Because NTIA construction-grant funding would be provided only to states and territories that complete the “opt-out” process, it is not especially relevant to governors that believe an “opt-in” decision clearly is best for their states, based on factors such as financial risk, first-responder interoperability or the attractiveness of the FirstNet/AT&T proposal.

But many officials in states that are still considering the “opt-out” alternative have indicated that they are anxious to see the NTIA funding level, because it could impact their assessment whether deploying the RAN in their states is economically viable.

NTIA officials repeatedly have stated that its construction grants likely will not be great enough to pay for 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.

Given this, at least one federal-government source has said that the NTIA construction-funding may provide only “pennies on the dollar” when compared to the actual cost to construct the RAN within a state or territory.

Of course, a state or territory would receive NTIA construction-grant money only if it achieves “opt-out” status, which is done by executing the following tasks:

  • Within 180 days of the governor’s decision to pursue the “opt-out” alternative, complete the procurement process to select a vendor to build the alternative RAN;
  • Within another 60 days, submit an alternative RAN plan to the FCC, which will evaluate whether the initial plan would be interoperable with the FirstNet nationwide system. The FCC has established a 90-day “aspirational” shot clock for completing its interoperability evaluation; and
  • If approved by the FCC, the state must secure comparability approval from the NTIA and negotiate a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet. FirstNet’s enabling statute does not dictate a timetable for these steps.