Negotiations between the FirstNet board and entities that received Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants are nearing completion, but all parties involved sought a 30-day extension that was approved last week to finalize the spectrum-lease agreements needed to let the public-safety LTE projects proceed.

Sue Swenson, the FirstNet board member overseeing the negotiations with the BTOP recipients, said the 30-day extension—granted by a unanimous vote during last week’s special meeting of the FirstNet board—was requested by mutual consent by FirstNet and the seven BTOP recipients.

“I think we’ve made substantial progress, but we need a bit more time to wrap it up,” Swenson said during the meeting. “I have confirmation by the BTOP recipients that a 30-day extension would be appropriate and enable us to close these negotiation and move forward to close on these agreements and, of course, then make our recommendation over to the assistant secretary of Commerce and to NTIA.”

The seven public-safety BTOP entities are:

  • Adams County (Colo.) Communications Center
  • City of Charlotte, N.C.
  • State of Mississippi
  • Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LARICS);
  • Motorola Solutions, on behalf of the San Francisco Bay area
  • State of New Jersey
  • State of New Mexico

Previously, the negotiations with the BTOP recipients were supposed to be finished by May 13. With the new extension, negotiations on the spectrum-lease-agreement language is scheduled to be completed by June 12.

FirstNet board members in February opened the door for these public-safety BTOP projects to proceed, noting that information learned from real-world LTE deployments could prove valuable as FirstNet works to finalize the network design, operational structure and business model for the much-anticipated nationwide broadband network. FirstNet established a 90-day window for negotiations with the BTOP jurisdictions, meaning that spectrum lease agreements could be finalized next month.

Ultimately, the decision to lift the public-safety BTOP suspension will rest with NTIA, which put the suspension in place last year. NTIA Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling expressed support for a FirstNet resolution that would allow the BTOP projects to proceed during the February meeting.