FirstNet Responds to Southern Linc Arguments on Core Network, Other Issues

May 30, 2017–The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) says it disagrees with Southern Linc’s contention that the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which established FirstNet, permits states to propose alternative plans to deploy both a radio access network (RAN) and a core network.

In an ex parte filing in PS docket 16-269 reporting a meeting with representatives of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, FirstNet said it “emphasized that a number of Southern Linc’s concerns are outside the scope of this proceeding and should have instead been raised with either Congress prior to enactment of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (the ‘Act’), or FirstNet, the entity Congress charged with taking ‘all actions necessary to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the [NPSBN].’

“Notably, Southern Linc began its most recent filing with a lengthy legal analysis of section 6202 of the Act,  but in that analysis failed to acknowledge the basic and fundamental premise of section 6202, which mandates that ‘[FirstNet] shall ensure the establishment of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network.’  Regardless of this omission, it is disingenuous for Southern Linc to now raise its concerns related to the provisioning of multiple core networks with the Federal Communications Commission (‘Commission’), having failed to do so when FirstNet, the entity tasked by Congress with taking all actions necessary to build and operate the NPSBN, sought comment on this specific question more than two years ago.”

FirstNet noted that in 2015, it “concluded that a State choosing to opt out must ‘use the FirstNet core network to provide public safety services within the State.’  Southern Linc’s efforts to resurrect this issue are clearly an inappropriate attempt to forum shop on a matter that was fully resolved by FirstNet consistent with its mandate under the Act.  Accordingly, this issue is no longer subject to debate and should be dismissed out of hand.”

FirstNet added that “if an opt-out State enters into a public-private partnership or arrangement through which its private sector Radio Access Network (RAN) partner will leverage Band 14 excess capacity to provide commercial services, the opt-out State’s partner will be required to use its own commercial core, or purchase third party commercial core services.”

“Based on Southern Linc’s recent filings, FirstNet is concerned that Southern Linc may attempt to partner with an opt-out State without having to submit a thorough and complete alternative plan to the Commission on the opt-out State’s behalf,” the filing continued. “If this is the case, such a haphazard approach could put the deployment of a nationwide interoperable public safety network in jeopardy and should not be permitted by the FCC.

“FirstNet reiterates that States choosing to opt out have a responsibility not only to public safety within their own State, but also to public safety and citizens in adjoining States and across the country.  This is not a decision to be taken lightly,” FirstNet stressed. “Indeed, if a State chooses to opt out, it will be a substantial endeavor that will come with significant responsibility and risk.  Congress recognized this risk and intentionally imposed a stringent process to ensure that interoperability is not compromised by allowing an unprepared State to opt out and build its own RAN.”

FirstNet also said that “[a] State choosing to opt out must therefore do much more in its alternative plan than prove to the FCC that it extended an invitation to prospective suppliers or contractors.  Rather, based on the common usage of ‘demonstrate,’ the opt-out State must prove or make clear by reasoning or evidence that it will actually be able to achieve the Act’s interoperability objectives.  Under no circumstances can this be done by the opt-out State simply providing the Commission with proof that it sent an invitation to vendors.  Moreover, it would be nonsensical for the FCC, the expert agency tasked by Congress with ensuring that opt-out States have met the Act’s interoperability objectives, to base its determination simply on whether or not an opt-out State extended an adequate invitation to potential vendors.”

“We also discussed Southern Linc’s argument that the Commission’s evaluation of alternative plans should ‘assess only whether a state plan is workable’ and that the Commission ‘should not require any specific method of demonstrating compliance with the technical interoperability requirements or interoperability with the NPSBN.’   FirstNet reiterated that the Commission has an important role to play in ensuring nationwide interoperability.  It is imperative for the FCC to conduct a diligent and thorough investigation to ensure than an alternative plan is consistent with the Act’s interoperability objectives.  A simple determination that an alternative plan is ‘workable’ will not suffice,” FirstNet also said.

It also said the FCC “should reject Southern Linc’s argument that a State choosing to opt out should be given an opportunity to revise its alternative plan after it has been disapproved by the Commission.”- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily