FirstNet moves closer to awarding contract to deploy network for first responders

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FirstNet approved a resolution that sets the stage for it to award the contract to deploy a network for first responders.

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board passed a resolution that sets the stage for the group to award the contract to deploy a network for first responders.

Resolution 84 gives FirstNet CEO Mike Poth the green light to finalize the RFP (request for proposal) process in advance of naming the winning bidder. AT&T is widely expected to be awarded the contract.

“This is a milestone moment; this is a really big day,” FirstNet Chairwoman Susan Swenson said just before Tuesday morning’s vote. “Today we reach a significant milestone to deliver the nationwide public safety broadband network.”

FirstNet cleared a major hurdle earlier this month when the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled in its favor, allowing the first broadband network in the U.S. devoted to public safety to proceed without a contract award. FirstNet had wanted to award the contract before the end of last year, but one of the bidders, Rivada, said it was wrongly removed from the list of potential contractors. The federal claims court rejected that argument.

RELATED: FirstNet, ready to move forward, awaits court’s decision

The 25-year contract is expected to bring additional business to infrastructure vendors and tower operators. And AT&T is ultimately awarded the project, the nation’s second-largest carrier will get access to FirstNet’s 20 MHz of 700 MHz low-band spectrum and $6.5 billion for designing and operating the nationwide network for federal, state and local authorities, with the right to sell excess capacity on the system.

It still isn’t clear exactly when work on FirstNet will start, or how big the network will be, however. Rivada has indicated it will appeal the ruling and is moving forward with plans to work with states individually to build dedicated networks for public safety. Indeed, Rivada has said it is already working with New Hampshire on an alternative plan for that state should it decide to opt out.

Regardless, FirstNet officials have said repeatedly in recent months that the organization is ready to move forward on the first-of-its-kind network, having worked many years to get to this point.

“This has been a long road from 2006, 2008 to where we are today,” said Kevin McGinnis, a FirstNet board member and 40-year veteran of the Emergency Medical Services industry. “FirstNet is going to change the way EMS is practiced in the field forever…. It is truly going to be a game-changer for us.”