FirstNet board members today voted to initiate public-notice and request-for-information (RFI) proceedings that are designed to prepare for its much-anticipated request-for-proposal (RFP) procurement efforts next year.

With today’s action, FirstNet will release a comprehensive RFI—including a draft statement of objectives (SOO)—to gather input on technical matters regarding items such as network design, as well as a notice-and-comment document that is designed to get public perspectives on a wide range of FirstNet-related legal issues. Copies of both documents will be posted online at

Input from both the comprehensive RFI and the public-notice proceedings will be used by FirstNet officials to develop the draft RFP that is scheduled to be delivered during the first quarter of 2015, which will be the precursor to a final RFP.

“We are going to be making some critical decisions based on this information, some of which are going to be popular and some of which may not be quite so popular, because they are decisions in trying to get to the specifics of what FirstNet will really look like,” FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson said during the board meeting, which was webcast. “It is going to start to get down to some of the real critical things we’ve all been talking about. But we have to make the decisions, or we’re not going to be able to move forward.”

With today’s actions, Swenson said FirstNet is “on track” with its roadmap that was approved in March, noting that embarking on the procurement process represents “a huge milestone” for the organization.

FirstNet board member Jeff Johnson echoed this sentiment.

 “It feels like this soapbox car is out of the blocks and headed down the slope,” Johnson said during Monday’s meeting of the FirstNet outreach committee, which was webcast. “And, from here on, we’re going to do nothing more than gain speed.”

Anyone can submit responses to the public-notice or RFI document within 30 days of its publication in the Federal Register, but FirstNet officials anticipate that most responses to the RFI—entitled as the “Comprehensive Network Solution Request for Information and Statement of Objectives”—will come from the vendor community. In an effort to solicit responses to the RFI that include the most up-to-date technical and business information, RFI responses will be kept confidential, according to FirstNet Acting General Manager TJ Kennedy.

“Because this is nearing the end of that market-research process, we want really want to get down to specifics,” Kennedy said during the meeting. “We need to make some key technology decisions. We need to make some key business decisions.

“This input will really help drive that. Those decisions are not made. This is a real request for input. But we want that input to not be holding back on key information that companies could provide now to make sure we go forward with the best solutions.”

FirstNet will be conduct an “Industry Day” to gain further input from vendors sometime after receiving the RFI responses and before the draft RFP is released, Kennedy said during a press briefing after the FirstNet board meeting. FirstNet has not committed to a timetable for issuing the final RFP, he said.

Responses to the public-notice item--entitled “Public Notice on Statutory Interpretations”—will be available for review online. Within the notice, FirstNet staff provides its interpretations of the “outer boundaries” of provisions on various matters in the law passed by Congress in February 2012 that created FirstNet, according to Stuart Kupinsky, FirstNet’s chief counsel.

Some of the key issues addressed in the public notice include the definition of a “public-safety entity” that is eligible to use the system and the definition of “rural” that should be used when determining FirstNet’s buildout plans, Kupinsky said.