Governors will learn how much the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) expects to provide their states and territories in construction-grant funding in an “opt-out” scenario when they receive their FirstNet state plans, but details of the NTIA review process likely will not be in the state plans, according to an NTIA official.

During a session at APCO 2017, NTIA officials noted that the review process might not be complete in time for inclusion in the FirstNet state plans, which are expected to be distributed to governors within the next week to 10 days. Some state representatives interpreted the presentation to mean that governors would not know how much NTIA grant funding a state or territory would have to help support the construction of the LTE radio access network (RAN) under an “opt-out” scenario, but that interpretation is incorrect, according to an NTIA official.

“You’ll get the funding-level determination when you get the state plans,” an NTIA official said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The way that it is written is that it will come from FirstNet, but it will be [a funding level] that will be determined by NTIA. So, when the state plans go, the funding-level determination will be in there.”

NTIA will establish construction-grant funding levels for each state and territory, but NTIA officials repeatedly have stated that these grants likely will not be great enough to pay for the complete buildout of the RAN in a given state. The available $5.5 billion will be allocated among the 56 states and territories, with each receiving a portion of the funding, based on the cost to construct, operate, maintain and improve the FirstNet system. However, the NTIA funding will reflect only the construction portion of the equation.

One concern raised by state representatives is that the NTIA construction-grant figure could be lowered in the future. Federal-grant review processes prevent NTIA from guaranteeing that the construction-grant estimate in the state plan will be the amount of funding that ultimately will be available to an “opt-out” state, but “we tried to do that,” according to the NTIA official.

“When you go through the process of applying for money—just like with any grant—you have allowable costs, unallowable, etc.” the NTIA official said. “So, I can’t say that it will be exactly the same, but we don’t anticipate it being terribly different, unless the state does something really quirky.”

While the law requires FirstNet’s final state plans to include the NTIA construction-grant figure under an “opt-out” scenario, it does not require that the NTIA review process be available at the same time as the final state plan. As stated during the APCO 2017 session, details of the NTIA review process are not expected to be ready when the state plans are distributed, according to the NTIA official.

“Ideally, it was supposed to go out at the same time as the state plans,” the NTIA official said. “We are pushing really hard to get it out … but there are review processes for grant processes—especially large grant processes.”

 “It’s moving faster now than I thought it would, but we still have the process to go through. I doubt very much that it will be out in time for the state plans, but [it will be] in plenty of time before a final decision has to be made whether to opt-in or opt-out. That’s a goal of everyone in the department, so I’m sure we can make that happen.”