FirstNet reopens spectrum-lease talks with New Jersey, Adams County
FirstNet board members last week unanimously approved a resolution that reopened 700 MHz spectrum-lease negotiations with the state of New Jersey and Adams County, Colo. It also extended similar negotiations with the state of Mississippi and Motorola Solutions—on behalf the San Francisco Bay area—until Nov. 15.
All four entities were awarded federal grants through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP)—which is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)—to deploy public-safety broadband systems, but NTIA halted the projects last year after Congress established FirstNet.
“As I have said many times before, we very much would like to reach an agreement with the BTOP locations, because I think it gives us an early test of the kind of issues we are likely to run into as we implement a nationwide system,” FirstNet Chairman Sam Ginn said during the meeting last Friday. “And, frankly, capital has already been spent in these locations, and it seems to me that it’s in the interest of everyone to utilize that capital.”
Earlier this year, FirstNet announced that spectrum-lease agreements—deals needed to allow entities to deploy public-safety LTE systems on the 700 MHz broadband spectrum licensed to FirstNet—had been reached with two BTOP recipients, the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System Authority (LA-RICS) and the state of New Mexico. Negotiations with the state of Mississippi and Motorola Solutions—the vendor for the Bay Area Regional Interoperable Communications Systems Authority (BayRICS) and the lone company that was a public-safety BTOP grant recipient—have been ongoing and were expected to be extended at the meeting.
Including the state of New Jersey and Adams County in the resolution was surprising, because FirstNet passed a resolution on Aug. 13 that supposedly ended negotiations with these entities and the city of Charlotte, N.C. However, FirstNet Deputy General Manager TJ Kennedy said that FirstNet General Manager Bill D’Agostino wanted to re-open talks with New Jersey and Adams County. New Jersey officials have proposed a plan that would allow FirstNet to learn more about strategies associated with the use of deployable assets, Kennedy said.
“It would a way for us to get a BTOP that may look a little different than some of the others but give us some other key learnings that would be great to have, if we can make that work,” Kennedy said during the meeting.
No details were offered about Adams County, but it—along with Mississippi and Charlotte—was one of the BTOP recipients that had paid for LTE gear and was scheduled to deploy its public-safety LTE network last year, before NTIA froze the BTOP projects to ensure that they would fit into FirstNet’s plans to deploy a nationwide broadband network for first responders.
Kennedy said that FirstNet’s goal is to work with each BTOP entity to help make their projects “viable,” so they can proceed.
“We do believe that we should be able to close these out over the next few weeks and have this resolved by Nov. 15,” he said.
During the latter portion of August, FirstNet representatives attempted to work with Charlotte officials to make that city’s public-safety LTE project viable, but those efforts failed because of multiple business-model concerns, according to Chuck Robinson, the city’s director of shared services.
Spectrum-lease negotiations with the state of Texas—the location of the nation’s lone operational public-safety LTE network in Harris County—were extended to Nov. 26 by a written-consent resolution passed by the FirstNet board in late August.