States will be able to apply for $121.5 million in National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) grants designed to help them conduct planning to be part of the nationwide 700 MHz public-safety broadband network that will be overseen by FirstNet.

NTIA today announced the planning-grant program, which Congress approved as part of the law that reallocated the 700 MHz D Block to public safety and established FirstNet as the entity to build and maintain the first-responder LTE network.

Under the program, each state can apply for grants, which will are expected to cover a performance period of three years. According to an NTIA document addressing frequently asked questions about the program, states receiving planning grants must complete the following:

  1. Establish or enhance a governance structure to consult with FirstNet;
  2. Develop procedures to ensure local and tribal representation when the state is consulting with FirstNet;
  3. Conduct education and outreach for all relevant stakeholders that will be involved in the public safety broadband network;
  4. Identify potential public safety users for the PSBN;
  5. Develop a standard Memorandum of Agreement appropriate for the grantee state to facilitate the possible sharing of infrastructure with FirstNet;
  6. Develop staffing plans to involve local and tribal stakeholders in a future data collection in consultation with FirstNet; and
  7. Prepare a comprehensive plan as part of the Statewide Communications Interoperability Plan (SCIP), or a plan complementary and similar to the SCIP, describing the public safety needs that the grantee expects FirstNet to address, plus relevant milestones.

Grant money will be distributed in two phases, according to NTIA. In the first phase, states are expected to concentrate on establishing a governance structure that will include a single point of contact — a state official or a governing body — that will interact with FirstNet, as well as identifying potential public-safety users and conducting outreach exercises. In the second phase, states should focus on gathering data that will enable the state to work effectively with FirstNet.

Grant money will be split evenly between the first and second phases, according to NTIA.

Applications are due on March 19, and grant awards are expected to be made by July 15, according to NTIA.