the 12 MHz of dedicated narrowband frequencies,” the RFP added.
Earlier this month, Rivada Networks LLC won a contract from New Hampshire officials to prepare an alternative state plan in the event the state decides to opt out of having FirstNet’s partner build its RAN (TRDaily, Sept. 7). Rivada is one of three entities to submit a bid in response to FirstNet’s RFP.
Anna Morris, a spokeswoman for the ALEA, said the state issued the RFP “to be proactive and initiate the process to gather information and consider any [and] all options available to the state. The decision to issue this RFP prior to receiving the State Plan from FirstNet was made to ensure Governor [Robert] Bentley can start the decision making process and will have sufficient time and information to make the best decision for the first responders and the citizens of the State of Alabama. Alabama has not made a decision to opt-in or opt-out of the FirstNet State Plan.”
In reaction to the Alabama RFP, a FirstNet spokesperson said today, “Based on our outreach and consultation, we would expect the States to do their due diligence leading up to the State Plan decision. We will continue to work closely with the states to ensure the Governor has the information they need to make the most informed decision for their public safety community.
Asked to respond to the Alabama RFP, Rivada co-Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chairman Declan Ganley said the company is “reviewing it with interest.” – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org