Los Angeles is first BTOP grantee to approve FirstNet spectrum-lease pact

The board of the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) last week voted in favor of a 700 MHz spectrum-lease agreement with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), reported Urgent Communications.

The vote makes LA-RICS the first jurisdiction to approve a FirstNet spectrum-lease pact.

LA-RICS was one of seven Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) public-safety entities that received a total of $380 million in federal grant funding to build out public-safety LTE networks using 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum leased from the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST). LA-RICS received $154.6 million, the largest grant amount, said Urgent Communications.

Last May, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) held up the BTOP funding and instructed the seven public-safety recipients to rein in their deployments until it could be determined that their networks would integrate with the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) FirstNet is charged with creating.

The PSST spectrum was later transferred to FirstNet and added to 10 MHz of 700 MHz D Block spectrum assigned to FirstNet. Thus, lease agreements between FirstNet and the BTOP recipients are required before they can access what is now a total of 20 MHz of 700 MHz broadband spectrum held by FirstNet.

At its third public meeting this past February, the FirstNet board voted unanimously to have board member Sue Swenson negotiate spectrum leases with each BTOP grantee. The initial target date for creation of the base agreement was set for May, but two 30-day extensions were granted. The negotiation period was most recently extended through July 12.

LA-RICS' approval of the FirstNet spectrum-lease agreement sets the stage for the other BTOP grant recipients to follow suit now that the pact's basic wording has obviously been set. The agreement will likely be tweaked for each BTOP grantee to address its particular circumstances.

Once those leases are signed, however, NTIA, which oversees FirstNet, will have the final say on whether lifting a particular grant suspension would be a prudent use of taxpayer funds.

Larry Strickling, NTIA assistant secretary, said in February that the BTOP projects must comply with two conditions: The grant money will remain in the communities that received the grant, and the grant dollars will be spent on facilities and equipment that can be incorporated into FirstNet's nationwide network or that will yield valuable data and information to guide FirstNet.

Also negotiating a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet is the state of Texas on behalf of Harris County, which is currently operating the nation's only 700 MHz broadband public-safety network under special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC.

For more:
- see this Urgent Communications article

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