Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
On February 22, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Act).
The Act establishes the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) as an independent authority within NTIA and authorizes it to take all actions necessary to ensure the design, construction, and operation of a nationwide public safety broadband network (PSBN), based on a single, national network architecture.
Additionally, the Act charges NTIA with establishing a grant program to assist state, regional, tribal, and local jurisdictions with identifying, planning, and implementing the most efficient and effective means to use and integrate the infrastructure, equipment, and other architecture associated with the nationwide PSBN to satisfy the wireless broadband and data services needs of their jurisdictions.
To implement the new program, NTIA must establish requirements, in
On May 16, 2012, NTIA issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment on various issues related to the development of the State and Local Implementation Grant Program.
NTIA received approximately 70 comments from a wide range of stakeholders, including states, local and tribal governments, federal and state agencies, trade associations, private companies, consultants, and individuals. The majority of the comments discuss each of the issues identified in the RFI, and NTIA relied on the comments for guidance to frame the requirements of the State and Local Implementation Grant Program, particularly to develop the overarching direction of the program as it relates to the collection of data and the consultation process with FirstNet.
In some cases, the comments address matters not specifically covered in the RFI, such as the need for a web-based repository of information, the need for clarification on the applicability of vendor conflict of interest rules, the importance of developing the PSBN business models, and the necessary considerations for network sustainability.
Overwhelmingly, the commenters agree that FirstNet must establish a standardized process before the states engage in any data collection activities.
Many commenters believe that preparing to consult effectively with FirstNet will require states to dedicate their already limited resources, specifically funds and personnel, to this task.
NTIA agrees that FirstNet is in the best position to develop standards for the collection of data on assets and infrastructure that might be used or incorporated into the PSBN.
Based in large part on this feedback, and in keeping with the intent of the Act, NTIA believes that, given the funds available and the need for FirstNet to make initial decisions on the data collection process, it can make the most efficient and effective use of grant dollars by focusing the State and Local Implementation Grant Program on planning and development activities in preparation for consultations with FirstNet.
Consistent with the statutory framework, NTIA plans to design the State and Local Implementation Grant Program as a formula-based, matching grant program to assist states, in collaboration with regional, tribal, and local jurisdictions, with activities related to planning for the establishment of a nationwide public safety broadband network.
NTIA plans to distribute the funding available under this grant program in two phases, and will consider the input solicited through the RFI to develop a methodology to distribute the available funds.
The 56 states and territories are eligible for grants under the State and Local Implementation Grant Program. The Act directs NTIA to make grants to states; thus, each state and territory choosing to apply for a grant should
NTIA will specify in the FFO the exact contents of the application package that applicants must submit during the application window. There are several items, however, that NTIA will likely require, and applicants may prepare to address them in advance of the FFO's publication. First, the Act directs each state to certify in its application for grant funds that the state has designated a single officer or governmental body to serve as the coordinator of the grant funds.
Second, in response to concerns expressed by some commenters and consistent with the intent of the statute, NTIA will likely ask applicants to describe how they plan to collect input from local and tribal jurisdictions to ensure that their public safety needs are adequately represented during the consultation process with FirstNet and in the coordination of the grant funds.
Third, NTIA requested comment on how the existing public safety governance and planning authorities in each state might be incorporated into the consultations with FirstNet about the PSBN.
The State and Local Implementation Grant Program will support activities related to planning for the establishment of the nationwide PSBN. NTIA received detailed input from the majority of commenters regarding the types of activities that it should allow under the grant program to accomplish this objective.
NTIA anticipates structuring the State and Local Implementation Grant Program into two phases of funding for planning activities. The first phase will focus on initial planning and consultation activities, including strategy and timeline development, meetings, governance planning, and outreach and education efforts. The second phase will not begin until FirstNet has consulted with the state-designated contact about the matters listed in the Act, including defining coverage needs, user requirements, and network hardening and resiliency requirements.
