November 10, 2016–States that seek to opt out and build their own radio access networks (RANs) would be taking an action that “is highly complementary” to those of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), according to Chris Moore, senior vice president-business development for Rivada Networks LLC. “What’s troubling to me frankly … is opt-out has been viewed as anti-FirstNet, when, in fact, it is not, it is highly complementary,” Mr. Moore said during a webinar today that was organized by “IWCE’s Urgent Communications.”
Rivada submitted a bid to FirstNet to build and operate a nationwide public safety broadband network. He was asked if Rivada wins the bid, whether it would not want states to seek to opt out. “Not necessarily,” he replied.
He said that going through the process of examining alternatives to FirstNet’s state plans can be useful for states, and he expressed concern that FirstNet wants to discourage states from considering their options. He also said states should be permitted to use grant funds to examine alternative plans, something they are not permitted to do, and the government should not discourage opt-outs by refusing to award grants for that purpose. Mr. Moore also said he disagrees with those who contend that opting out “is a false choice or is a non-choice.”
Mr. Moore also said that FirstNet should reconsider its legal interpretation that excess revenues from “donor states” have to be invested into the nationwide network to enable deployment in other states.
“You’re taking away a lot of the cooperation of the states,” he said. “There has to be some flexibility for some of those donor states that are going to be contributing billions of dollars literally to be able to keep some of that money,” Mr. Moore added, noting that funds would be used for public safety purposes in those states.
John Stevens, New Hampshire’s statewide interoperability coordinator and FirstNet single point of contact (SPOC), repeatedly stressed during the webinar that just because the state has awarded Rivada a contract to prepare an alternative state plan in the event it decides to opt out (TRDaily, Sept. 7), it doesn’t mean the state plans to opt out. “I just think it’s looked upon as due diligence,” he said. “I just did not want to be … sitting before the governor without an alternative plan.”
“We have never, never indicated that we are opting out of FirstNet,” he added. He also said that the state has “a strong relationship with FirstNet.”
Mr. Stevens stressed that the amount of time the law gives states to notify the federal government that it plans to opt out – 90 days from the delivery of a state plan – to the timeline for preparing an alternative state plan – 180 days – meant it was “impractical” for New Hampshire to wait until it had the state plan before beginning to study its options.
Asked about Rivada, Mr. Stevens said, “If they win the [FirstNet] contract, if they don’t win the contact, we will continue to work with Rivada to build out our statewide application.” He noted that FirstNet’s partner may not build out the network sufficiently in rural areas, and that a public-private partnership at the state level could help address that deficiency.
Dominick Arcuri of DVA Consulting LLC agreed that states will have little time to prepare alternative plans if they don’t begin work before FirstNet delivers state plans. Even if states don’t plan to opt out, the alternative plan process still allows states to engage stakeholders and compare offerings with the FirstNet plans, he said.
Mr. Moore said the recent election and change-over in administrations at the federal and state levels should not have much impact on FirstNet, noting that a “core group of people in the states” will still be on the job and career workers will be in place at the federal level. “I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a change,” he said. “FirstNet has a lot of momentum,” agreed Mr. Arcuri. “I don’t think this will be much of a bump in the road at all.” – Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org