April 18, 2017–The First Responder Network Authority has reiterated that the FCC should require states that submit alternative state plans to have finalized a contract with a vendor to build a radio access network (RAN) and that the Commission should complete its review of alternative plans within 60 days.
An ex parte filing yesterday in PS docket 16-269 reporting on a meeting with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Zenji Nakazawa, his acting public safety adviser, said that FirstNet representatives “discussed the Commission’s responsibility to carefully review a state’s alternative plan to ensure that the interoperability mandated by Congress is not compromised. To accomplish its mission, the Commission should be clear in requiring that alternative plans make substantial commitments to interoperability. To that end, we discussed the statutory requirement for an opt-out State to ‘develop and complete requests for proposals’ prior to submitting its alternative plan to the Commission. FirstNet reiterated that it would be nearly impossible for the Commission to ensure nationwide interoperability if a state choosing to opt-out has not awarded a contract to a vendor. Indeed, the Commission’s determination must be based on a full factual record and not a simple proposal.
“During the meeting, FirstNet also urged the Chairman to impose a firm 60-day deadline for the Commission’s review of alternative plans. Such a deadline would impose a needed structure to the process and would provide certainty to all interested parties,” the filing added.
States have complained about how difficult it will be for them to complete the RFP process in the short timeframes they will be given under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which established FirstNet. Under the law, governors have 90 days after receiving the FirstNet state plan to notify the government that they want to opt out of having FirstNet’s partner build a RAN in their states.
Within 180 days after that, states must complete an RFP and submit an alternative plan for approval by the FCC, which is charged with reviewing whether plans would comply with minimum technical interoperability requirements. If the FCC approves a state plan, the state has to apply to NTIA for authority to secure a spectrum capacity lease agreement with FirstNet. States seeking to build their own RANs may also apply to NTIA for grant funds to help cover those costs. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org