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How should states prepare for FirstNet opt-out decision?

Most states have not taken any formal actions to prepare for the FirstNet opt-out decisions that their governors are expected to make next year. There is a lot to consider, and approaches can vary dramatically—a fact that is evident in the three state requests for proposals (RFPs) that have been released to date.

By Andrew Seybold

According to the FirstNet team, the request for proposals (RFP) award announcement could be made as early as the first week of November, though it may take some time after the announcement for all of the t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted in the formal contract.

In the meantime—during the month of October and the period after the announcement but before the contract award—states should be preparing to make the best decision possible when it comes to opting in or out of FirstNet. There are 47 states that have not yet gone public with any concept or RFP. However, these states can follow models from states that have publicly initiated steps toward the decision process.

As of right now, we have three examples of states that have started down the path. It is clear that there are other states out there that are or will be working toward understanding their options. There is a lot to be learned from the states already out there preparing as demonstrated by their RFPs.

The first is the state of New Hampshire, which has not only issued an RFP but has chosen the winner. New Hampshire says it will not award the final contract until the governor decides if the state will opt out, but the fact remains that if there is an opt-out decision the chosen RFP winner will be awarded the contract.

This approach brings up some interesting choices for New Hampshire. What if the same bidder that won the state RFP wins the FirstNet RFP? That would mean the state has no other choice. It would not have an opportunity to see proposals from another vendor or two that may, in fact, be better than the company that won both the FirstNet and state RFP. Being prepared to make the best choice for the state is one thing, but making the choice before knowing what the choices are does not seem to make a lot of sense.

Next up is the Alabama RFP, which is on the street with a due date of October 14, 2016. According to the state, it is not an offer of a contract but a request for information and the issuance of the bid should not indicate that an opt-out decision has been made. In the case of Alabama, its RFP is close to that issued by New Hampshire. The due date is prior to the FirstNet award of the nationwide RFP and does not give bidders much time to respond.

The question for Alabama is if it will “award” a contract ahead of the FirstNet announcement and put itself in the same position as New Hampshire or if it will, in fact, wait until the FirstNet decision has been announced and FirstNet (this is supposed to happen within six months of contract execution). So in the case of Alabama, we won’t know if it has limited its options until it receives the RFP responses and either takes action or waits.

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Mike Barney (not verified)
on Oct 5, 2016

Andy,
great, insightful article. I was glad to see you in-concert with a position that Larry Gowen in Florida proposed about two years ago: "Negotiated Opt In": Opt In, but negotiate the best deal for your responders you can instead of spending millions on an Opt-Out attempt which will likely fail.

I'd also like to amplify one of your points: Some jurisdictions may want to try an Opt-Out, but they likely have to do this in a vacuum with respect to the valuation the FirstNet contractor places on their state, a very critical value. While a few have brushed this aside, they don't understand the issue.

This is akin to signing a lease on a building for 25 years where you know everything about the building, size, age, capacity, etc, except the actual monthly payment. I can't imaging a responsible Governor going forward with such a proposition.

Clearly Sue, Mike, TJ and the rest of the FirstNet team have done a Herculean job getting to where they are today, and should be applauded, and expect their success to be evident as we move forward.

Irrespective of who does or doesn't attempt an Opt- Out, it's going to be an interesting ride!

Abdulbrir (not verified)
on Oct 9, 2016

Thanks. 100.100

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