FirstNet board members today voted unanimously to release a special notice regarding its much-anticipated draft request for proposal (RFP), which will initiate a 90-day proceeding designed to provide FirstNet with the feedback from industry and public safety that is needed to issue a final RFP by the end of the year.

Board members met via teleconference today after declining to consider the RFP proposed to the board at last month’s meeting. FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson thanked the FirstNet staff for its efforts in revising the massive document.

“This is obviously a very complex issue, and I think the framing of it and understanding the constraints—plus the opportunities—is really important,” Swenson said during the board meeting, which was webcast. “It’s not a simple story to tell, because it’s different than what people are perhaps used to.

“We keep saying that it’s unprecedented and that it’s never been done before. Sometimes it’s hard to take a complex topic like this and frame it … The content has been there, but it’s taking that and framing it in a way that people can understand, so they can respond appropriately [can be difficult].”

Thanks to feedback from previous proceedings, FirstNet has a more detailed statement of objectives that it wants to achieve with the deployment of the broadband network, according to FirstNet Acting Executive Director TJ Kennedy. With the draft RFP, FirstNet plans to learn whether all of those objectives can be achieved.

“We want to make sure that input is actually built into the final RFP,” Kennedy said. “The goal of releasing things today is really trying to make sure that we can engage with industry going forward and engage with state consultation going forward to make sure that industry offerers who look at these objectives can tell us that they can meet the objectives that we’re proposing. If they can’t meet the objectives, or if there are any roadblocks, [we want them] to let us know early, as part of the response process to the draft RFP documents.

“Also, in public safety, this will allow us to have much more engaging conversations and consultations about specifics for a future RFP and to receive feedback—as part of consultation and also from public safety, in general—on each and every one of these objectives.”

On Monday, FirstNet will release the lengthy draft-RFP documents—266 pages of text, which does not include hundreds of additional pages of spreadsheets and other forms—via Federal Business Opportunities on fbo.gov (Reference Number: D15PS00295). Potential respondents are asked to submit questions regarding the draft RFP within 30 days, and responses will be due in 90 days. Responses will be kept confidential.

FirstNet plans to conduct an “Industry Day” in May, to discuss the draft RFP with potential vendors, or “offerers.” The date of the event is expected to be announced next week, Kennedy said. FirstNet also will allow potential partners to meet with FirstNet on an individual basis via a process that will be clarified next week.