FirstNet Facts

Facts about FirstNet: Our nation’s public safety broadband network

FirstNet is the national public safety network, helping law enforcement, firefighters and EMS save lives and protect communities across the United States. The FirstNet network will be a reliable, secure broadband network dedicated to public safety. It will be a force-multiplier for first responders, giving the public safety community the 21st-century communication tools it needs to carry out its vital mission.

Below are key facts about FirstNet. Read about it here – or DOWNLOAD a FirstNet Fact sheet. You can also follow #FirstNetFacts on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

The Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network

FirstNet is an independent federal authority with a statutory duty and responsibility to take all actions necessary to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (“Network” or “NPSBN”) based on a single, national network architecture.  FirstNet was established by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (“Act”) in response to public safety advocacy. FirstNet’s statutory responsibility is to establish the NPSBN, which includes not only the Core Network, but also the Radio Access Network (RAN) in each state or territory, whether deployed by FirstNet or potential opt-out states.

The Act identifies two separate components that initially comprise the NPSBN: the Core Network and the RAN.  Under the Act, FirstNet is responsible for ensuring that all components of the NPSBN, including the Core Network and the RAN, are built, deployed, operated, and maintained, and, ultimately, that the NPSBN provides services to public safety entities throughout the nation.

In particular, the Act made FirstNet the sole entity responsible for deploying a Core Network to serve public safety users.  However, the Act requires governors to choose whether to have FirstNet manage and remain fully responsible for the RAN deployment within the state or – upon successful completion of a statutorily mandated approval process – assume full responsibility (e.g, financial, risk, construction, operational, legal) for RAN deployment (“opt-out”).

The Governors Decision – opt in / opt out (updated January 10, 2018)

To date, 56 states and territories have selected the FirstNet Plan (“opt-in”) for the Network.

No.  As required by the Act, any revenue received by the opt-out state from the use of the Band 14 spectrum must be used for the state-built RAN and NPSBN only.  The Act does not allow the opt-out state to retain or use excess revenue for any other purposes.

No - the Act establishes that a Governor must decide within 90 days of receiving official notice of its State Plan from FirstNet whether to opt-out of the FirstNet State Plan and take on the responsibility of building, operating, maintaining, and upgrading the state RAN.  FirstNet provided notice on Sept. 29 to the states, and their Governors now have until Dec. 28 to make their respective decisions.

If a Governor elects to opt-out, the law provides 180 days for the state to develop an alternative RAN deployment plan and, pursuant to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order, 60 additional days to submit the alternative plan to the FCC for review and approval.  The intent of the 180-day period is for the state to focus on the development of its RAN plan; it is not aimed at extending the decision process or introducing additional delays to delivering the Network to public safety.

An opt-out decision will delay the availability of network services, such as priority and preemption, to the state’s first responders.  This means they will have to wait to access public safety specific services until successful completion of the state's opt-out process and subsequent RAN deployment, or reversion to an opt-in situation if the state fails to obtain FCC approval.  Current timelines suggest a delay of approximately two years before RAN deployment begins in an opt-out state.  Conversely, by opting in, the state’s public safety entities have immediate access to priority services, with preemption capabilities expected by the end of 2017.

The Spectrum Manager Lease Agreement (updated Dec. 18, 2017)

FirstNet’s enabling legislation requires that upon successful completion of the approval process, an opt-out state must enter into a SMLA with FirstNet to access and use FirstNet’s licensed spectrum.  The terms and conditions of the SMLA reflect legislative requirements, standard telecommunications industry regulations, and the critical role of the Network in supporting public safety communications.

Building, operating, maintaining, and improving the RAN portion of the Nationwide Network is a substantial responsibility – a massive telecommunications infrastructure project that cannot fail our nation’s first responders.  The SMLA is designed to make sure this critical public safety mission is achieved and that the network is sustainable for 25 years.  The SMLA includes comparable terms and requirements to those that FirstNet’s network contractor is contractually bound and accountable for in opt-in states.  In other words, we are asking no more of an opt-out state than what we are requiring of our NPSBN contractor to ensure the sustainability, interoperability, and security of the Network for public safety.

