Q&A with FirstNet’s Acting General Manager
Tuesday, October 07, 2014 | Comments

TJ Kennedy, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) acting general manager, answers questions from MissionCritical Communications regarding FirstNet’s latest data collection efforts.

Describe the SOO and its purpose.

The draft statement of objectives (SOO) is a key part of the request for information (RFI). One of our goals within the RFI is to maximize transparency and share information with a prospective industry partner and the public. Publishing the SOO assists us in achieving that goal. The SOO provides the foundation for FirstNet’s overall acquisitions approach. The detailed responses that we receive on the RFI and draft SOO will influence FirstNet’s development of possible future RFPs.

FirstNet designed the 15 program objectives to foster participation from a large and diverse set of offerors. To that end, the SOO provides potential vendors with the flexibility to tailor solutions to their strengths, develop potential teaming arrangements and foster innovative business solutions. We believe this approach will facilitate marketplace collaboration and competition, which will lead to the best outcomes for states, territories and tribal nations in terms of costs and services for the network.

Who would FirstNet most like to respond to the RFI responses?

We encourage vendors, public-safety professionals, carriers and more to participate in the RFI proceeding, including both small and large businesses. It is a critical next step in our acquisition lifecycle and is designed to help FirstNet better understand the capabilities within the market from vendors, public safety and other stakeholders. The RFI also provides greater visibility into our proposed direction for deploying the network.

In terms of specifics, the RFI with draft SOO seeks comment on a number of critical issues related to the building, deployment, operation and maintenance of the nationwide public-safety broadband network. Some of the key goals of the RFI are to minimize public-safety user fees; deliver advanced, resilient wireless services; and maximize the value of excess network capacity to keep costs low for public safety. In addition, FirstNet is asking for feedback on ways to accelerate network deployment and how to best leverage existing infrastructure assets owned and operated by governmental jurisdictions in the buildout of the network.

I would like to emphasize the importance of state, local and tribal participation in the RFI and public notice processes. We developed these items based on what we heard from the public-safety community during our engagement and outreach with state and local first responders during the past several months. The program objectives that frame the RFI, for example, reflect their needs as the future users of the network, so we welcome their input. FirstNet is at a critical juncture where we need to make some key technology, business and policy decisions. Feedback on the RFI and draft SOO will help inform and guide our decision-making as we move to finalize our strategy for deploying the network.

FirstNet could go in a number of different directions on these and other topics in the RFI and draft SOO, so we want offerors to take full advantage of this opportunity to weigh in on those issues. This includes telecom service providers, network operators and carriers, device manufacturers, application and software developers, and more. In addition to helping us get smarter on those issues, we think that casting a wide net will foster competition.

How does the current RFI differ from the 2013 RFIs? 

The previous RFIs were helpful in that the responses provided us with insights on various equipment and technology applications for the construction of the network. We took a close look at the information received from the 12 RFIs to develop our analysis about the technical requirements needed to build and operate a network. The new RFI incorporates this analysis into the draft SOO and asks questions about how these objectives will affect the ultimate RFP.

How does FirstNet plan to incorporate the information it receives from the RFI into its network buildout?

FirstNet will use the responses to this RFI to better understand industry’s capabilities, evaluate best procurement approach(es), and determine how to best leverage existing capabilities and best practices to meet public safety needs for the network. FirstNet will consider the input from the RFI and draft SOO in the development of the RFP.

What is the timeline for the RFI information and RFP release?

FirstNet will use the feedback received on the RFI to prepare the final RFP for release. Comments on the RFI are due Oct. 17. We are tentatively aiming to have a draft RFP by the end of the first quarter of calendar year 2015.

Editor's Note: Since the interview was conducted, the deadline for comments was extended by 10 days until Oct. 27. 

Will the RFI responses be made public?

Because the RFI replies are procurement sensitive, they will be kept confidential between FirstNet and the commenter.

FirstNet is likely to receive a large number of responses to the RFI. How will all that information be processed and put to use?

You raise an important point and one that speaks to the need for having talented and experienced staff in place to manage an initiative of this size and significance. We are looking forward to receiving a large number of responses and have been preparing accordingly. The bottom line is, FirstNet would have been challenged to achieve this a year ago. We needed to get the right staff on board first, so we could conduct the necessary outreach and analysis to develop the draft RFP.

Will each state have its own RFP or will there be one nationwide RFP?

FirstNet’s acquisition approach will be complex, and the RFI and draft SOO ask for feedback on the nationwide approach.

Can you provide an update on the state consultation meetings?

This will be an active fall for the FirstNet consultation, outreach and planning teams. Following the first meeting with Maryland in July, we just held our second initial consultation meeting in Minnesota Sept. 24, which was well attended and very productive. The meeting generated many ideas for future state plan consultation meetings that are scheduled for Washington, Oregon, Iowa, Florida and Utah later this year. We are looking forward to holding additional consultation meetings in 2015.

How many state checklists have been received?

We have received 27 checklists as of Oct. 1.

Will the RFI information be available in time to incorporate into discussions with the states? How do the state consultations and RFI/RFP information coincide?

Yes, consultation is an iterative process in each state and territory, so the state information and feedback can be included before completing the RFP. This includes the states where we already have held initial consultation meetings, such as Maryland and Minnesota.

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