“We see these as Congress saying, ‘Yes, states have the option of moving in their own direction or making sure that the system works for them, but we want to make sure that the underlying requirements of the bill—to have a nationwide public-safety broadband [network]—will be achieved, even if a state is operating its own state RAN,” Dunn said.

“We’re not trying to do ‘gotchas’ here. If I can say anything, it’s that, if you know how to run an LTE and you can effectively demonstrate it through this process, you will pass [this technical-capabilities portion of the review process].”

Potential “opt-out” states will not be required to submit a flawless initial application to NTIA to get approval, but all review categories must be passed to get NTIA approval, Dunn said.

“You will get opportunities to remedy deficiencies,” Dunn said. “You must pass every demonstration—60% doesn’t get you there; you either pass it, or you don’t pass it.

“If you don’t pass it, you will get an opportunity to remedy the things that we noted or that the SMEs noted, and you’ll get a chance to review. We will then send it back to the reviewers, and they will review again. If you did not pass a second time, you will get another bite at the apple. We are trying to make this a very fair process, but you’ve got to get to a point where people can look at your plan is and say, ‘Yes, that’s possible, and that’s achievable.’”

States pursuing the “opt-out” alternative will need to show their financial plans to make the necessary payments to FirstNet and fund the deployment and maintenance of the RAN.

“FirstNet has figured a value on every state, based on the size of the state, the population of public safety, and other factors,” Dunn said. “You will have to be able to show that you can make those payments. If you can make those payments, we will say that you are cost-effective.”

These financial plans also should include methods to pay for the “opt-out” state to fund ongoing compatibility and interoperability testing to ensure that the alternative RAN works seamlessly with the nationwide FirstNet system, Dunn said.

“A lot of states think that FirstNet is going to do the testing for you, if you’re an opt-out state. We’ve been told that probably is not true,” Dunn said. “You’re going to have to run you own testing program. You’re going to have to have your own way of certifying that you’re in compliance with all of the network policies.

“That’s a big deal. You need to be able to account for that and be prepared to do that.”