Localities Seek Swift End to FirstNet Litigation

February 22, 2017–The Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications Systems (BayRICS) Authority and the city of Boston submitted an amicus brief today seeking a swift resolution to litigation that has postponed an award by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to a partner to build and maintain a nationwide public safety broadband network.

In a filing in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in “Rivada Mercury LLC v. United States of America” no. 16-1559C, the localities said, “It has been almost thirteen years since the release of the 9/11 Commission Report and five years since the passage of the Act authorizing the build out of the FirstNet network. While respecting the importance of the public contracting process and the complex issues that arise with significant procurements, amici seek to iterate the important public safety considerations entwined with an expeditious resolution of the case before the Court. “With the build out of a dedicated public safety communications system, FirstNet will put an end to vulnerabilities from inoperability and communications challenges that jeopardize being able to keep our communities and emergency responders safe when responding to emergencies – both small and large,” the brief said.

“In order to be prepared and provide our first responders with reliable communications in emergency situations, the build out of the FirstNet network must proceed as expeditiously as possible so that the dedicated public safety communications network recommended by the 9/11 Commission almost thirteen years ago and authorized by Congress five years ago can be implemented,” they said. “Accordingly and acknowledging the importance of transparency in the public contracting process, amici respectfully request that the Court decide the bid protest as expeditiously as possible.”

The brief said the parties were not speaking to the specifics of the bid challenge. Other briefs have been filed under seal in the case. BayRICS and Boston also asked the court to permit them to file the brief.

FirstNet had hoped to announce an award by Nov. 1, 2016, but Rivada Mercury filed a lawsuit over what it says is the illegal and “wrongful exclusion” of the consortium from the procurement process (TRDaily, Dec. 2, 2016). AT&T, Inc., is the only other publicly known remaining bidder.

Meanwhile, FirstNet said it expects to make an award to a partner this year. FirstNet mentioned that timeframe in its 2016 annual report to Congress released today.

The Rivada Mercury complaint said that Rivada Mercury’s counsel and the Department of Justice’s counsel “have agreed that Interior will not make an award under the RFP until March 1, 2017.” However, FirstNet is expected to wait until the litigation is resolved.

“We anticipate completing the selection process in 2017,” FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth said in a letter to Congress that is part of the annual report.

The report also noted the growth of FirstNet’s staff from only a handful of people in 2012. “We have focused our dedicated and extraordinarily talented team on organizational development to grow and enhance our operational capabilities prior to the selection of a private sector partner,” the report said. “We currently have a staff of 202 professionals, many of whom previously served or currently serve in public safety roles.” —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily