Urgent Matters

Will other states follow New Hampshire’s lead and conduct their own RFPs for public-safety LTE?

by Donny Jackson
Feb 25, 2016

The state of New Hampshire announced that it received five bids in response to its request for proposal (RFP) to build a statewide public-safety LTE system. Now, officials in many of the other 55 states and territories likely are asking whether they also should follow the RFP path blazed by New Hampshire.

One of the nuances of the FirstNet process is that the enabling legislation established an “opt-out” process in which the governor for a state can choose to have his state build and operate the LTE radio-access network (RAN) within its jurisdiction instead of having FirstNet build it. Each governor must decide whether to opt out 90 days after receiving the FirstNet plan for deploying public-safety in his/her state or territory.

Perhaps the greatest value of completing this state RFP process could be realized a little more than a year from now, when the FirstNet contractor is scheduled to submit its state plan to New Hampshire. At that point, the governor—and New Hampshire will have a new governor then—will be able to compare the FirstNet state plan to the best bid submitted in the state RFP process, then decide whether pursuing the opt-out legal alternative makes the most sense for New Hampshire.

In short, the New Hampshire governor will have a viable choice—and that’s something that state officials have been struggling to find in the FirstNet process.

Without conducting an RFP prior to receiving the state plan from the FirstNet contractor, a governor’s decision to pursue the opt-out alternative is fraught with uncertainty and challenging timelines—deadlines that were established in law by Congress, so FirstNet cannot change them.

In addition, there is a logistical reality that has to be considered. Under the law, a state pursuing the opt-out alternative must complete its RFP process within 180 days of the governor declining to accept the FirstNet state plan. This is challenging, but New Hampshire proved that it can be done, as the five bids were received in about two months.

But the fact is that those bids were prepared primarily at a time when New Hampshire had the only public-safety LTE bid on the street, because FirstNet’s RFP was not released until a month later. The situation could be very different next year, when state plans are expected to be released.

Depending on governors’ decisions, there could be a flurry of RFPs released close to the same time, which could make it difficult for vendors to be able to respond to all of them—or make it so that boilerplate responses become the norm, instead of customized proposals that address the nuances of each state. In addition, there would be little opportunity to have an extended dialogue with bidders.

Meanwhile, if FirstNet receives no bids for its nationwide RFP, those states that have completed an RFP process certainly would have an advantage, if they wanted to seek permission to deploy a public-safety on their own.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 6

on Feb 25, 2016

I haven't seen any comments as to why they are requesting RFP's other than that they want the governor to make an informed decision. Could it be that their state constitution requires such action or it may be a question of they don't quite know (due to an unclear statute) and want to have all their bases covered. It could be a case of being overly careful.

It will be interesting to see if other states follow their lead.

on Feb 26, 2016

Another aspect of this is that the state's RFP was pretty bare bones, containing little or none of the security, reliability, availability and quality assurance requirements of FirstNet. Can FirstNet require that an opt out state's network meets these requirements as well?

who cares (not verified)
on Feb 26, 2016

There are only 50 states not 55 like the article stated.. Things like this makes me feel like whoever wrote the article is a moron!

on Feb 26, 2016

I'm guessing this won't change your feelings, but just to clarify, the article references New Hampshire and the "other 55 states and territories." FirstNet is required to submit its state deployment plans to 50 states and six U.S. territories (actually five territories and the District of Columbia, but they typically have been grouped together in FirstNet references). Thanks for reading.

User 98112 (not verified)
on Feb 26, 2016

States would be wise to follow NH's lead. FN has had more than three years to convince public safety of its value; and soon FN will be giving states 90 days post notification to Opt In or Opt Out. The Governors in Home Rule states generally speaking cannot force local governments to Opt In or Opt Out. They can elect for the state government only.

There is something about due diligence that demands a state and its local governments to evaluate -is this actually a good deal-the right thing for us.
Now FN is claiming the calendar is on fire-we got to hurry this up.
The present timing of FN is to coerce decisions without Public Safety Entities actually and entirely knowing the details. Like the open and public vetting of the selected Contractor, the real on-going costs, all of the actual terms, the informed expectations of outcomes, and most important the GIVE from public safety for the GET( loss of local control, loss of choice, the NPSBN spectrum being leveraged to force compliance with the FN Boards' cloistered decisions).
There is much to be concerned about FN as we know it today. States develop your own strategy. Don't just blindly follow FN; there are no public benefit reasons to do that.

Bob (not verified)
on Feb 29, 2016

Its all well and good until you consider that NH only really needs 1 tall enough tower to cover the entire state. There are west coast counties bigger than NH.

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