NTIA will detail the full scope of allowable activities under the grant program in the FFO; however, NTIA will likely require recipients to show that they have accomplished the following activities by the end of the grant period of performance: (1) Established a governance structure, or expanded existing structures, to consult with FirstNet; (2) developed procedures to ensure local and tribal representation and participation in the consultation process with FirstNet; (3) created a process for education and outreach, through program development or through other efforts, among local and tribal officials, public safety users, and other stakeholders about the nationwide public safety broadband network; (4) identified potential public safety users of the public safety broadband network; (5) developed standard MOUs to facilitate the use of existing infrastructure, or identified the legal barriers to creating standard MOUs and described potential remedies; and (6) developed staffing plans that include local and tribal representation to participate in the public safety governance structure and to prepare for data collection activities in consultation with FirstNet. NTIA also will consider having grant recipients prepare a comprehensive plan, similar in concept to their existing Statewide Interoperability Communications Plans (SICPs), describing the public safety needs that they expect FirstNet to address in its design of the nationwide PSBN, as well as how they intend to satisfy each of the elements enumerated above, including milestones that demonstrate their progress.
If sufficient funds are available, NTIA may permit grant recipients that have satisfactorily completed the milestones associated with these initial planning requirements to use funds for supplemental activities related to preparing for any FirstNet data collections, such as determining staffing levels to dedicate to these tasks, designating a state point of contact for data collection, where appropriate, and evaluating the feasibility of using public/private partnerships. At present, NTIA does not expect to include the compiling of asset and infrastructure inventories as an allowable activity until FirstNet has developed a standardized process to govern data collection activities.
Grantees may only use funds awarded under the State and Local Implementation Grant Program to pay eligible costs. Eligible costs are consistent with the cost principles identified in the applicable Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circulars
Based on input received from multiple commenters, eligible costs under the planning grant program will likely include the following categories of expenses:
1. Hiring staff and consultants required for the planning process (such as project managers, program directors, engineers, grant administrators, financial analysts, accountants, and attorneys);
2. Holding planning meetings with state agencies, local and tribal stakeholders, and regional partners;
3. Covering travel costs for state, local, and tribal representatives to attend planning meetings (such as preparing for FirstNet consultations and attending state, regional, and national meetings that address public safety broadband issues);
4. Developing, modifying, or enhancing state plans and governance structures, including efforts to adapt existing public safety governance authorities, such as the Statewide Interoperability Coordinators (SWIC), Statewide Interoperability Executive Committees (SIEC), and Statewide Interoperability Governing Bodies (SIGB), to include public safety broadband stakeholders and expertise, and determining the role of the state Chief Information Officers (CIO), Chief Technology Officers (CTO), or Chief Budget Officers (CBO);
5. Conducting communications, education, and outreach activities with state, local, tribal, and regional stakeholders;
6. Developing standardized MOUs and other types of agreements to facilitate access to and use of existing infrastructure;
7. Identifying potential public safety users for the public safety broadband network;
8. Administrative services and supplies necessary to prepare for and manage the grant program;
9. Legal services related to the planning process; and
10. Training costs related to the planning process.
NTIA does not envision allowing funds awarded under the State and Local Implementation Grant Program to be used for activities related to site preparation, broadband deployment, installation, construction, or the acquisition of equipment used to provide wireless broadband services, including LTE-related activities.
The Act provides that the State and Local Implementation Grant Program shall include requirements to prioritize grants for activities that ensure coverage in rural as well as urban areas.
In designing the formula that it will use to allocate funds under the grant program, NTIA intends to avoid a solely population-based approach and will consider additional factors that affect rural coverage. Additionally, NTIA agrees that the states will need flexibility in determining the most effective means by which FirstNet can provide adequate rural coverage. While the FFO will describe in detail the exact contents of the application package, NTIA anticipates having the states address how they will prioritize their grant activities to ensure coverage in rural areas, including providing specific plans and metrics to demonstrate how they will achieve these requirements.
As previously discussed, the Act directs NTIA to consult with FirstNet to establish the requirements of the State and Local Implementation Grant Program not later than 6 months after the date of the Act's enactment, or by August 22, 2012. The Act also required that FirstNet be established no later than August 20, 2012. The Act's framework, which essentially placed the creation of FirstNet and the development of the grant program requirements on parallel tracks, proved challenging for NTIA as it attempted to fulfill the statutory mandate to consult with FirstNet in establishing the State and Local Implementation Grant Program. As noted, NTIA has only started to consult with the newly-formed FirstNet Board on the grant program requirements outlined in this Notice. NTIA expects these consultations to proceed over the next few months as NTIA continues to prepare the FFO in which the State and Local Implementation Grant Program requirements will be described more fully.