FirstNet Releases Draft RFP, Approves Third Public Notice on Public Safety Entity (4/24/15)
Friday, April 24, 2015 | Comments

By Sandra Wendelken
The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board authorized the release of a special notice requesting feedback on draft request for proposals (RFP) documents.

The documents were made available April 27 after being delayed at the board’s March meeting. The draft RFP document is 266 pages, but additional electronic-only features will be used for feedback.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 requires FirstNet to conduct an RFP process for the construction, operation, maintenance and improvement of the NPSBN. Interested parties will have 90 days to submit comments on the draft RFP. FirstNet plans to have a final RFP by the end of the year.

Critical tenets of FirstNet’s proposed acquisition strategy include, but are not limited to, engaging in a performance-based acquisition, having a period of performance, and leveraging market forces to achieve the best value for public-safety entities by competing regional and/or national approaches to procuring the network.

The plan will include five phases of buildout and two expansions that will incorporate rural areas of the country throughout all five phases, according to a presentation by TJ Kennedy, FirstNet acting general manager. The plan includes ways to keep FirstNet operating in the black as required by the act that created it by leveraging its $7 billion in funding, user fees, existing infrastructure and excess network capacity.

FirstNet is proposing both nationwide and regional radio access network (RAN) proposals. A nationwide proposal would include the core network, covered lease agreements (CLAs), RANs, and states and territories. A regional RAN proposal comprises CLAs, RAN, and states and territories. The regional proposals could include one or several states and RANs.

Therefore, FirstNet is proposing that a national proposal would be broken down state by state to allow FirstNet to compare on a regional basis what several states look like with a national vs. regional plan, officials said.

The draft also includes subscriber targets by state and year and a most favored nation pricing clause. Kennedy said FirstNet will hold several industry days, including one in May, and will take requests from vendors for formal meetings that follow FirstNet’s federal acquisition process.

“We want to move quickly to create multiple avenues and opportunities for the states, territories and tribes, public-safety community, and potential industry partners to engage in a dialogue with FirstNet about how to deploy this network,” Kennedy said. “Having an iterative approach that involves public safety early and often in the process will lead us to produce the best possible RFP to help ensure the ultimate network solution works for the public-safety community, FirstNet and its industry partners.”

The board also approved a third public notice seeking further comment on the definition and scope of the term “public-safety entity” as used in FirstNet’s enabling legislation. The term was first explored in FirstNet’s first public notice, among many other items, but this notice is specific to the term because of its importance to the network, officials said.

“The term determines the addressable market of who will use the network, and that affects economic stability of the network,” said Jason Karp, acting general counsel. “Having certainty for the definition is critical to our sustainability. It affects the public-safety community and FirstNet’s viability.”

The comment period for the third notice will be 30 days, which will begin after publication of the notice in the Federal Register. Comments for FirstNet’s second public notice related to state and territory opt-out of the radio access network (RAN) are due April 28.

“Today’s decisions by the FirstNet board continue the significant progress FirstNet is achieving toward our goal of implementing the nationwide public-safety broadband network,” said FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson. “We look forward to having a meaningful dialog on these two topics with the public-safety community, state and local jurisdictions, territories and tribes, and potential offerors to move us along our strategic roadmap toward a final RFP and ultimately the deployment of the dedicated public-safety broadband network.”

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