Oh the web we weave. A recent “author” stated that the State’s, per FirstNet, will not have to pay for their portion of the “Opt-In” solution. This is in fact not true at all. He states the following:
““States that accept the FirstNet plan will have to pay additional money to fund the buildout of the FirstNet system within the state’s borders”: This was a new one to me, but I have seen the assertion published in recent weeks. The basis of the assertion is a portion of the law that calls for FirstNet state plans to include “the funding level for the state, as determined by NTIA.”
The author interpreted this language to mean that NTIA would determine the amount that a state would have pay FirstNet—an understandable conclusion, if the sentence is read in isolation. However, the item follows a section referencing an NTIA grant program for the states. While not structured as clearly as it could have been, the item references NTIA funding levels that would be paid to the states, not funding that would be paid by the states.
FirstNet and AT&T officials repeatedly have stated that states that accept the FirstNet state plan will not have to pay any money to build, maintain or upgrade the RAN in the state for the next 25 years. This does not address items such as subscriptions, devices, applications or the notion that a state might choose to pursue an “opt-in-plus” model—a scenario under which a state would accept the FirstNet state plan but pay additional money to fund the buildout of additional coverage or capacity in locations important to the state.”
Okay, first off Section (e) does not relate to “grant program” unless the $6.5 Billion is a grant. Section “e” is the start of the “Opt-Out” process for the States. If it were, then we would see the section sub’d to the Section (a). Trying to rope one section into another is grammatically wrong and a false interpretation of the law – one not fully thought out. The law is quite clear and the law is interpreted to the eye of the beholder. The fact remains that Section (e) is not part of Section (a). I’m afraid any legal interpretation of this would be best laid out in the courts. The statement still stands as written:
“(C) the funding level for the State as determined by the NTIA.”
If it were true, is FirstNet saying that the NTIA will fund the State’s portion of the “Opt-In” solution? That would be a new one to me, because the law specifically states that it has to be “self-funded” and “self-sustaining”. If it were true, then that would mean the State can use all of its grant money designated for its own pursuit of “Opt-Out” and building the network. If that were true, then what the hell does Section (c) “Programmatic Requirements” have to do with all this?
The fact remains, that following the State’s decision to “Opt-In” it will be hit with a bill for its portion of the buildout. I mean, it sounds asinine for a State to be restricted on NTIA funding, when the same section allows for the State to apply for its portion of the $6.5 Billion allocated to FirstNet. (See Section B. (iii) below for yourself). Maybe the bill could have been written better; maybe some could interpret better; maybe if the law were written by some actual telecom experts rather than lawyers? The law is what it is and we have to live with it now…unless Congress decides to rewrite it. Section (e) is not part of Section (a), else it would have been Section (a)(1) or something.
Here is the law as written:
(a) ESTABLISHMENT OF STATE AND LOCAL IMPLEMENTATION GRANT PROGRAM.—The Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the First Responder Network Authority, shall take such action as is necessary to establish a grant program to make grants to States to assist State, regional, tribal, and local jurisdictions to identify, plan, and implement the most efficient and effective way for such jurisdictions to utilize and integrate the infrastructure, equipment, and other architecture associated with the nationwide public safety broadband network to satisfy the wireless communications and data services needs of that jurisdiction, including with regards to coverage, siting, and other needs.
(b) MATCHING REQUIREMENTS; FEDERAL SHARE. —
(1) IN GENERAL. —The Federal share of the cost of any activity carried out using a grant under this section may not exceed 80 percent of the eligible costs of carrying out that activity, as determined by the Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the First Responder Network Authority.
(2) WAIVER. —The Assistant Secretary may waive, in whole or in part, the requirements of paragraph (1) for good cause shown if the Assistant Secretary determines that such a waiver is in the public interest.
(c) PROGRAMMATIC REQUIREMENTS. —Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Assistant Secretary, in consultation with the First Responder Network Authority, shall establish requirements relating to the grant program to be carried out under this section, including the following:
(1) Defining eligible costs for purposes of subsection (b)(1).
(2) Determining the scope of eligible activities for grant funding under this section.
(3) Prioritizing grants for activities that ensure coverage in rural as well as urban areas.(d) CERTIFICATION AND DESIGNATION OF OFFICER OR GOVERNMENTAL BODY. —In carrying out the grant program established under this section, the Assistant Secretary shall require each State to certify in its application for grant funds that the State has designated a single officer or governmental body to serve as the coordinator of implementation of the grant funds.
(e) STATE NETWORK. —
(1) NOTICE. —Upon the completion of the request for proposal process conducted by the First Responder Network Authority for the construction, operation, maintenance, and improvement of the nationwide public safety broadband network, the First Responder Network Authority shall provide to the Governor of each State, or his designee—
(A) notice of the completion of the request for proposal process;
(B) details of the proposed plan for buildout of the nationwide, interoperable broadband network in such State; and
(C) the funding level for the State as determined by the NTIA.(2) STATE DECISION. —Not later than 90 days after the date on which the Governor of a State receives notice under paragraph (1), the Governor shall choose whether to—
(A) participate in the deployment of the nationwide, interoperable broadband network as proposed by the First Responder Network Authority; or
(B) conduct its own deployment of a radio access network in such State.
(ii) COMMISSION APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL. —Upon submission of a State plan under clause
(i), the Commission shall either approve or disapprove the plan.
(iii) APPROVAL. —If the Commission approves a plan under this subparagraph, the State—
(I) may apply to the NTIA for a grant to construct the radio access network within the State that includes the showing described in subparagraph (D); and
(II) shall apply to the NTIA to lease spectrum capacity from the First Responder Network Authority.
The only issue with using the Connect America, and the Universal Service Fund, to augment FirstNet’s desire to build into the rural areas is that AT&T will not be alone, and, the use of the funds have to be equitably distributed to all vendors and providers that partake. If AT&T would just figure out that by joining forces with the “Opt-Out” side of the Public Safety Broadband Network, it wouldn’t have to spend all its capital on building out the infrastructure and its shareholders would be much happier with a pure revenue play. In the end, what good is a nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network if you can’t even get a State involved? Why fight it.
What should be the priorities for Public Safety? Nationwide coverage so they can talk to each other at a conference? Why do we need a large carrier monopolized service for “Public Safety Only”? With an “Opt-Out” solution, the focus is on what needs to be prioritized….Public Safety getting priority; getting ruthless preemption; hardened infrastructure that will withstand disasters; a network that will truly fund itself and provide some much needed revenue, jobs, and an economic boost for the State.
Just some guy and a blog….