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Here is a suggested process to help states make FirstNet opt-in/opt-out decision

Many state officials have been talking about the opt-out option for years, but how would the decision-making and logistics work? Consultant Dominick Arcuri provides a detailed outline of the steps involved for a state pursuing the opt-out alternative.

By Dominick Arcuri

It became apparent from a recent discussion with state public-safety leaders across the country that many states would benefit from a thorough discussion and detailed process flow which will help them navigate the murky waters of the FirstNet opt-in/opt-out decision process. This document was developed to address this need, as it describes a suggested FirstNet opt-in/opt-out process flow for states and territories to consider when preparing for the FirstNet decision.

The process flow will walk states and territories through the steps necessary to arrive at an informed opt-in/opt-out decision by describing the interim decisions involved and processes to follow in order to arrive at a logical decision given each state’s unique situation. The suggested process flow described includes up to eight process steps (P1-P8), up to six decision points (D1-D6), and two potential end points (End1, End2), as summarized below. 

P1: Establish State’s NPSBN Objectives

P2: Develop and Release State RAN RFI/RFP

P3: Evaluate RFI/RFP Responses

P4: Develop PPP Alternative Plan

P5: Develop Public Safety Only Alternative Plan

P6: Compare Alternative Plan to FirstNet State Plan

P7: Submit Alternative Plan for Approval

P8: Apply for Grant Funding and Negotiate Spectrum Lease

D1: Will the State Initiate an RFI/RFP Process for a Public Private Partnership (PPP)?

D2: Do the RFI/RFP Responses Provide a Viable Plan?

D3: Develop a Public Safety Only Plan?

D4: Which radio-access-network (RAN) Plan is Best for the State?

D5: Alternative Plan Approved?

D6: Was Acceptable Grant Funding Received and an Acceptable Spectrum Lease Agreement Reached?

End1: Opt-In/FirstNet deploys state RAN

End2: Opt-Out/State deploys state RAN

A diagram of the process flow is provided, along with a detailed description of each of the processes and decision points as well as key consideration for the states as they proceed through the process.

The author recognizes that the FirstNet decision may be a difficult and individual one for each state/territory and is in no way attempting to encourage any specific action or decision by a state, but merely attempting to guide states through the process in order to prepare them to make an informed decision.





















Here is a suggested process to help states make FirstNet opt-in/opt-out decision


P1: Establish State’s NPSBN Objectives: The first step in the process is for the state to establish its objectives related to mission-critical data communications and the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). Since almost all states have been participating in the implementation planning activities most will have already established these objectives. For those states, this step will become primarily a review and documentation exercise. 

For those states that have not already established their objectives, this step will help prepare them for the opt-in/opt-out process and the upcoming decisions to be made. A helpful list of the items states may wish to consider when establishing their objectives include the following items:

  • Mission-critical broadband data desired coverage and capacity;
  • Network features and functionality;
  • Network security;
  • Network availability and hardening;
  • Public safety priority;
  • Local control;
  • Device types and availability;
  • Commercial roaming opportunities;
  • The state’s preferred business model and approach to providing mission-critical broadband data services;
  • The state’s preferred ownership model for providing mission-critical broadband data services;
  • The state’s position and preference for the use of public-owned assets;
  • Integration with state and local PSAPs and Next Generation 9-1-1;
  • Desired service plan offerings;
  • The state’s resource and financial commitments.

P2: Develop and Release State RAN RFI/RFP: This process assumes the state has decided to prepare and issue an RFI/RFP to explore Public Private Partnership (PPP) options with a partner for an alternative Radio Access Network (RAN) and business plan within its state.  Several states have already begun this process and there are some examples available.  An RFI/RFP should address both technical and business aspects of the portion of the network to be deployed within the state.  Some suggested items for states to consider are provided here:

  • Potential coverage for a RAN within the state and the issues associated with providing different levels of coverage;
  • The network capacity that could be provided and the issues associated with providing overall network capacity and capacity throughout various regions of the state;
  • The features and functionality that can be supported by the network;
  • Security aspects of the network and steps to be taken to protect the security of public-safety entities (PSEs);
  • The level of priority to be provided to PSEs and the methodology for defining and administering priority and local control;
  • Issues associated with the availability of the network and potential hardening steps to be taken to enhance network availability;
  • Plans for providing a selection of end user devices compatible with the network;
  • Approach to connect to the FirstNet nationwide core and issues associated with doing so;
  • Potential for roaming access to commercial service-provider networks;
  • Potential business models and arrangements for partnerships to deploy, operate and manage the network;
  • Financial approaches to deploy, operate, maintain and enhance the network, as well as providing a consistent revenue stream to make required payments for use of the spectrum and core network;
  • Anticipated financial risk, ownership, mitigation steps, and potential outcomes associated with proposed approaches;
  • Willingness of the prospective partner to enter into a Covered Leasing Agreement (CLA) with FirstNet (together with the state);
  • Potential for and issues associated with incorporating state and PSE-owned assets into the network;
  • Considerations and procedures for integration with state and local PSAPs and next-generation 911;
  • Recommendations for service plans to be offered to PSEs and individual public-safety users;
  • Anticipated resource and financial commitments from the state.

While this may not be an exhaustive list of the issues each state will want to address in their RFI/RFP, it hopefully provides a starting point for development of the document.

Those states that initially issue an RFI to identify interested parties and potential approaches and receive promising responses, will need to issue an RFP later in the process, if they intend on developing an alternative plan in order to establish commitments from potential partners, so that a firm alternative plan can be established (as described in process step P4) and prepared for submission for the necessary approvals.  Recently, the author has learned that one potential partner will no longer respond to RFIs but will respond to RFPs.

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