FirstNet Board Sets Path for BTOP Projects to Move Forward
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) Board adopted a resolution outlining its path forward with the seven public safety Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grantees, whose funding was partially suspended following enactment of the law creating FirstNet and establishing it as the governing authority to oversee the planning for and buildout of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.
The resolution authorizes FirstNet Board member Sue Swenson, the leader of its BTOP working group, to commence negotiations with each BTOP grantee on the terms and conditions that would govern its collaboration with FirstNet. If approved by the Board, such agreements would enable a grantee to lease access to FirstNet’s spectrum, and would provide the basis for FirstNet’s recommendation that the partial suspension of that grantee’s BTOP funding should be lifted.
“I am very pleased with the progress FirstNet has made with the BTOP public safety projects,” said Sam Ginn, Chairman of the FirstNet Board. “Based on our site visits and other discussions with the projects’ leaders and vendors, we’ve determined that each of these seven grantees could provide substantial benefits to FirstNet’s nationwide deployment efforts and generate valuable lessons learned on the challenges we face. Our task now is to negotiate the terms and conditions of agreements that will transform these potential benefits into the tangible results of meaningful, working relationships between FirstNet and the grantees.”
The process approved by the FirstNet Board has two main phases. The first is a 90-day period for negotiations, led by Swenson, to seek agreements with each of the BTOP grantees that would include a common set of terms and conditions. If a negotiation with a grantee concludes successfully within that 90-day window, and the Board approves the agreement, FirstNet then would execute a spectrum lease with the grantee. In addition, FirstNet would send a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which administers the BTOP program, in support of that grantee’s request to lift the partial suspension of its funding. As administrator of the BTOP program, NTIA will have the final decision on whether lifting a grant suspension is a prudent use of taxpayer funds.
“I am excited to begin our negotiations with the BTOP grantees,” said Swenson, who has spearheaded FirstNet’s activities with the BTOP projects. “While the Board has discussed a common set of conditions it wants to see embodied in each agreement, the BTOP grantees and I will also have the flexibility to capture any special project characteristics in an agreement. These could include how a project will address rural or wide-area deployments, in-building coverage issues, development of public safety applications, billing and provisioning, or other specific project features that FirstNet could leverage as it builds and operates a nationwide public safety broadband network that meets the needs of all of our first responders.”
The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, signed into law in February 2012, created FirstNet, an independent entity within NTIA. The law charges FirstNet with developing and implementing a nationwide public safety broadband network, which is to be based on a single, nationwide network architecture. That new law dramatically changed the assumptions on which NTIA awarded the seven public safety BTOP projects in 2010. To ensure that BTOP grant funds are prudently invested, in May 2012 NTIA partially suspended the seven projects so that they would proceed in a manner that supports the development of the nationwide network.
Report to Congress
Separately, the FirstNet Board approved its first annual report to Congress on FirstNet’s operations, activities, financial condition and achievements during the prior fiscal year. The report, required by law, covers the seven-month period between Feb. 22 and Sept. 30, 2012. It includes both related activities conducted by NTIA and the FCC before the FirstNet Board was fully constituted, and those conducted by the Board itself.
- Resolution on FirstNet’s Report to Congress
– FirstNet Annual Report to Congress FY 2012
- Resolution on BTOP Projects Recommendation
- Resolution on Delegated Hiring Authority
- Resolution on Procedures for Obtaining Unanimous Written Consent