FirstNet Strikes Deal to Lease Spectrum to N.M.

Two of seven suspended BTOP broadband network projects now have agreements; time running out for rest
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FirstNet has struck a deal with the state of
New Mexico to lease access to
FirstNet spectrum.

That will be the
first step to removing the National Telecommunications & Information
Administration's partial suspension of that state's Broadband Technology Opportunities
Grant (BTOP) program, which was one of seven programs to create their own
interoperable communications networks suspended by the Commerce Department
while FirstNet got up and running. FirstNet will be a nationwide interoperable
emergency communications network funded with proceeds from the broadcast
incentive auction.

NTIA wanted to insure
the BTOP money was being well spent and that the individual projects dovetailed
with or furthered the goals of the national safety network.

This makes two of
the seven that have now reached leasing agreements with FirstNet--L.A. struck a deal in
June and NTIA has lifted that suspension. New Mexico must now ask NTIA to lift the
suspension, pointing to the FirstNet agreement. FirstNet will then recommend that
NTIA do so, pointing to the value for FirstNet
from collecting data from the Arizona network, including "use of a network
core located remotely; spectrum management and network use issues along the
U.S.-Mexico border; and shared use of a state network with a large number of
Federal users."

FirstNet says it is
in negotiations for lease deals with two more of the suspended programs--in Mississippi and the Bay area in
California, and hopes to have
those done by the Sept. 30, 2013 deadline for BTOP projects.

It says time has run
out on the remaining three--Adams County Communications Center in Adams County, Colo.; the City of
Charlotte, N.C.; and the New Jersey Department of the Treasury. They can either
seek an extension or start the process of closing out the grant.

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