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NTIA Issues Proposed Rules on Review of FirstNet Fees

December 14, 2015
News Media Contact
Juliana Gruenwald

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced today it is proposing new rules to guide its review of fees that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) may assess pursuant to its statute. The framework is intended to enable FirstNet to operate in a competitive marketplace, giving it the flexibility it needs to meet its business and budgetary goals.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Act) established FirstNet as an independent authority within NTIA and directed it to provide broadband services for first responders across the U.S.  The proposed rules make clear that, under the Act, part of NTIA’s role is to ensure that the fees FirstNet assesses are sufficient to cover its expenses but do not exceed what its needs to carry out its duties. NTIA’s fee review process is part of the broader framework spelled out in the Act for oversight of FirstNet’s finances and operations. 

“To be successful, FirstNet will have to win customers through competitive pricing and services,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. “The approach we outline today will give FirstNet the flexibility it needs to respond to changing market conditions and meet the demands of its customers – the public safety community.”

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking describes NTIA’s overarching interpretations, boundaries and guidelines for NTIA’s fee review and approval process. Under the Act, NTIA must review FirstNet’s fees on an annual basis, and the fees may only be assessed if approved by NTIA.   

NTIA proposes that its statutory fee review has a limited purpose: it must examine only whether proposed fees are sufficient, but not in excess of, the projected funds that FirstNet needs to be financially self-sustaining.  The specific fees that NTIA will review are: network user fees, Covered Leasing Agreement fees and fees from entities seeking access to FirstNet-owned network equipment or infrastructure. NTIA proposes that it will not evaluate the reasonableness, or similar subjective attributes, of the specific fees assessed by FirstNet or its prospective partner or partners as contemplated in the Act.

The public is invited to submit written comments by January 14, 2016.   Comments may be submitted electronically through or by mail to: Office of Public Safety Communications; National Telecommunications and Information Administration; U.S. Department of Commerce; 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW; Washington, DC  20230.