700 MHz Public Safety Projects FAQs


Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) 700 MHz Public Safety Projects:

Next Steps upon Completion of Negotiations with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) for Use of its 700 MHz Public Safety Broadband Spectrum

With the September 30, 2013, award end date for all BTOP public safety projects approaching, NTIA has assembled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help recipients navigate through the administrative grant processes, depending on the status of their spectrum lease negotiations with FirstNet.

1. What are the next steps for BTOP public safety recipients that have a Spectrum Manager Lease Agreement (SMLA) with FirstNet?

    1. Submit a No-cost Extension Award Action Request (AAR) in Grants Online (GOL). The request should include:
      a. A request to extend the period of performance for the modified project with an end date no later than September 30, 2015. This must include the other requested documents on the extension request template provided to all BTOP recipients;

      b. A revised project plan with updated key performance indicator targets;

      c. A copy of the SMLA; and

      d. A request to lift the partial suspension – the request should be in the form of a letter, indicating that a SMLA has been signed.

    2. Once the AAR is approved, the recipient must accept the amendment in GOL that extends the period of performance.

    3. The recipient must also accept the new Special Award Condition that requires compliance with the lease terms during the period of performance.

    4. The recipient must file AARs in GOL for a Budget Modification and a Route Modification. Both AARs are due within 3 months of signing the SMLA.

2. What are the next steps for recipients that do not have an SMLA with FirstNet or an approved resolution from the FirstNet Board to extend the negotiating period for a SMLA?

    The recipient may either:
    1. Submit a simplified no-cost extension request seeking an extension for no longer than 90 days to develop a project plan that will allow the recipient to proceed without the use of FirstNet spectrum or its concurrence in the revised project. The revised project must provide broadband communications for public safety. Recipients must submit an AAR to NTIA for a no-cost extension by close of business, Friday, August 30, 2013, to allow adequate time for both NTIA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Grants Office to review and process extension requests in advance of the September 30 end date for their awards; or
    2. Initiate the closeout process, which will officially begin on October 1, 2013.

3. What is the closeout process?

4. What considerations should recipients that do not have an SMLA with FirstNet take into account in preparing a modified project plan?

    NTIA will consider several factors in reviewing a modified project plan. These include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
      • Recipients must be able to complete the revised project by no later than September 30, 2015.

      • Any project revision must meet the requirements applicable to Comprehensive Community Infrastructure (CCI) projects, as described in the Second Notice of Funds Availability (Second NOFA), and satisfy the BTOP statutory purpose for which NTIA originally funded the application, (i.e., to improve access to, and use of, broadband service by public safety agencies).

      • Any revised project plan should account for impacts on environmental and cultural resources. The recipient should not plan to undertake project implementation activities that may adversely impact environmental or cultural resources and require significant additional environmental review unless previously approved by the program.

      • Recipients submitting a revised project plan must comply with necessary matching requirements upon approval.

5. How does a no-cost extension impact federal matching requirements?

    A no-cost extension granted to a recipient will not have an impact on the matching requirements included in its award. Recipients that seek to reduce the non-federal share of costs as proposed in their original award must provide extensive justification and supporting documentation for that change. Any recipient seeking to reduce the non-federal share below the statutorily required 20 percent match must follow the process described in the Second NOFA, i.e., submit a petition for waiver and provide supporting documentation of financial need.

6. What will happen with LTE equipment already purchased if a recipient has not obtained a SMLA from FirstNet?

    The recipient should coordinate with NTIA and the NOAA Grants Office to determine the best option for disposing of LTE equipment purchased with grant funds that will not be used as part of its BTOP project. Typically, these options include:
      1. Returning the equipment to the vendor for refunds;

      2. Making the LTE equipment available for sale to other BTOP recipients or the federal government; or

      3. Selling the equipment at auction.

    The federal share of the funds raised from the disposition will be returned to the federal government in accordance with the disposition requirements applicable to the award. See 15 CFR §§ 14.34(g) and 24.32(e).

7. Will recipients that close out their grants be required to pay back the federal funds for those projects that were not successfully implemented?

    NTIA recognizes that the recipients implementing LTE public safety projects were doing so according to their original project plans and initial 700 MHz spectrum leases. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 changed the assumptions upon which the grants were made and how the spectrum was licensed. For those costs expended to accomplish the original intent of providing LTE services to public safety entities, NTIA will not require the recipients to pay back these funds in full. Recipients will, however, be required to return the amount recaptured by the disposition of the assets purchased with federal funds.

8. If a recipient has not obtained a SMLA from FirstNet but gains NTIA approval to continue a modified non-LTE project, what can be done with funds previously dedicated to LTE activities?

    The recipient must submit a budget modification request through Grants Online requesting the funds be used for the modified project activity. These funds may only be used for activities that both meet the purpose and scope of the recipient’s original BTOP grant and can feasibly be completed within the extended project period. Any proposed use of these funds is subject to the review and approval of NTIA and NOAA before the recipient may proceed with any proposed project modification.