I’ve discussed previously the importance of State’s reviewing FirstNet’s plan in depth prior to making a decision. I’ve emphasized the importance of being able to compare and contrast the FirstNet proposal with other options. Now that the plans are out, it’s time for action.
In Vermont, a group of firefighters wants the State of issue an RFP for comparison purposes, following the model of several other states. In Michigan, the State’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget wants the State to review a bid from Rivada to determine whether an opt-in is in the State’s best interests. These folks (and others) clearly recognize the importance of consideration of options.
It is important to recognize that even if a State opts-in, individual municipalities are not required to take service from FirstNet. That will be the second layer of review (at some point). For now, your goal is to ensure that your opt-in decision includes a build-out plan and functionality that best suits your state. Since these are draft plans, you have a terrific opportunity to ask questions, obtain feedback and negotiate amendments to ensure that your needs, both long term and short term, are met.
In your review, remember that there are big pictures items that are applicable to every state, and items that are specific to your municipality and/or region. Please don’t forget those local coverage issues.
A good place to start is to discuss what your municipality wants out of this system, and then whether this plan addresses those concerns. Is having access to broadband video your primary concern? Do you understand how preemption will work? Is the coverage sufficient? How will systems (LTE, LMR, E911, in-building camera access, etc.) tie together to ensure there’s no confusion on scene? What will you have to provide (personnel or money) to augment the system’s implementation to ensure usability?
Another critical component of these FirstNet negotiations is having the proper team in place. In 800 MHz rebanding, we saw numerous instances where the municipality’s negotiation team was not adequately represented by counsel steeped in rebanding knowledge. As a result, some municipalities did not receive what they were due. While I recognize that this sounds like an advertisement, please recognize that these are extremely complex negotiations on behalf of a State. Thus, make sure that your negotiation team is composed of personnel with the wide set of qualifications that this particular negotiation requires, including public safety dispatch and at-the-scene experience (including police/fire/transit interoperability), public safety wireless experience, public/private partnerships and high level negotiation experience. The right team can help ensure the right outcome.