States and territories considering the pursuit of the FirstNet opt-out alternative will know how the FCC will review opt-out proposals to deploy the radio access network (RAN) within their jurisdictions by the time state plans are delivered during the second quarter of 2017, an FCC official told Congress yesterday.

David Furth, deputy chief of the FCC’s public-safety and homeland-security bureau, made the statement during a hearing before a House subcommittee examining the status of FirstNet, which is charged with building and operating a nationwide public-safety broadband network. FCC have been consulting with FirstNet and plans to conduct a rulemaking proceeding on its opt-out review process before finalizing the procedures at least by the first half of 2017.

“We think it’s very important that the states—at the point where they’re going to have to make that decision whether to opt out—understand what the process will be that the commission will use to review those request,” Furth said during the hearing, which was webcast. “In fact, we have been consulting with FirstNet and consulting with them on their timeline.

“The critical point in their timeline is that they are saying that—at this point—once the RFP [FirstNet request-for-proposal] process is concluded, the state plans will be delivered to the states in the second quarter of 2017. So that’s our target. We have to have our rules in place before then.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said that many people are concerned that the FCC “is intentionally slow-walking this process, in order to frustrate” states or territories that may be contemplating the opt-out alternative, noting that developing the review process is something an FCC representative promised Congress in 2013.

“Just bear in mind that, to us, it seems to us that it’s taken you a mighty long time to get around to doing it,” Blackburn said.

Furth said the FCC was not trying to delay the matter, but the review-process rulemaking needed to happen after FirstNet issued its RFP, which occurred last month.

“I would suggest that this is the right time to do it, because now we have the RFP. It would have been difficult, I think, to initiate this rulemaking before the RFP had been released by FirstNet, because that’s one of the things that those who look at our proposals are going to need to make reference to,” Furth said.

“We think it will actually build a better record to put this rulemaking out now that the RFP has been released by FirstNet. So, we think the timing for starting this is right.”