Colorado’s State Consultation with FirstNet Offers New Information, but Many Details Pending RFP
Tuesday, January 20, 2015 | Comments

Colorado held its state consultation with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) last week, and while public-safety officials are learning some new information, many details aren’t yet available. However, the next phase of grant guidance supporting the states’ FirstNet work is expected to be released within a month.

Officials from the state of Colorado held their state consultation meeting with FirstNet officials Jan. 14. Attendees received new information about the data FirstNet needs from the state, the current thinking on the network design concept and coverage plans.

“We had a very productive discussion with Colorado, and from it, FirstNet has a better understanding of the state’s unique needs for the public-safety broadband network,” said FirstNet’s Dave Buchanan, director of state consultation. “We appreciate the diversity of public-safety professionals who participated in the meeting and the ideas we got from them.”

However, most details on cost, coverage and timing are dependent on developing each state’s specific FirstNet plan. And the state plans must follow many other items on FirstNet’s to-do list. FirstNet Director of State Plans Rich Reed said state and local officials must understand FirstNet’s boundaries within the legislation that created it, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

“We can’t build the network without consultation, with an acquisition process, then a state plan and that state’s governor opts in or out,” he said. “It’s a slower process.”

Reed said the consultation and request for proposals (RFP) processes are ongoing simultaneously. FirstNet officials have said a draft RFP will be available this year. There will then be a comment period for the draft RFP before a final RFP is released. State plans will begin after the RFP document is finalized.

Reed said many details about the cost of service and timing won’t be available until the acquisition process is complete.

However, FirstNet officials did provide details on what data Colorado could begin gathering to ensure its needs are incorporated into the state plan. The first big input comprises the total number of agencies and users in the state followed by the total number of potential devices. This data would lead to a device per user factor for each discipline, as well as usage profiles, number of incident responses in various operational areas and inputs to the radio access network (RAN) design.

“FirstNet will provide a spreadsheet template defining request fields,” said Brian Hobson, FirstNet state plans technical lead. “FirstNet is looking at a comprehensive tool to support all data uploads.”

FirstNet will also need usage profiles on how public-safety entities will use FirstNet. Hobson provided some examples of sources for the data. This information will be included in grant guidance from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the second round of State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) funds.

SLIGP is an original $135 million grant program provided through the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, in addition to the $7 billion for FirstNet’s network buildout. The grant program has two phases, the first of which began in 2013 and will last the full three years of the program. Phase one aimed to help each state establish a governance structure to consult with FirstNet and conduct the state meetings.

Phase two involves 50 percent of the grant funds to collect data and continue governance activities. Phase two isn’t scheduled to begin until FirstNet determines what data it needs and in what format it needs to be collected. FirstNet officials said they expect grant guidance for the second phase of SLIGP to be released within a month.

“Once we get the grant guidance out, there will be hard and fast dates with collection to maintain the acquisition plan,” Hobson said. “There is no data that can’t be started with existing SLIGP funds.”

Coverage data needed from Colorado state officials was also discussed in detail. FirstNet has established a baseline map with some data, but needs local and state officials to provide Colorado-specific details such as hazards locations and other information.

Colorado contracted Signals Analytics to begin coverage conversations with agencies and tribes. The state will determine coverage holes and use CAD incident crime and other data to validate coverage and capacity requirements. The state will also identify backhaul requirements based on coverage requirements, said Kim Coleman Madsen, Colorado FirstNet public-safety broadband manager.

Colorado officials also provided at the meeting the following bullet points of items they need from FirstNet:

• Holistic partnership — technical, operational, financial
• Accelerated plan for network implementation for prepared states
• Exploit our successes, develop the Adams County (Adcom 9-1-1) network foundation to capitalize on current momentum
• Use our state to explore public private partnerships (PPP)

“I thought the meeting provided an excellent opportunity for stakeholders in our state to hear directly from FirstNet and get an idea of the direction at a national level and some of the specific activities occurring in Colorado,” said Brian Shepherd, broadband program manager, Colorado Office of Information Technology (OIT). “We are still working through some foundational questions such as deployment strategy and timelines and will continue to work with FirstNet through the consultation process to provide the information stakeholders desire.”

The Colorado meeting was the 11th state consultation meeting FirstNet has conducted.

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