December 13, 2016–First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) officials have whittled down about 150 draft network policies to about 40 by eliminating some and combining others, FirstNet Chief Technology Officer Jeff Bratcher told board members today at a joint meeting of the board’s four committees. During the meeting in Sacramento, Calif., Mr. Bratcher said that the draft network policies were completed Dec. 9 and are under review. He said they will be ready for delivery when FirstNet delivers state plans. He noted that the policies may be modified after consultation with FirstNet’s partner.
At today’s meeting, the Finance Committee also approved a resolution recommending that the full board tomorrow approve a revision of the committee’s charter so it is consistent with a resolution approved at an August meeting (TRDaily, Aug. 26). The earlier resolution expanded the spending authority of FirstNet’s management team.
At today’s meeting, committee leaders and FirstNet staff discussed activities that occurred in 2016 and some that are planned in 2017. FirstNet is in a bit of a holding pattern regarding the awarding of a contract to a partner to deploy a nationwide public safety broadband network. It had hoped to announce that award by Nov. 1, but the award has been delayed in the wake of a lawsuit filed by Rivada Mercury LLC, a consortium that contends it was illegally disqualified from the procurement’s “competitive range” (TRDaily, Dec. 2). If the lawsuit is not successful, AT&T, Inc., may be left as the only qualified bidder.
The Rivada Mercury complaint said that its counsel and the Department of Justice’s counsel “have agreed that Interior [which is overseeing FirstNet’s procurement] will not make an award under the RFP until March 1, 2017,” but an award seems likely to be delayed further than that by the litigation.
Meanwhile, Brian Hobson, FirstNet’s director-state plans, said during today’s meeting that staffers are processing the 2016 data submissions that FirstNet received from 31 states and territories. Those submissions revised or updated data that was required to be submitted in 2015. Overall, more than 1,500 public safety entities were surveyed for data submitted to FirstNet, he said. Mr. Hobson also noted work on the development of a portal for state plans. He said there will be a “public side” and a “governor’s side” of the portal. He also noted that FirstNet continues to work with people who will be involved in reviewing state plans once they are delivered. “States will continue to have the ability to influence the state plan going into 2017,” he said.
At today’s meeting, FirstNet board Chairwoman Sue Swenson suggested that FirstNet reach out to mainstream media rather than just the trade press. “I think it’s time that we take our story to more mainstream media,” she said. “I don’t think the general public understands the gap that’s out there today [regarding public safety communications] that this will close.”
Chief Customer Officer Rich Reed, who oversees FirstNet’s communications operation, said that FirstNet is getting inquiries from mainstream media but there are limits about what it can talk about due to the ongoing procurement.
FirstNet Chief Financial Officer Kim Farrington outlined a number of steps that have been taken in the past year to continue to improve financial accountability at the authority and provide it independence in its operations. FirstNet is housed in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration as an independent authority. For example, the transfer of the accounts payable function to FirstNet is “a huge step toward … [that represents] our financial independence,” Ms. Farrington declared.
Ms. Swenson said it is important that FirstNet has shown “diligence” on financial issues. “It just puts us in a perfect place for execution,” she added. “We are an independent authority, and it’s great to be enjoying more independence,” said Jim Douglas, chairman of the Finance Committee.
James Mitchell, director of FirstNet’s Network Program Office, discussed FirstNet’s plan for the first 100 days after it awards a contract. The timeline includes a kick-off meeting, preliminary design review meeting, critical design review meeting, and reviews concerning mission critical services, devices, network implementation, nationwide state radio access network planning, and network design. The timeline calls for the state plan portal to be ready on the 90th day. He noted that the schedule could be modified based on the partner’s input. Mr. Mitchell also said that progress is being made in relocating incumbents in FirstNet’s 700 megahertz band spectrum. “We are on schedule, and we are well on our way to ensuring that incumbency isn’t an issue post-award,” he said.
His presentation said that by the end of the month, nearly $28 million will be awarded to 10 applicants, eight of which got their awards in August.
“I really appreciate where we are operationally in that we’re ready for the next phase,” said Ms. Swenson before she adjourned the open portion of the meeting. The board members then met in closed session to discussion acquisition issues. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org