FirstNet, AT&T Say They Are Pleased with SPOC Meeting on State Plans

Representatives of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T, Inc., said today they were pleased with the reception they got from state officials at a two-day meeting in Dallas that concluded today. The meeting was held to discuss the upcoming delivery of state plans. “The first day, you had a lot of people walk in the door with skepticism on their face because they didn’t know what the solution was because they hadn’t been told yet,” Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president-FirstNet, told reporters during a conference call this afternoon. “Their mood clearly softened over the hours and over the two days. … So we’re feeling really good about it.”

However, he said he did not want to speculate about how many states and territories would agree to allow AT&T to build their radio access networks (RANs) and how many would seek to build their own.

“They came in with a little bit of trepidation,” agreed FirstNet Chief Customer Officer Rich Reed, of state points of contact (SPOCs) and their colleagues from 56 states and territories at a meeting that drew more than 200 people, the largest for any of the five SPOC meetings so far. But he said that state representatives are now able to get some of their questions answered since FirstNet awarded a 25-year contract to AT&T to build and maintain a nationwide public safety broadband network (TR Daily, March 30). “They’re very, very pleased with the content that we’ve delivered,” he added.

This week’s meeting was closed to the news media.

Mr. Reed said FirstNet’s goal is still to deliver all the state plans simultaneously via an online portal on June 19. “We’re no longer using the term draft state plan. We’re just delivering the most complete actionable state plan possible,” he said. “The reason for that is we’ve heard from many states that they have a desire to move more quickly than we originally envisioned and we wanted to build in that flexibility.”

He said states will have 45 days to review the state plans and make any comments. FirstNet will then take 45 days to review those comments and respond to them. Then the plans would be made official. However, if states have no questions with the original versions of their plans, they can notify FirstNet and the 90-day period that governors have to officially review their plans and notify FirstNet if they plan to opt out can begin. States then can notify FirstNet at any point that they want AT&T to build their RANs.

While the FirstNet and AT&T officials said state officials seemed pleased at the two-day meeting, particularly as it continued, Mr. Reed said that some concerns were voiced about “the terms of use” of the online portal where plans will be viewed.

He said there is a need to protect AT&T’s intellectual property and ensure the disclosure of any information does not create “any security vulnerabilities.” The terms of use will be refined, Mr. Reed said, adding, “We’re going to find a place where everybody’s comfortable.”

At the two-day meeting this week, FirstNet and AT&T explained to state officials what information they can expect in their plans and how the portal will work. They also made it clear that states won’t be on their own. “The goal is to reassure states that they’re not alone in this process,” Mr. Reed said. “We are going to continue to consult, we’re going to continue to engage, and we’re going to be there to help explain this content to their stakeholders.”

As for eligible users of the network, Mr. Sambar said primary users will be police, fire, and EMS responders and “extended” primary users will include others such as power companies. But he said there are “many nuances” about who will be considered primary and said that AT&T wants to discuss those with public safety agencies and “we want to be flexible in our solution.” He would not reveal any pricing information to reporters but said those details will be in state plans.

Mr. Reed was also asked about whether the state of Mississippi was behind in the preparation process. He said that while the state did not submit initial coverage and other data to FirstNet as other states did, FirstNet has consulted with them. “They’re not behind in the process,” he said. “I’m quite satisfied that our state plan proposal to them will meet their needs, and I think they’ll be very satisfied.”

Mr. Sambar said he had engaging discussions with Mississippi representatives at this week’s meeting. —Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily