FirstNet reschedules special board meeting for March 28, vote for AT&T procurement win still expected
FirstNet today announced that its board will conduct a special meeting next Tuesday—a day earlier than previously announced—when a vote is expected to set the stage for AT&T to be awarded with a 25-year deal to deploy and maintain the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).
Yesterday, FirstNet announced that the special board meeting would be conducted on Wednesday, March 29, but the meeting was moved to Tuesday, March 28, in an announcement released today.
“We were able to move it up a day sooner,” FirstNet spokesman Ryan Oremland said in a message to IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The board is eager to move forward for public safety.”
FirstNet board members will convene via teleconference beginning at 9:00 a.m. EST for a meeting that is expected to last about 30 minutes, according to the meeting notice. No agenda accompanied the meeting notice as of publication time, but the board last week indicated that it would call a special meeting for the purpose of completing the final stages of the procurement process for the nationwide contract.
After the expected board vote, the formal award to AT&T is expected to be executed quickly, according to a source familiar with the process. It is unclear whether the award could be completed on the same day as the board meeting, according to multiple sources.
State and public-safety representatives are monitoring the award date closely, because the award is the event that starts the deployment timetable for the network. According to the RFP, FirstNet is scheduled to provide deployment plans for all 56 states and territories six months after the award. After the state plans are distributed, each governor will have 90 days to accept the FirstNet plan or choose to pursue the “opt-out” alternative, which calls for the state to build out the radio access network (RAN) within its borders.
FirstNet board members decided that they would conduct a special meeting during the board’s regular meeting on March 14. At the time, the board was awaiting a ruling on Rivada Mercury’s lawsuit protesting the FirstNet procurement finding that Rivada Mercury would not be considered in the “competitive range” stage of the bidding process. AT&T was the only bidder to qualify for the “competitive range” stage, according to documents from Rivada Mercury and AT&T.
After Kaplan’s ruling, Rivada Networks—the lead company in the Rivada Mercury consortium—indicated that it plans to pursue public-safety LTE network contracts with states and territories that want to pursue the “opt-out” alternative. In addition, “we are considering our options for appeal,” according to Rivada Networks co-CEO Declan Ganley.
Procurement sources indicate that awarding the contract to AT&T in the near term—some sources have speculated that it could be done within a week or two—is legal, even if there is an appeal. But one consideration for the FirstNet board is that all of the post-award activities would be extremely difficult to “undo” and replicate, if Rivada Mercury were to win an appeal of today’s court decisions and eventually emerge as FirstNet’s nationwide contractor, according to multiple sources.
Of course, that scenario could become reality only if Rivada Mercury were to win an appeal and be selected as the superior bid to AT&T by an evaluators that already determined that Rivada Mercury offering is not in the same “competitive range” as the AT&T proposal. If the FirstNet board is confident that today’s court rulings will be upheld or that AT&T would emerge as the procurement winner, then proceeding with the nationwide award would be appropriate, according to legal and procurement sources.