Regarding FirstNet, here’s how states can help themselves
Today is election day, and some in the industry have wondered what the ramifications of the elections will be on FirstNet. Will a change in administration result in an effort to change the existing statute authorizing FirstNet? Will a change in the make-up of Congress result in changes?
No doubt, changes could happen regarding a variety of FirstNet-related issues. However, whatever those changes are, they will require changes to the existing statute. As can be seen with the original FirstNet creation, statute changes don’t happen overnight. So, whatever changes happen, they won’t happen for a while.
Nevertheless, potential changes (depending on what happens in the election) could include issues such as:
- A change in the make-up of the FirstNet Board (at least with regard to those appointees with one-year terms);
- A change in the financial authorization for FirstNet (providing more or less funding);
- A change in the required “give-back” of T-Band spectrum.
There’s certainly the potential that FirstNet could be scrapped altogether, but I think that possibility is small.
However, for the time being, industry folks should assume that the legislation will stand as written. Therefore, it is important that any eligible users (primary or secondary) with a potential interest in using the network take steps now to ensure that their input to designers accounts for all potential uses and issues, in order to ensure the speediest deployment possible.
So, what are the steps that you ought to be taking now? Here’s a list:
- Stay up to date on FirstNet news. Urgent’s e-newsletter and Andy Seybold’s blog are two good sources.
- Learn what services the network can offer immediately upon deployment, and which services can be deployed later.
- Find out what office the governor of your state has selected to review the eventual FirstNet plan. Interface with that office and provide input as to what your state needs in the way of deployment (both when and where).
- If your state has not taken any steps to identify the team, offer to assist in its creation.
- Begin an assessment of needs in your state immediately. When you receive the plan for your state from FirstNet, you will have precious little time to review that plan and — if you find it insufficient — issue your own RFP. You may find that the FirstNet plan for your state is perfect when you receive it, but if it’s not, there simply won’t be enough time at that point to start from scratch.
- Consider spectrum alternatives, should FirstNet not be deployed in your area as part of any potential first wave of deployments.
Resources to assist you with this analysis are readily available from a variety of sources. Please note, however, that you should carefully vet those outside sources. You want to make sure that they truly are qualified, have no allegiance to a particular vendor, and can produce for you an actionable plan, regardless of whether you eventually chose to use it. Your team should, at a minimum, have expertise in: (1) land mobile radio (public safety and transit in particular); (2) cellular networks; and (3) finance (after all, you have to be able to afford this thing).
If you take these steps, you’ll be well-poised to make quick decisions when the time comes, regardless of whether FirstNet changes occur as the result of the election.