FirstNet board OKs draft RFP, setting comment period in motion

Let the games begin--the games being the comment period on the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) draft Request for Proposal (RFP) documents.

The draft RFP release had been delayed at the March board meeting, so FirstNet called a special board meeting for April 24 to consider the matter. While three out of four committees voted to approve the RFP at its March meeting, the finance committee was the hold-out, with members saying they had some questions before giving the OK.

With those issues resolved, FirstNet can move forward. The draft RFP documents are expected to be online April 27. The public will have 90 days to submit comments; FirstNet expects to have a final RFP by the end of this year.

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 national public safety broadband network (NPSBN).  In its special meeting of the board, FirstNet adopted Resolution 65, "Special Notice Re: RFP Strategic Framework," which authorizes management to issue the Special Notice requesting feedback on FirstNet's draft RFP documents.

Included in the board's most recent action is 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. FirstNet board members underscored the importance of continuing to consult with the public safety community on these items, according to a press release. The organization in the past has been accused of not making enough of an effort to get the public safety community's input--in fact, going so far as to be accused of shutting it out.

The comment period for the Third Notice will be 30 days, which will begin after publication of the notice in the Federal Register.

FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson and others have strived to change that over the past 10 months or so. "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," she said in the press release. "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 dedicated public safety broadband network."

TJ Kennedy, acting executive director of FirstNet, gave kudos to the board and staff for all the work that it took to get to this point. "It's a good day FirstNet. It's a good day for the public safety community, and I think it's a good day for bringing improved communications forward for all of the police, fire and EMS first responders that we have across the country who need a network like this," he said in a conference call with reporters.

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

For more:
- see this Mission Critical Communications report
- see the press release
- see this notice
- see this IWCE's Urgent Communications story

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