Los Angeles City Council members yesterday unanimously voted to halt construction of Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS) public-safety LTE cell sites in the city—a move that could undermine the largest first-responder broadband project in the country, according to several sources.

With the 12-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Council ordered that “construction of the LTE system at city of Los Angeles fire stations and police stations not commence, or immediately cease, if started.” This represents the second major entity to halt LTE construction, after the Los Angeles County board of supervisors last week stopped construction at most of its fire stations and many other sites for a period of at least two weeks.

In addition, the city council ordered its representatives on the LA-RICS joint powers authority (JPA) board to attempt to convince the LA-RICS JPA to change its current rules, which require member jurisdictions to participate in both the public-safety LTE project and the P25 public-safety LMR deployment being pursued by LA-RICS. According to the approved motion, the Los Angeles City Council wants the JPA to “bifurcate” the projects, so the city can remain in the LMR initiative but exit the LTE effort.

If the LA-RICS JPA does not agree to bifurcate the public-safety communications projects and it is apparent that the LTE project cannot be finished by the Sept. 30 deadline associated with federal grant funding, the city council instructed its JPA representatives to “work to terminate the LTE project.”

Today, the LA-RICS JPA will conduct a meeting, the focal point of which is expected to be the status of the LTE project.

In the approved motion made by Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander, the city council expressed its concerns about the financial burden that the LTE project could place on the city.

“The LA-RICS JPA will have to bear the full costs of any required work not completed by [the deadline associated with federal grant funding],” according to the motion. “The city share of JPA costs could be up to 40%, depending on the participation of other jurisdictions.

“These cost uncertainties, coupled with continued withdrawals of other jurisdictions from the LA-RICS JPA, delays in construction, and concerns by end users at proposed LTE sites, make it necessary to immediately halt the construction of the LTE portion of the system.”

Despite the intent to halt construction on the public-safety LTE network, Englander did not close the door on the city eventually participating in the LA-RICS broadband system. For this to happen, officials for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) would have to extend the deadline for the $154.6 million in Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grants that represent most of the funding for the project.

Whether such an extension is realistic is a source of disagreement.

Englander said he believes the extension scenario is possible.

“The message that we’ve gotten is that [federal-government officials] want to make sure that we have systems in place,” Englander said during the meeting, which was webcast. “We’re all hopeful that they will extend some of those deadlines, and we’ll work on all of those issues.”

During an IWCE session two weeks ago, LA-RICS Executive Director Patrick Mallon said he believes there is “not a chance in hell” that federal officials would extend the deadline for the use of the federal grants.

Yesterday, multiple other sources also expressed doubt that the LA-RICS could be salvaged as currently proposed.

“Unfortunately, it looks like it is dead,” one source familiar with the situation said on the condition of anonymity.