When the FirstNet request for proposals (RFP) initially was released last year, officials indicated that these payment amounts—figures that likely will dwarf the construction-grant funding level, particularly in the states that are most likely to pursue the “opt-out” path—would not be available as governors made their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions.

But this position appeared to change in June, when FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson indicated that governors would be given an idea how much the core and spectrum payments to FirstNet would be.

“We’re trying to get it into [the initial state plan released in June], but for sure in the September one,” Swenson said during an interview with IWCE's Urgent Communications. “At least they’ll have an indication of it, because that’s how they’re going to make the decision. I mean, you have to have that in there. We know how important that is.”

However, payments to FirstNet were not mentioned during last week’s presentations to the FirstNet committee and board about the upcoming release of the official state plans. Conversations with officials in two states indicated that they did not see information about core or spectrum payments included in their state-plan portals, but both acknowledged that they had not been able to review the updated state-plan portal in detail.

One state official stated that the state-plan portal included language indicating that the payments to FirstNet would be included in an “opt-out” state’s spectrum-lease agreement. While this may be the appropriate legal agreement, both state officials agreed that waiting until the spectrum-lease agreement is negotiated is not a practical time for a state to first learn the extent of its payment obligations to FirstNet.

Indeed, state officials have long said that governors need to know what the payments amounts during the 90-day decision window, as opposed to learning what the payments will be after the state or territory presents its alternative RAN plan to the FCC—information that could undermine the economics of alternative RAN plan, if the payments to FirstNet are more than projected by the state.

If information about the potential payments a state or territory would have to make to FirstNet for access to its spectrum and network is not available, it would be problematic, according to one state official.

“I don’t understand how a governor can make a decision without that information—those are two big pieces of the puzzle,” the official said. “Hopefully, this will be addressed.”