2015-04-28 National Governors Association

FirstNet – Second Public Notice

Sue Swenson
Chairman
First Responder Network Authority
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, M/S 243
Reston, VA 20192

Re: Docket No. 150306226-5226-01, Further Proposed Interpretations of Parts of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012

Dear Chairman Swenson:

Governors appreciate the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) efforts to develop the nation’s first broadband network dedicated to public safety. The spectrum provisions of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 tried to strike a balance between the need to establish an interoperable communications network while preserving state sovereignty. FirstNet’s most recent public notice interprets the law in ways that would restrict governors’ decision-making authority and deprive FirstNet of important opportunities to build trust with states and their public safety communities. To address these concerns, the National Governors Association (NGA) offers the following recommendations to strengthen FirstNet’s partnership with states and ensure the ultimate success of the network:

  • Allow additional flexibility and time for governors’ decision making

The statutory requirements for opting-out – 90 days for the governor to make a decision followed by 180 days in which to present a state plan comparable to FirstNet’s and gain approval from three different federal entities – will make it very difficult for any state to proceed with its own plan for network. FirstNet could facilitate a better and more thorough decision-making process by providing the state point of contact with a draft of the plan for the state prior to its official presentation to the governor for review.

A plan and decision of this magnitude will take time to review and assess properly. FirstNet should work closely with states to find ways to extend the review and decision-making process. Insufficient time for state and gubernatorial review may lead states to opt-in simply by default. This would deprive FirstNet of the opportunity to build trust with not only the state but its potential customer base within the public safety community.

  • Ensure transparency

To properly evaluate FirstNet’s plan and assess any alternatives, FirstNet must ensure that the state has all data and analysis used in the formation of the state plan. This information should be provided well in advance of the presentation of the state plan to the governor and should include analysis by FirstNet as well as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

In the recent public notice, FirstNet proposes to impose a variety of fees and revenue restrictions on any state choosing to opt-out, creating a set of circumstances in which the opportunity to opt-out only exists in theory. While some level of revenue sharing and cross-subsidizing among states and regions may be necessary to ensure a nationwide network, this process must be conducted in an open and transparent manner that maintains a partnership between FirstNet and the states.

  • Allow grant funds to be used for state modeling and analysis

NTIA should allow states to use State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) funds for state coverage and financial modeling. While most governors may ultimately opt-in to the FirstNet plan, nearly all governors would like to have an alternative plan for comparison purposes. Allowing the use of SLIGP grants for this purpose would provide states with a better assessment of the value and benefit to the state of the FirstNet plan and could also provide FirstNet with additional analysis for its own use.

  • Support regional planning and coordination

FirstNet should continue to support regional planning and coordination and must allow states time to assess FirstNet’s plans for their neighbors before initiating the governor’s decision-making process. Emergencies rarely follow jurisdictional boundaries, and states and their public safety entities will want to understand how the FirstNet plan will cover neighboring areas.

FirstNet’s efforts to give the nation’s first responders reliable access to today’s modern technologies is critically important. NGA looks forward to continuing to work with you to make this effort a success.

Sincerely,

Dan Crippen