FirstNet approves spectrum deal with LA-RICS
FirstNet board members yesterday voted to approve a spectrum-lease agreement with the with Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS), which becomes the first public-safety entity to get permission from FirstNet to use the 20 MHz of 700 MHz for the buildout of a first-responder LTE network.
Approved during a special meeting of the FirstNet board, the spectrum-lease agreement clears the path for LA-RICS to get permission from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to utilize $154.6 million in stimulus grants from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to deploy the LTE network.
“I’m very pleased that we were able to reach a spectrum lease agreement with LA-RICS, and hope that agreements with other pilot projects will be reached soon,” FirstNet Chairman Sam Ginn said in a prepared statement. “These projects will provide FirstNet with a substantial opportunity to gather key information and enable us to share these lessons learned with other projects and public safety.”
LA-RICS was one of seven entities that received BTOP grants to pay for the buildout of public-safety LTE network, but this funding was suspended more than a year ago by NTIA to ensure that these initiatives would integrate with FirstNet’s vision of a nationwide broadband network for first responders. With this in mind, the final decision to lift the grant suspension rests with NTIA, according to a FirstNet spokeswoman. However, NTIA officials have indicated that the agency plans to lift the suspension, if the BTOP recipient reaches an agreement with FirstNet.
All BTOP recipients have been negotiating a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet — the licensee for public-safety 700 MHz broadband spectrum — since February. Initially, the base agreement was supposed to be completed by mid-May, but two 30-day extensions have been granted to finalize the language.
Each of the BTOP entities — as well as Harris County, Texas, which is using a different funding source for its public-safety LTE network — need to approve the base spectrum-lease agreement and language unique to the individual project to pursue completion of their broadband initiatives.
Separately, the board approved a resolution adopting a “personnel acquisition strategy” that is designed to meet FirstNet’s short-term staffing needs as the group works to hire full-time employees. The U.S. Department of Commerce — the contracting authority for FirstNet — will review the strategy and associated documents, and FirstNet plans to announce contracting opportunities during the next several weeks, according to a FirstNet press release.