FirstNet Outlines Details Expected in State Plans, Information Portals
Tuesday, December 13, 2016 | Comments
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) outreach and consultation team outlined in more detail the exact information that will be included in state plans and how that information will be delivered to state officials after a contract is awarded.

FirstNet officials offered the information during committee meetings Dec. 13, and it was provided to state point of contacts (SPOC) during their fall meeting last month.

After a contract is awarded for the pending request for proposals (RFP), FirstNet officials plan to provide a portal to each state and territory with five areas of information. The five areas include FirstNet background, consultation overview, radio access network (RAN) deployments, FirstNet operations and network policies, and a process guide for the governor’s decision.

The consultation overview and RAN deployment information will be tailored for each state, while the other areas will be consistent among states, said Brian Hobson, state plans technical lead.

The RFP award will likely be delayed until at least February. AT&T announced Dec. 2 that it was informed by FirstNet that it is a bidder within the "competitive range" for the contract award. Rivada Mercury Nov. 21 filed a pre-award protest of the FirstNet RFP.

Hobson said FirstNet has received more data from 31 states and territories this year to further enhance their state plans. The first round of data on coverage and other areas for each state was due in 2015, but states could offer additional data this year on a voluntary basis.

Chief Customer Officer (CCO) Rich Reed said the portal information brings structure to the state conversations. “Once an award is made, the portals allow us to be aggressive to put this information into the portal,” Reed said. “It allows us to have a structured conversation.”

The state officials making buying decisions vary greatly, and FirstNet staff is still hoping to continue to engage and educate those people important to the review process, said Dave Buchanan, director of consultation.

FirstNet staff will walk state leaders through the content and layout and the way the state plan will come to leaders via the portal. Those discussions will continue during 2017.

“States are still figuring out what their process is,” Buchanan said. “Not all states have a well-paved path to the governor. We are helping states document that process so it’s clear to all those involved. We continue to make sure we’re capturing and reflecting the states’ priorities so they can see their value proposition in that state plan. States will continue to be able to influence the state plan into 2017. This 2017 consultation process will be extraordinarily beneficial to them.”

State officials who could be involved in the process include chief information officers (CIO), attorney generals, budget directors, procurement officers, administrative officers, policy advisors, general counsels and chiefs of staff.

Also during committee meetings, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kim Farington provided an overview of FirstNet’s fiscal-year (FY) 2016 budget. The organization spent $104 million of its total obligations of $126 million for an 82 percent utilization rate. FirstNet had expenses of $71 million compared with its projected expenses of $92 million.

The variances were around fewer expenses for the 700 MHz spectrum relocation grants and pushing back contracts originally scheduled to be awarded in the fourth quarter of FY 2016 into 2017, Farington said. Applicants required less funding than in the initial estimate, and some incumbents decided to clear from the spectrum on their own, not requiring grant funding.

James Mitchell, FirstNet Network Program Office (NPO) director, said $28 million in grant funding will be awarded by the end of the year to 10 applications. Eight relocation grants were awarded in August, and two remaining applications are in the review process and scheduled for award by end-2016.

Grantees have a one-year period of performance, with an option for no-cost time extensions. The relocation program is ensuring FirstNet’s industry partner will have clear nationwide spectrum to roll out the public-safety broadband network (PSBN) across the country, said FirstNet President TJ Kennedy.

Mitchell also outlined some details on how FirstNet staff will review deliverables under the contract once awarded and the organization’s acceptance process.

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Comments
On 1/6/17, Ralph Caruso said:
I think this is a very important addition to local community emergency preparedness. However, some local governments — Martin County — and some telecomm providers — DTI — do not seem to understand that they should not locate these facilities in a floodplain. They are going ahead with plans to build facilities in floodplains and use buildings to house components that have failed in recent hail storms. I don't understand how they can get away with this given the clear guidance from EO 11988 and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that critical facilities should not be located within floodplains.

On 12/16/16, Mike Yarborough said:
I agree Dr. Joe. I'm a ham as well and the wheel those before me invented and improved upon works quite well for me. Just imagine....let's see.... $28 million grant between 10 agencies.....wow....we could as amateurs put together one heck of a radio over IP (RoIP) system in our state South Carolina ....oh wait a minute.....we already have that with the MOTOTRBO-based system here now. A great network that covers 6 plus states just in the PRN coverage area. Then add the Southeast TAC1, TAC310 and other talkgroups.....oh well.....gotta spend our tax dollars for something ....we're all used to that..........good luck in the contest.

On 12/14/16, Dr Joe Palsa said:
The interesting complete concept of FirstNet shows how the government reinvents the wheel and throws money away like it's water.
The concept of interoperability has been in practice and operational by ham radio operators actually worldwide using the 450 MHz band and the Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) MOTOTRBO of RF design utilizing gateways to countries, states and cities. A ham with a handheld unit can talk from London to another ham in New York City simply by choosing the gateway frequencies that have been assigned to locations and radios that are registered to the worldwide system.
All types of functions with digital data, digital voice, apps, etc., are already in actual use.
Because the feds already have decided on frequencies, all they need is the equipment and set up the gateways. I have been a ham for over 50 years.
I am also a member of the Virginia State Executive Interoperability Committiee.

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