FirstNet’s Competition. The law that created FirstNet is very clear when it comes to states and territories opting in or out of FirstNet. There are two ways to opt in: The governor of the state or territory decides to opt in by the December 28, 2017 deadline, or the governor simply does nothing in which case the opt in for that state is automatic. Opting out requires the state to provide the FCC, within 180 days, a plan demonstrating that the Radio Access Network (RAN), the only portion of the network authorized by law for states to build on their own, will be 100-percent compatible with the FirstNet network. The state will then negotiate a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for some of the network. As a final step, there must be a spectrum lease agreement between the state and FirstNet. All of this is called out in the law Congress passed in 2012. These are not conditions imposed by FirstNet.
Now if a state opts out, the FirstNet mandate is that the radio access network provided by the state or its vendor must be connected to the FirstNet core when public safety users populate the FirstNet network. FirstNet has also said that secondary users may, in fact, be routed to a different core located within the state or operated by the vendor. Again, ALL public safety traffic is to be routed to the FirstNet core. This makes sense when you understand this is to be a nationwide network sharing resources and applications that is usable across the entire nation.
Once a state has opted in there are no additional federal rules that impact public safety agencies within the state. Each agency has the option to join the FirstNet system, with its existing broadband provider, or to not use any broadband services. This local level is the area in which competition is occurring. Verizon has said it will actively seek to keep its existing public safety customers and to add more customers. It is also trying to obtain permission to host its own public safety core. Both FirstNet and AT&T are opposed to this with good reason. Having multiple standalone cores does not lend itself to fulfilling the goal of full interoperability this network was envisioned to provide. I have been told by experts in the field that if the cores are connected to each other the overall system will be more difficult to secure from a cybersecurity perspective, which is high on the list of network priorities. Read the Entire Blog here Continue reading
Rivada Networks LLC has told a House subcommittee that it has the experience to build radio access networks (RANs) for states that opt out of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system. At a Nov. 1 hearing before the House communications and technology subcommittee, Rep. Mike Doyle (D., Pa.), the subcommittee’s ranking member, asked John Stevens, the statewide interoperability coordinator and FirstNet state point of contact (SPOC) for New Hampshire, the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee has concluded that the alternative state plan prepared by Rivada is superior to that of FirstNet’s, if he was concerned that Rivada has not built a RAN (TR Daily, Nov. 1). Continue reading
First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth stressed at a House hearing today that FirstNet will work to “minimize” the impact on states and first responders of opt-out states that fail to fulfill the terms of spectrum manager lease agreements (SMLAs). He also said that the agreements provided to states are only “working draft” documents. Mr. Poth’s testimony during a hearing before the House communications and technology subcommittee sought to address criticism of FirstNet from state officials about the terms of draft SMLAs, including spectrum lease fees, charges for failing to meet subscriber milestones, and termination charges that for some states could run into the billions of dollars.
Oklahoma became the 28th state or territory today to opt in to the FirstNet system when Gov. Mary Fallin (R.) announced her decision. The state is the fourth to opt in after issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for an alternative state plan.
During today’s hearing, only a few lawmakers pressed Mr. Poth on the SMLAs, with others asking questions about interoperability, rural coverage, cybersecurity, and other issues. Many made statements or asked questions favorable to FirstNet and AT&T, Inc., its network partner.
The most critical questions came from Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D., Calif.), who noted that her state could face a $15 billion termination fee if it opted out and then failed to fulfill terms of its SMLA. Some state officials, including one who testified at today’s hearing, John Stevens, the statewide interoperability coordinator and FirstNet state point of contact (SPOC) for New Hampshire, have complained that the termination fees seem geared to penalize states that seek to opt out of the network and contract with a vendor to build their radio access networks (RANs). “Who came up with that? How do you make that determination? And why are there penalties?” Ms. Eshoo asked Mr. Poth. “Is this a penalty for not opting in?”
“No, absolutely not,” Mr. Poth replied.
“Well, what is it for?
He said that FirstNet wanted to share with states how much it could cost “if we had to reconstitute the network from zero after a state … implementation didn’t work, that it could be as high as that.” But he added, “We’re working with every state, including California, to minimize any of those impacts, and hopefully they wouldn’t even get to that point.” Continue reading
Now That Your State Has Opted-In. As of today, 27 states and territories have opted in to FirstNet and it appears as though more are preparing to make the move. Once your state opts in, what do your local, regional, and state agencies do? There are four options:
• Keep using the network operator that is providing you with broadband service. If it is not AT&T, that is fine according to the law.
• Move over to AT&T now and start receiving the full advantages of the FirstNet ecosystem as it is rolled out over the next few years.
• Adopt a wait-and-see attitude and watch how the network evolves.
• Don’t use any broadband data and continue to rely on voice services-only as you always have.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to decide at an agency or multi-agency level, all these options need to be considered as well as pricing. However, if your city or county’s elected or appointed officials will be making the decision based on other factors, such as an existing overall contract with a broadband vendor, and/or what appear to be price differences only, the best you can do is prepare a case for the solution you think is best for your agency and work to gain support among those who will be making the decision. Hopefully, you will be able to make the decision based on the factors that most impact your agency and, of course, the price you will have to pay for the service each month. Continue reading
FORT WORTH, Texas – Two Rivada Networks LLC board members, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D.), blasted the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T, Inc., today, suggesting that they have engaged in “third-world thuggery” and a dictatorship in their efforts to convince states to opt in and allow AT&T to build their radio access networks (RANs) as part of a nationwide public safety broadband network.
During a question-and-answer session this morning at the Competitive Carriers Association’s Annual Convention here, Messrs. Bush and O’Malley echoed complaints that Rivada executives often level against FirstNet and AT&T, FirstNet’s network partner – including that there has been a lack of transparency and accountability, resulting in many crucial details being kept secret, including exact coverage and fees and penalties that states could face if they seek to opt out and then change their minds.
Rivada lost out to AT&T for the 25-year FirstNet contract, and it is trying to convince states to opt out of the network and allow the company to build their RANs. Under the company’s business model, Rivada, using a dynamic spectrum arbitrage system, would monetize spectrum for commercial use when it is not being used by first responders.
Messrs. Bush and O’Malley suggested that states that opt in would not have any control of the network, and they said that all governors should at least issue request for proposals (RFPs) to explore their options, including partnering with Rivada.
The Rivada board members complained that states are not permitted to discuss the contents of their state plans or draft spectrum management lease agreements (SMLAs), which include the termination penalties and other fees. However, some states have. Continue reading
Stories in October 25’s TR Daily said that New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R.) has written to governors asking them to hold off opting in to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system and to help press for information from federal officials on penalties and fees that states and territories could be liable for if they opt in to the network. It should have said that states and territories could be liable for the penalties and fees if they opt out.