By law, FirstNet must ensure the building, deployment, operation, and improvement of the NPSBN in every state and territory without further funding from Congress.  To support this requirement, the Act provides FirstNet with a license to valuable spectrum and requires any revenue received by FirstNet from the use of the spectrum be reinvested solely in the Network.  Under the NPSBN contract, FirstNet achieves the Act’s goal for a self-sustaining Network, in part, by receiving substantial and guaranteed payments from AT&T for use of the spectrum over the next 25 years. 

An opt-out state that seeks to use FirstNet’s spectrum must make payments in the amounts that would have been received for use of the spectrum in that state under the NPSBN contract.  This ensures public safety across the country will continue to benefit from at least the same level of reinvestment in the network through the next 25 years as they would have under the contract.

The success of the NPSBN will lie in first responders’ use of the network.  As part of its State Alternative Plan Program (SAPP) application submitted to NTIA, applicants must specify public safety adoption assumptions.  If a state’s application is approved by NTIA, any commitments the state makes regarding the use of adoption assumptions, as specified in the application, will become a requirement of the SMLA.

Any failure of an opt-out state-built RAN over the next 25 years imposes considerable costs and risks on the nationwide network and public safety, impacting both the opt-out state and every other state.  If the opt-out state build or operation of its RAN fails during the term of the SMLA, the state will be responsible for any actual costs that FirstNet reasonably incurs in reestablishing the RAN in the state so that public safety users can continue to perform their life-saving missions with minimal disruptions to their communications.  These actual costs, to be recommended through an independent assessment, will only be known at the time the state can no longer operate the RAN.

In the event of RAN failure, FirstNet will work with the state and all interested parties to develop the most cost efficient solution to not only minimize any disruption to public safety communications, but also to minimize the fiscal impact to the state.  Further, FirstNet will coordinate with the state in assessing the actual costs associated with reestablishment, including whether some of the failed state assets can still be utilized.  An independent third party will be used to recommend the actual costs to ensure they are reasonable for reestablishing the state network at the time of failure. 

The FirstNet Core

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Act) created FirstNet, at the urging of public safety, to ensure the establishment of an interoperable and nationwide broadband network for the public safety community.  To help achieve this mission, the Act expressly authorized only FirstNet to build, operate, and maintain a Core Network to serve public safety entities nationwide.

Consistent with the Act, and following public notice and comment, FirstNet determined that the deployment of a single, national network architecture with a Core Network dedicated to public safety users across the country will reduce the risk of complications inherent in a multi-core architecture (operated by distinct entities), such as operational complexity, security complexity, and increased latency.  The FirstNet Core will have built-in redundancy to provide end-to-end cybersecurity.

The FirstNet Core Network remains on track to be operational by March 2018. The FirstNet Core Network’s primary functions are vital to public safety's life-saving mission and will differentiate FirstNet services from commercial offerings. For example, it will be responsible for identity, credential, and access management (ICAM); application assurance; Quality of Service, priority, and preemption (QPP); monitoring and reporting of Network health; and securing highly sensitive data with full encryption over the FirstNet Network.

Interoperability will be achieved because the entire nationwide public safety broadband network, even opt-out state built RANs, must be based on a single, national network architecture and be connected through the FirstNet Core Network.

Yes. In an opt-out state, the state or the state’s contractor will be responsible for providing services to end users utilizing the state built-RAN, including public safety end users. Like FirstNet and AT&T, the opt-out state, or the opt-out state’s contractor, must compete in the marketplace to sell services to end users. While the Act requires opt-out states to connect their RAN with the FirstNet Core and pay fees associated with the state's use of the elements of the core network, these "core services" are carrier-to-carrier services and distinct from services provided to public safety end users.

Check out and share these videos with the FirstNet facts!

FirstNet State Plans in 100 Seconds

FirstNet: A Broadband Network for Public Safety by Public Safety

Hear What Public Safety Leaders Are Saying About FirstNet

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