FCC, NTIA Policy Items Needed to Ensure FirstNet Momentum
Monday, April 04, 2016 | Comments

The FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) must release several policy items specific to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) process to maintain momentum for the national public-safety broadband network.

As FirstNet heads into phase three of its strategic roadmap, the FCC and NTIA must roll out several policies to address states that decide to build their own radio access network (RAN), along with providing grant and spectrum rules.

Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, FirstNet will deliver a final state plan to the governor of each state to make an opt-in/opt-out decision, planned for mid-2017. The decision identifies whether FirstNet or the state/territory takes on the responsibility to deploy, operate and maintain the state RAN. Regardless of the decision, the RAN must interconnect with the national FirstNet core network.

The first item in phase three of FirstNet’s strategic roadmap is an FCC notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the states that select the alternative RAN or opt-out option.

David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB), was asked why the commission hasn’t begun a rulemaking on the process during a House hearing in February.

Furth said the FCC’s work will be in line with the planned release of the first state plans in the second quarter of 2017.

“We have no intention to slow walk this process,” said Furth during the hearing. “We have in fact been working with FirstNet on their timeline. The FCC is capable of conducting a rulemaking quickly. … Our focus is going to be on that statute and how we implement it. This is the right time to do it because now we have the request for proposals (RFP); it would have been premature before the RFP. We think it will build a better record. We think the timing is right.”

Also this year, the commission must release a spectrum relocation order for the 700 MHz band 14 licensees. FirstNet announced a $40 million grant program to public-safety licensees operating in band 14 spectrum, the spectrum where FirstNet will launch broadband operations, to relocate them to other 700 MHz spectrum.

Early in 2017, the FCC must also release final opt-out rules. States that plan to opt out must submit their plans to the FCC for approval of interoperability requirements, probably in 2018.

For its part, NTIA later this year must release final rules for FirstNet fees that states that choose to build their own RANs must provide to FirstNet. NTIA must also approve states — based on interoperability, cost effectiveness, security, coverage, timeline and quality of service — to negotiate spectrum lease terms with FirstNet.

In addition, NTIA must release opt-out grant guidance. States that opt out could be eligible to receive some federal funds to build their own RAN under the legislation that created FirstNet. In 2017, after FirstNet has released the draft state plans, NTIA must release a final federal funding opportunity (FFO) document outlining the grants for states that build their own RANs.

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