John Stevens, New Hampshire’s single point of contact (SPOC), said a regional FirstNet coordinator indicated that states would have information about the core and spectrum payments, but he has not found any payment details in the updated FirstNet state plan for New Hampshire.

“We’d better get that [information about core and spectrum payments to FirstNet], because we can’t make a decision unless we do have it,” Stevens said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We have an expectation that FirstNet and AT&T will provide that information to each of the individual states. That’s certainly my opinion.

“If we’re not provided that information, it makes it very difficult … If any state is considering an opt-out option—if any state has an alternative plan in place—and they want to weigh that against the state plan that’s being provided by FirstNet and AT&T, that financial package will have to be disclosed.”

Part of the financial package is the NTIA construction-grant funding level, which likely will not be great enough to pay for buildout of the RAN in a given state, NTIA officials have stated repeatedly. The available $5.5 billion will be allocated among the 56 states and territories, with each receiving a portion of the funding, based on the cost to construct, operate, maintain and improve the FirstNet system. However, the NTIA funding will reflect only the construction portion of the equation.

Given this, at least one federal-government source has said that the NTIA construction-funding may provide only “pennies on the dollar” when compared to the actual cost to construct the RAN within a state or territory.

Of course, a state or territory would receive NTIA construction-grant money only if it achieves “opt-out” status, which is done by executing the following tasks:

  • Within 180 days of the governor’s decision to pursue the “opt-out” alternative, 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.