State, Local Officials Complain About FirstNet Fees

FORTH WORTH, Texas — State and local public safety officials complained today about the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) plans for having its network partner, AT&T, Inc., build radio access networks (RANs) in states, especially termination, spectrum lease, and other fees in draft spectrum management lease agreements (SMLAs).

During a session this afternoon at the Competitive Carriers Association’s Annual Convention here, Michael Saltzman, project manager in Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security, complained that under the draft SMLA delivered to his state, it would have to pay $530 million over 25 years to lease the FirstNet spectrum and could face a $2.9 billion termination fee if it opted out and then sought to end the agreement early.

“Those numbers were scary. But what was scarier than the numbers were no one knew where they came from,” he said. He said that he won’t suggest the fees and penalties in the SMLAs are a “scare tactic” to prod states to opt in, “but I think it went the other way. I think it has upset people to the point where they want answers, and so, therefore, they’re not as apt to move forward aggressively until the answers are given.”

Twenty-five states and two territories have opted in so far, and governors face a Dec. 28 deadline to make an opt-out decision.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R.) wrote governors this week asking them to hold off opting in to the FirstNet system to help press for information from federal officials on penalties and fees that states and territories could be liable for if they opt in (see separate story). Continue reading

NTIA Provides Information on Opt-out Notifications

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration provided information today on how governors should provide notification if they decide to seek to opt out of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system. “All opt-out notices must be filed via the dedicated email address: sapp@ntia.doc.gov, or via certified mail to the Office of Public Safety Communications, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, United States Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Ave[.,] NW., Washington, DC 20230, ATTN: Marsha MacBride,” NTIA said a notice published in the “Federal Register.”

Courtesy TRDaily

Sununu Asks Governors to Hold Off Opting in to FirstNet

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. Last week, Mr. Sununu signed an executive order establishing a committee to review the “regulatory and financial risks” to the state if it seeks to opt out of having AT&T, Inc., FirstNet’s network partner, build its radio access network (RAN) (TR Daily, Oct. 16).

“New Hampshire’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) has determined from a technical standpoint that an opt-out of FirstNet is far and away our best option, as evidenced by their unanimous 15-0 vote. The State must nevertheless conduct a thorough review of the financial and regulatory viability of Rivada’s opt-out plan,” the governor said in a statement. “As part of this review, we will seek clarification of certain proposed fees, as well as clarification of penalties that may be imposed by FirstNet if an opt-out were to fail. These fees and penalties appear to be arbitrary and primarily designed to deter states from opting out of FirstNet plans. That is why I am calling on key officials at the federal level to assist us as we examine the numbers released by FirstNet and to ensure that states are being afforded their right to make their decisions with correct information.”

The governor added, “New Hampshire is proudly on the forefront of national safety infrastructure. In the coming days I will be sending a letter to my fellow Governors which will encourage all states considering their options to pause and lean on us as New Hampshire seeks clarifications and answers that every state can benefit from.” Continue reading

Verizon Urges NTIA to Allow Opt-Out States to Build Cores

Verizon Communications, Inc., urged the National Telecommunications and Information Administration today to permit opt-out states to build their own core networks rather than having to connect to the core of the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) network partner, AT&T, Inc.

“While the law does not require states to participate in the FirstNet network at all, the opt-out provisions do guarantee that states have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the network while taking on specific responsibilities for its deployment,” Don Brittingham, vice president-public safety policy for Verizon, said during a joint hearing today held by three Pennsylvania state legislative committees. “In order for such an option to be meaningful, however, it must allow states to pick their own commercial partner to establish their own private partnership in a manner that’s comparable to the partnership established by FirstNet. It must also allow states to develop network and service arrangements that are both viable and sustainable over the long term. And critical to the viability of such an option is the ability for a state to use its own network core, or one deployed by its commercial partner.

“States should not be required to use the network core deployed by FirstNet, as such a requirement would put the state in the untenable position of being driven by the interests and decisions of FirstNet’s commercial partner – a condition that would certainly be unattractive to any prospective state commercial partner,” he added. “Unfortunately, based on recent press reports, it doesn’t appear that either FirstNet or AT&T will allow a state to use its own network core if it decides to opt out and would actually require the state’s public safety users to purchase their services from AT&T.”

Mr. Brittingham noted that the FCC in the summer released an order saying that it wouldn’t reject on interoperability grounds an alternative state plan that relied on a separate network core, but the agency saying that such a decision was outside its statutory scope of authority (TR Daily, June 22). “Verizon respects the FCC’s decision, but we hope that NTIA answers that question affirmatively in the near future, as we believe it’s important to any state considering an opt-out choice,” he added.

