Urgent Matters

All eyes on court as decision time approaches in FirstNet case

by Donny Jackson

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Feb 09, 2017

Next week, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is expected to receive the final written brief in the lawsuit filed by Rivada Mercury protesting the FirstNet procurement process. How long will it be until the court reaches a decision, which promises to impact the timing of FirstNet's deployment nationwide?

More than two months ago, it became public that the Rivada Mercury bidding team had filed a lawsuit challenging the procurement process associated with selecting a contractor to build and maintain the FirstNet’s proposed nationwide public-safety broadband network.

Early court documents in the case—and an SEC filing by AT&T—revealed that Rivada Mercury is contesting the fact that it was excluded from the “competitive range” stage of the FirstNet procurement, leaving the AT&T bidding team as the lone entity being considered for the 25-year contract. Rivada Mercury claimed it could have addressed the concerns cited, if it had been given the chance to explain its offer in greater detail—something it would have had the chance to do, if it was included in the “competitive range” stage.

Details of Rivada Mercury’s initial complaint were not available, because the public version of the document was heavily redacted. But that has proven to be extremely illuminating to the public, when compared to the filings during the past two months.

Since then, attorneys for both Rivada Mercury and the U.S. government have filed hundreds of pages of briefs, but all meaningful arguments have been sealed by the court from public viewing; not even redacted versions are available.

Several procedural items have been open to the public—for instance, motions that allow attorneys to increase the page limits on their briefs—but all of the substantive discussions have been sealed. This approach is understandable, given the proprietary nature of these bids and the importance of preserving the integrity of the FirstNet procurement process.

There are some who would like to know the details of the briefs, but the biggest question I hear from public safety is: When will this case be finished, so the FirstNet initiative can proceed—with or without Rivada Mercury?

On this front, there is some good news. The schedule of written briefs established by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims has been followed without extensions or delays, and the final contribution is slated to be filed next week, which is actually a couple of days ahead of the original briefing schedule.

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