The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has told New Hampshire, the only state thus far to announce it is opting out of having FirstNet and its network partner, AT&T, Inc., that it is clarifying the model agreement for opt-out states to lease spectrum from FirstNet to clarify that “if the opt-out state build or operation of its RAN fails during the term of the SMLA, the state will only be responsible for the actual cost of reestablishing the RAN in the state.”
AT&T will build the RANs, or radio access networks, for opt-in states. New Hampshire and any other states or territories that opt out will choose their own partners to build their RANs.
Some stakeholders, including state officials and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D., Calif.), had questioned the “termination fees” contemplated by the draft SMLAs provided to individual states, to reflect their individual situations. Those estimated fees ranged as high as $15 billion for California.
A FirstNet spokesperson told TR Daily today, “FirstNet has clarified the draft SMLA after consulting with the states and getting their feedback on the draft from this fall.” The spokesperson said that FirstNet had clarified that “should the state RAN fail, the state will be responsible for the actual costs of reestablishing the network in the state, in accordance with the state’s obligations.”
State governors are facing a Dec. 28 deadline to decide whether to opt into FirstNet and having AT&T build their RANs. So far, 38 states have opted in, along with two territories. The Pacific territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands face a March 12, 2018, deadline for making opt-out notifications.
Brian Carney, senior vice president-corporate communications for Rivada Networks LLC, which has submitted proposals to build various states’ RANs, including a successful bid to build New Hampshire’s RAN, said in an e-mail, “The ‘draconian’ and ‘unrealistic’ threat of huge termination penalties for opt-out states have already driven a number of states to ‘opt in’ to the AT&T/federal plan. Now, nine days before the opt-in/opt-out deadline, and with no public notice so far, FirstNet is changing the rules again and withdrawing the termination-fee threat and removing the adoption-target penalties in the earlier drafts of the Spectrum Manager Lease Agreement. This is good news, even if it may feel to many states like it comes too late. It’s a game changer that should lead every opt-in state to at least reconsider its position.”
Stephen Whitaker, a Vermont resident and open government advocate who is a party in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking FirstNet records, said in an e-mail, “Now all of the Vermont opt-in recommendations made under threats of massive SMLA penalties must be disregarded. This includes PSBNC, Televate, Tim LaFaver and State Treasurer Beth Pearce. Public Safety User adoption count penalties? They’re gone too. What’s left to support the Governor’s opt in decision? Absolutely nothing. (except AT&T lobbying and campaign contributions)[.]” —Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org