A summary of a draft spectrum manager lease agreement (SMLA) for Vermont, which was obtained by TR Daily, says that the state must integrate its radio access network (RAN) with the FirstNet core and must pay all costs to do so (TR Daily, Oct. 18).

During today’s hearing, which was held by the Pennsylvania state Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, the Senate Communications & Technology Committee, and the House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, lawmakers asked a myriad of questions about the FirstNet system and the Dec. 28 deadline that governors face to seek to opt out and have their states build their own RANs.  A number of questions showed lawmakers’ confusion about the process being used. So far, 25 states and two territories have opted in. Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, October 19, 2017

The Opt-In/Opt-Out Clock Is Ticking! States have until December 28, 2017, to decide to either opt in or opt out of FirstNet. There is a third option available, which is a passive opt in, meaning that if a governor does nothing by the deadline the state is considered as an opt-in state. So far, one territory (Puerto Rico) and 26 states have opted in. A number of states have issued RFPs for comparison of what FirstNet is offering and what another vendor might offer them. New Hampshire’s governor already awarded its RFP to Rivada in the event it opts out, but since then formed a committee to weigh opt-in/opt-out pros and cons (the state staff had voted to recommend opting out). Unless something changes and New Hampshire opts in, Rivada may have at least one state to build out.

Some of FirstNet’s detractors are claiming that other states should follow New Hampshire’s lead, but no one outside the state knows exactly what was proposed in the RFP responses, nor do we know if the state’s requirement of income for New Hampshire from the proceeds of the FirstNet network was addressed in writing in the RFP response. The best information I have is that a state may not profit from the proceeds of the FirstNet network except to reinvest any funds derived from secondary use of the spectrum back into the network.

I have to wonder who will have to fund any shortfall in income from the network—the vendor or the state. Our most recent review of all ten of New Hampshire’s counties shows none have sufficient numbers of first responders to fund the network and none are in need of the spectrum on a secondary basis. Thus it appears New Hampshire will face a substantial shortfall. The question of the day is if there is a shortfall, who pays for it? Read the Entire Blog Here . Continue reading

NH Establishes Committee Review FirstNet Opt-Out Decision

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R.) signed an executive order today establishing a committee to review the “regulatory and financial risks” to the state if it seeks to opt out of having AT&T, Inc., build its radio access network (RAN) for the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) system.

“New Hampshire’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) has determined from a technical standpoint that an opt-out of FirstNet is far and away our best option, as evidenced by their unanimous 15-0 vote. The State must nevertheless conduct a thorough review of the financial and regulatory viability of Rivada’s opt-out plan,” the governor said in a statement. “As part of this review, we will seek clarification of certain proposed fees, as well as clarification of penalties that may be imposed by FirstNet if an opt-out were to fail. These fees and penalties appear to be arbitrary and primarily designed to deter states from opting out of FirstNet plans. That is why I am calling on key officials at the federal level to assist us as we examine the numbers released by FirstNet and to ensure that states are being afforded their right to make their decisions with correct information.” Continue reading

Andy Seybold’s Public Safety Advocate, October 12, 2017

The Vison Which Became FirstNet There are a number of people within the States and the Public Safety community who are not happy with the coverage which AT&T/FirstNet is offering on day one. Perhaps if they had a better understanding of the fact that the RFP could have been won by someone who would built out just the FirstNet Band 14 and that it might have had to have been built out as a greenfield (totally new) network they would better understand the difference between a network which is available today and one that might be 3-5 years away in their area.

Sometimes we need to reflect on the past and to remind those who have come to both embrace and complain about FirstNet about the original dreams and aspirations of those who have been involved in this journey, most for over 11 years and a few even longer. During the activities which resulted in Congressional Approval and President Obama signature which allocated the 10 MHz of spectrum referred to as the D block and created FirstNet, there were a lot of discussions by those involved. There was a discussion about the type of network or networks which was (were) needed. Some favored a “network of networks” that is a number of different networks, perhaps state by state or by dividing the Country into thirds but the consensus was that a single nationwide network would be the best approach and the focus shifted to that goal.

There were other discussions held by the member of the Public Safety Alliance (PSA) as well as the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) which held the license for the original 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum the FCC had allocated for a public safety broadband network. After FirstNet was formed some on the FirstNet board showed a diagram outlining a plan where each and every device on the FirstNet spectrum would also be able to seamlessly roam across all of the commercial broadband networks as well as the FirstNet spectrum. This, we were assured, would provide the best way to achieve a true mission critical system. As you might imagine the public safety community reacted in a negative manner and over time this idea as scraped. Next up after FirstNet regrouped was go to bid for both the one network approach and essentially a network of networks concept. Fortunately, FirstNet listened and the RFP came out calling for a single, nationwide network. Read The entire Blog Here Continue reading