Mississippi LTE Network at Impasse with FirstNet (7/25/13)
Thursday, July 25, 2013 | Comments

By Michelle Zilis
After coming to an impasse with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the state of Mississippi’s Wireless Communications Commission (WCC) has decided to not commit or obligate further funds to its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network buildout at this time, said Vicki B. Helfrich, executive officer, Mississippi WCC.

Mississippi was one of seven entities awarded Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) money in 2010. The state received $70 million total, and in the summer of 2011 awarded a $56 million contract to Motorola Solutions to implement the LTE network. With the creation of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), NTIA partially suspended the public-safety grants. Since then FirstNet and NTIA have re-started negotiations on the projects.

“We have worked diligently with both NTIA and FirstNet for more than a year to determine how the state of Mississippi can move forward with its project,” Helfrich said. “We were working with FirstNet/NTIA on a solution which appeared to be attainable, only to be told several days before our agreed upon deadline that they could not follow through with their commitments.”

When NTIA suspended construction of the Long Term Evolution (LTE) portion of the Mississippi program in May 2012, the state had 80 percent of the project completed, she said.

“This decision is not due to funding issues on the part of the state; rather, it is due to the unknowns and uncertainties surrounding the nationwide public-safety broadband network,” Helfrich said. “Mississippi had a plan in place, which would have allowed us to provide our first responders with access to critical data on a real-time basis and drastically improve the lives of the citizens of our state. Unfortunately, we are at an impasse with NTIA at this time. We welcome any solution that NTIA/FirstNet can provide the state.”

Motorola has recently been accused of lobbying against FirstNet, allegations the company denies.

"Motorola Solutions remains committed to supporting the state of Mississippi on this project, and we’re hopeful for a successful outcome as the state continues discussions with FirstNet," said Tom McMahon, global communications and government affairs, Motorola Solutions. "The experience gained from early public-safety LTE broadband deployments such as Mississippi’s would be a significant benchmark for FirstNet and the nation’s public-safety community."

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