FirstNet GM D’Agostino on procurement: ‘Winner-take-all’ approach doubtful
During the recent Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) conference in Anaheim, Calif., FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino spoke with UC Editor Donny Jackson during a one-on-one interview about issues associated with efforts to make the nationwide first-responder broadband network a reality. The following is the first in a series of articles based on the interview.
As FirstNet completes its first year of existence, considerable attention has been focused on the public-safety user requirements for the broadband network, potential business models for deployment and operations, and on internal strife made public by board member Paul Fitzgerald during the April meeting.
However, with $7 billion at stake, it is not surprising that there is significant interest within the industry about how procurement will be handled for the massive network buildout. Because FirstNet’s enabling legislation calls for one network, some have speculated that the project would be bid as a single federal project. Meanwhile, others have suggested that the interstate-highway model—in which states are charged with the construction of projects that meet federal standards—would be a better approach.
Without making a commitment on behalf of FirstNet, D’Agostino made the following statements about what the organization needd to do before issuing requests for proposals (RFPs) and about a potential regional model for bidding the project.
On prerequisites to FirstNet issuing an RFP:
“I think we have to be as clear as possible before we go to RFP on exactly what we want and what we want the network to look like.
“So, it will be fundamentally important to us to be able to articulate to any of the bidders exactly what the relationship with FirstNet needs to look like—what the expectations are from a standards perspective, what the requirements will be in order to prove in a financial option, for example, or a partnership option. We’ll have to have all of that laid out in an RFP.”
On the potential procurement model:
“I think that we’re going to need to look at this regionally—with the opportunity for bidders to bid for multiple regions—but I don’t think we want to approach this at a winner-take-all national level.
“I think we have to be as specific regionally as we can be, and I think we’ll end up with a better-quality product that way.”
On regional approaches being considered:
“I’ve always said—and continue to say—that we need to let the market continue to drive us. But we’ve made the decision, for example, to align with the FEMA regions, and we think that makes the most sense for right now, because those FEMA regions are the places where the relationships exist today in the event of emergencies and disasters, and they’re a great place for us to put our state-outreach resources and be able to work in that geographic context.
“And, I think, to a great degree, those will line up very good from a partnership perspective. So, our hope would be that we focus on the FEMA regions, and we’ll see how that rolls out from there.”