FirstNet Approves RFI, Public Notice and FY15 Budget (9/17/14)
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | Comments

By Michelle Zilis
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board continued its strategic program roadmap by approving resolutions relating to the release of a public notice, a request for information (RFI) and a fiscal year 2015 (FY15) budget.

The purpose of releasing both a public notice and an RFI allows FirstNet to gain insight from vendors and suppliers that typically respond to RFIs, in addition to a broader audience that the public notice will reach once published in the Federal Register.

The public notice asks for comments on the agency’s preliminary interpretation of the law, specifically terms that are not clearly defined. Comments will be public and will help FirstNet determine the outer boundaries for the network, however, it is not the final FirstNet policy, said Stuart Kupinsky, chief counsel, FirstNet.

Topics discussed include network architecture, the core and radio access network (RAN) as it relates to states that opt out, integration of existing infrastructure, transaction costs, leasing agreements, fees, compelling and competitive pricing packages, substantial rural milestones, speed to market and public-safety entity definitions.

The RFI will seek input from interested parties regarding specific topics and will be confidential. “Our goal is financial security — providing a network public safety wants to use and can afford,” said TJ Kennedy, FirstNet’s acting general manager. “The goal now is concrete ideas and advice; that’s why confidential. As we move into the RFP (request for proposals), the chance for that [giving advice] is going to come to a close.”

The RFI has technical questions relating to the building, deployment, operation and maintenance of the nationwide network; ways to accelerate speed to market; priority and pre-emption implementation; opt-out RAN integration; reliability and restoration as well as life cycle, said Kennedy. The key outcomes are to help develop the final state of the RFP and to make the RFP process as transparent as possible.

The RFI questions are structured around the statement of objectives (SOO), included in the document. The SOO will be at the heart of the RFPs going forward, said Kennedy. There will be a 30-day commenting period for both notices.

The board also approved a $120 million budget for FY15. Of that budget, money will be spent on:

• The comprehensive network RFP and activities, identified as the “essential focus for the coming year;”

• State consultations, planning, outreach and related activities;

• Activities to facilitate an efficient and timely rollout of the network; and

• Administrative and support work.

The committee meetings, which took place Sept. 16, and the Sept. 17 board meeting also included updates on FirstNet’s ethics policy. “The last couple of years dealt with a lot of organizational focus,” said FirstNet Board Chair Sue Swenson. “Now we’re moving into a new period, and it’s important to recognize that our ability to interact as we have in the past was broader. It’s likely that we’re going to have to say no [to interacting], but we don’t want people to perceive that as us being uninterested.” To maintain the integrity of process, the board must ensure that all vendors get the same information the same way, she said.

An update on outreach efforts touched on the first state meeting, which occurred in Maryland and the next several state meetings that are lined up. The committee is using the first four meetings as beta tests to ensure they are being as efficient as possible, said Committee Chair Jeff Johnson. The Finance Committee also touched on compliance policy during the meeting.

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