Pennsylvania and South Carolina today announced that they would opt in to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), becoming the 27th and 28th states to do so, in addition to two territories. Governors have until Dec. 28 to decide whether to opt out or not.
“When an emergency strikes, Pennsylvania first responders are called upon to handle the situation and support the community,” Gov. Tom Wolf (D.) said. “As we have learned from recent events in many parts of the country, a vital component needed for coordinating a response is the ability for all responders on the scene to share information as events unfold.” 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
Witnesses have been announced for a First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) hearing Wednesday before the House communications and technology subcommittee. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m. in Room 2322 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
The scheduled witnesses are Mike Poth, chief executive officer of FirstNet; Chris Sambar, senior vice president–FirstNet for AT&T, Inc.; John Stevens, statewide interoperability coordinator and FirstNet state point of contact (SPOC) for New Hampshire; Robert LeGrande II, founder of the Digital Decision LLC; and Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.
Plaintiffs who recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) lawsuit against the Commerce Department seeking records related to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) asked a court today to grant partial summary judgment.
The suit (“Stephen Whitaker and David Gram v. Department of Commerce,” case 5:17-cv-192) was filed in the U.S. District Court in Vermont earlier this month by Stephen Whitaker, a Vermont resident and government accountability advocate, and David Gram, a former Associated Press reporter who now works for “VTDigger,” a non-profit web-based publication that is a project of the Vermont Journalism Trust (TR Daily Oct. 6). It seeks status as a class action on behalf of everyone who has filed a FoIA request since 2012 but saw it rejected on the grounds that FirstNet is not subject to FoIA.
The motion for partial summary judgment submitted today seeks judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on two of the 18 counts “on the grounds that no genuine issue as to any material fact exists and Plaintiffs are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
One of those counts deals with FirstNet’s refusal to process the plaintiffs’ FoIA requests. FirstNet noted in response to FoIA requests that under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which created FirstNet, the authority is exempt from FoIA. But the complaint contends that the law “did not fully exempt FirstNet from FOIA.” Continue reading
First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth said today that the authority is working to address “misinformation” about its process and state plans, as FirstNet responded to a number of questions that have been raised recently about the terms of draft spectrum lease agreements, including termination penalties, spectrum lease fees, and charges for failing to meet subscriber milestones.
“Engaging with our stakeholders has and always will be central to everything we do at FirstNet. Our longstanding consultation and outreach program sets us apart from other organizations, companies, and entities that work with or do business with public safety,” Mr. Poth said in a blog posting. “Since delivering the State Plans, the FirstNet team has made itself available around the clock to answer questions, help clarify any misunderstandings states or territories may have, and address some of the misinformation about both the decision process and the State Plans themselves.”
He continued, “Given where we are today in the process – with 27 states and territories having opted in and two months still remaining for the others to make their decision – FirstNet is coordinating with the states and territories to ensure they have all the information they need to make the best decision for their public safety professionals and the residents who rely on them. We are also actively consulting with public safety agencies in opt-in states to implement their plans.”
“FirstNet is working closely with the states and territories through their single points of contact and governors’ offices to help them understand the many inputs and details they must factor into their decision-making process. In many cases, our efforts have addressed the mechanisms and risks associated with a governor’s decision to ‘opt-out’ and have the state build, operate, maintain, and improve the Radio Access Network (RAN) portion of the Network, including the Spectrum Manager Lease Agreement (SMLA) between FirstNet and an opt-out state or territory,” Mr. Poth said. 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