FirstNet today updated the state-plan portals, but official state-plan delivery—the action needed to start the statutory 90-day decision window for most governors—must wait until the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) provides its expected construction-grant funding levels for each state and territory.

NTIA acknowledged that its construction-grant funding level—money that only would be distributed under an “opt-out” scenario—for states and territories is the missing item, but the agency hopes to have release the figures “in the near term, an NTIA spokesperson said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.

FirstNet today released the following statement regarding situation:

“In the near future, FirstNet expects to deliver the required official notification to Governors in the 53 states and territories that have received updated state plans today,” according to the FirstNet statement. “This notification will start the 90-day period for governors to decide whether to participate in the deployment of the network in the state or territory as proposed in the FirstNet-AT&T plan (‘opt in’) or elect to have their state or territory initiate the process to take on the responsibility for building the network in the state or territory (‘opt out’).”

As the FirstNet statement indicates, the official state-plan delivery is imminent for all 50 states and three territories. Initial state plans have not been delivered to the three U.S. territories in the South Pacific—Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands—which are expected to have a separate FirstNet timeline.

Under the law that created FirstNet, official state-plan delivery to the governor requires three items:

  • Notification that FirstNet completed its procurement process;
  • Submittal of the official state plan by FirstNet; and
  • The NTIA construction-grant funding level a state or territory can expect to receive, if the state or territory meets other “opt-out” criteria.

Once the missing NTIA construction-grant funding levels are available, FirstNet can complete the official notification of state-plan delivery to most governors. At that point, they have 90 days to make their “opt-in” or “opt-out” choice, so a decision is expected by mid-December.

Governors that choose to have their states “opt-in”—something 21 states and 2 territories have done already—will have the public-safety LTE radio access network (RAN) be deployed and maintained for the next 25 years by AT&T, which is FirstNet nationwide contractor. Governors that choose to pursue the “opt-out” alternative will initiate an approval process for the right to build and maintain the RAN within their state’s borders.

After the governor makes an “opt-out” decision, the state must execute the following tasks to gain “opt-out” status:

  • Within 180 days of the governor’s decision, complete the procurement process to select a vendor to build the alternative RAN;
  • Within another 60 days, submit an alternative RAN plan to the FCC, which will evaluate whether the initial plan would be interoperable with the FirstNet nationwide system. The FCC has established a 90-day “aspirational” shot clock for completing its interoperability evaluation; and
  • If approved by the FCC, the state must secure comparability approval from the NTIA and negotiate a spectrum-lease agreement with FirstNet. FirstNet’s enabling statute does not dictate a timetable for these steps.

While the NTIA construction-grant funding level will be released to governors, there is uncertainty surrounding financial figures that are expected to be much larger: the payments an “opt-out” state would make to FirstNet to access the FirstNet LTE core and the 20 MHz of 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to FirstNet.