The National Telecommunications and Information Administration today released a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for the State Alternative Plan Program (SAPP). States and territories could seek funds if they decide to opt out of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system and build their own radio access networks (RANs).
“If a state wants to assume responsibility for the construction, operation, maintenance, and improvement of its Radio Access Network (RAN) to interoperate with Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), and has received approval of its alternative plan from the FCC, the state must apply to NTIA for the authority to enter into a spectrum manager lease from FirstNet. The state may also apply for RAN construction grant funding,” NTIA noted.
“The SAPP NOFO lays out the application requirements necessary to meet five key statutory demonstrations focused on ongoing interoperability, financial stability, technical compliance, and comparable security, coverage, quality of service, and timelines. Taken together, the demonstrations will establish whether a state is prepared to provide public safety with interoperable and reliable broadband service over time consistent with the rest of the NPSBN,” NTIA added.
“Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov and must be received by the www.grants.gov online system no later than 90 calendar days after a state receives formal approval of its alternative state plan from the FCC,” NTIA said. “NTIA will accept grant applications on an ongoing basis after the FCC’s approval date and continue to monitor submissions in grants.gov to ensure adherence to this 90-calendar day application window.”
“Recipients of a lease authority grant must enter into an SMLA [spectrum manager lease agreement] with FirstNet within six months of the award date, unless an extension is granted,” NTIA said. “The period of performance for RAN construction funds is not to exceed three years; NTIA may consider a no-cost extension based on demonstrated need for up to an additional two years for the RAN construction funds.”
The application review process will consist of an administrative and completeness review, a merit review, a programmatic review, and an award recommendation.
“Expert reviewers will conduct the merit review on the SMLA portion of the SAPP application,” according to NTIA. “Following the merit review process and for each eligible application that obtains a rounded average score of three for each demonstration, program staff will review the grant construction funds application for conformity with programmatic objectives as demonstrated through the grant construction funds application narrative, budget narrative, and budget detail spreadsheet.”
NTIA said that it “ultimately recommends approval or disapproval of applications to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) grants officer, who makes the final award decisions.”
“Due to the complexity of the grant program, applicants will be provided two opportunities to remedy administrative and completeness review deficiencies and three opportunities each to remedy merit review and programmatic review deficiencies,” NTIA explained. “Applicants will be provided specific feedback on deficiencies, and NTIA will be available for questions and support.”
“Funds awarded under the SAPP may not be used for the following activities, among others: a) Operating expenses of the applicant, including payments included as a part of the SMLA, leasing fees for towers, backhaul, easements, or other recurring vendor fees; b) Ongoing maintenance, operation, and improvement costs; c) Pre-award or application costs; d) The purchase of land, existing structures, or rights-of-way; except with prior justification and approval from NTIA[;] e) Relocation expenses and payments; f) Contingencies for construction or project costs to include cost-overrun contingencies; and g) The purchase of vehicles not used to expand the network such as cell on wheels (COW), user devices, equipment not directly related to the construction of the state RAN and establishment of connectivity to the core and services to provide connectivity to the core such as satellite backhaul.”