Homeland Security

FirstNet expects court decision soon

large broadcasting antenna 

The First Responder Network Authority expects a decision within days from a federal court on the fate of its multi-billion-dollar contract for a nationwide public safety broadband network.

FirstNet missed its anticipated November award date for the $6.5 billion contract because vendor Rivada Mercury filed a protest lawsuit that month saying it had been unfairly removed from the competition.

FCW's sister publication, Washington Technology reported on March 3 that AT&T told the Securities and Exchange Commission in December that it believed it was the sole remaining bidder in the competition.

The legal processes to settle the protest, said Jason Karp, FirstNet chief counsel, were completed March 3, with final oral arguments before the court.

"All steps are completed. It's with the court," he said during a March 14 teleconference and presentation to FirstNet's board. "We await their decision."

That decision, he said, "hopefully will come in the next several days."

Whatever the decision, allowing the protest or denying it, FirstNet will respect it and take action accordingly, Karp said.

If the court denies the protest and FirstNet can award the contract, it will move quickly, FirstNet Chairwoman Susan Swenson said. The organization has been preparing to move ahead quickly and efficiently if that happens, FirstNet officials said in the meeting. "We're maniacally focused on being ready," Swenson added.

As soon as the contract is awarded, FirstNet will launch a web interface where states can get guidance for implementation, FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said on the call. Additionally, 56 state and territory plans will be finalized, and core network services, devices and operations will be detailed.

The Trump administration has said the project is a priority for the Department of Commerce, which oversees the organization. Newly confirmed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listed "getting FirstNet universally accepted" as one of his leading goals in a speech to Commerce employees March 1.

At the end of the board meeting, FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said he and the FirstNet team briefed Ross on his second day on the job about the project.

"The Secretary and the new administration are excited about FirstNet and said they would do everything they could to move it forward," Poth said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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