The Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS) board of directors today unanimously approved an agreement on the transfer of LA-RICS’ LTE public safety broadband assets to AT&T, Inc., if the state of California opts into the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) system.
The agreement calls for LA-RICS to transfer its 20% stake in the 75 public safety grade broadband sites, including 13 cells on wheels, as well as spare equipment, to AT&T in exchange for $12 million; up to 3,300 replacement routers, SIM cards, and devices if current equipment used by the authority is not compatible with the FirstNet system; and $2.5 million in services to pay to replace and install any routers or SIM cards that need to be replaced.
The other 80% of the equipment in the LA-RICS broadband network is owned by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which in 2010 awarded LA-RICS a $154.6 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant to build its system (TR Daily, Sept. 28, 2010). NTIA and NTIA’s grants office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must approve the LA-RICS-AT&T asset transfer.
In a news release issued late yesterday, Rivada Networks LLC said that last week it offered $25 million to acquire LA-RICS’ LTE assets. The offer was part of the proposal Rivada submitted in response to California’s alternative FirstNet plan request for proposals (RFP).
“Yet again, AT&T is shortchanging public safety with a low-ball offer for LA-RICS’s assets,” Rivada Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Declan Ganley said. “Rivada’s bid to build a truly statewide public-safety broadband network for all of California went in last week, and it included a far more generous offer for the LA-RICS network.”
“This $12 million offer to LA-RICS is just the latest demonstration that without competition, public safety gets taken to the cleaners,” Mr. Ganley said. “Los Angeles deserves better, and California deserves better.”
In another FirstNet development, Barry Fraser, general manager of the BayRICS (Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications System) Authority, said in a blog posting that he believes that opting into FirstNet is the best choice for California.
“Now that Verizon has elected not to pursue an alternative plan for California, and LA-RICS will agree in principle to transfer their early-build LTE system to AT&T, the only real choice for the State is to opt-in to FirstNet,” Mr. Fraser said. “I strongly encourage Governor [Jerry] Brown [D.] to make the opt-in decision as soon as possible.”
He added, “I must admit that the FirstNet solution today is not the same product that we envisioned seven years ago. The current solution is not perfect, but it is a good start, and there is tremendous opportunity for public safety agencies to make it better in the near future. But only if the State opts-in.”
Among the reasons an opt-in makes sense are (1) it would result “in minimal cost, risk and delay for the State”; (2) “Opt-Out is risky, costly, and will result in long delays”; (3) “Opt-out delays will harm local first responders”; and (4) “[h]ealthy competition is the leverage we have today to improve the FirstNet-AT&T solution,” Mr. Fraser said.—Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org