States Continue FirstNet State Plan Evaluation, Some Concerns Emerge
Tuesday, July 11, 2017 | Comments
As the first states opted in to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) this week, other state officials continue to work through terms of use (ToU) details, individual access to the state portal and further information needed for an informed opt-in/opt-out decision.

State plans were delivered to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two of five U.S. territories June 19. States and territories can spend up to 45 days, or until Aug. 4, to review the plans. The states and territories can exchange feedback with FirstNet before an official 90-day clock starts for each state or territory governor to make an opt-in/opt-out decision on its plan. The final decision deadline for states is around the end of the year.

A FirstNet spokesman said FirstNet is working with all of the states and territories to ensure they have access to the state plan portal. The state plan portal ToU are the same for all states/territories, but in some cases, FirstNet has worked informally and formally with states to resolve specific issues. “We have also worked with any state that expressed concerns about specific issues within the ToU,” the spokesman said.

In early June, state officials expressed concerns about the legal ToU document FirstNet requested they sign before they could access state plans. Washington state, in particular, sent a letter to FirstNet outlining its concerns.

However, at least one state official did not have a complete list of approved users who can access the portal more than two weeks after the state plans were delivered. Complicating the 45-day review process, a handful of state legislatures missed July 1 deadlines to finalize state budgets, which could have stalled some state FirstNet work for a few days.

“To ensure fairness and consistency, the 45-day review period will not be extended and is set to conclude on Aug. 4,” the spokesman said. “However, FirstNet and AT&T will continue to engage with states to provide answers and clarity around the FirstNet solution after this review period and while FirstNet and AT&T evaluate state/territory comments.”

Some state officials said there is information they would like that was not in the state plans at press time before making an opt-in/opt-out decision. That information includes more clearly defined coverage maps of existing coverage and band 14 plans and timing, pricing data for secondary users to receive priority service and other premium services, and plans for sharing sites and specific towers.

“The state plan portal provides a detailed description of the FirstNet buildout, including coverage, cost, network architecture, products/services and opt-out considerations — all of which will help the governor make an informed decision,” the FirstNet spokesman said.

Some sources are also concerned about a lack of oversight for the review process and how to hold FirstNet and AT&T accountable if they don’t deliver what is outlined in the state plans. FirstNet’s contract with AT&T has several accountability mechanisms including milestone payments, adoption targets and others, the spokesman said.

Success-based payments are based on milestones in the request for proposals (RFP). As AT&T meets the targeted milestones, it receives the payments, and at the end of the five years if it meets the milestones, it will receive the full congressionally appropriated $6.5 billion in the contract. However, the contract between FirstNet and AT&T is not public, and state officials do not know what specific milestones are in that contract.

FirstNet will be added to National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) Valuepoint cooperative purchasing and other nationwide, federal, state and local contract vehicles, the spokesman said.

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