FirstNet Authority approves $240 million budget in first self-funded fiscal year


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The FirstNet Authority, the independent agency within the Department of Commerce charged with overseeing the deployment of the nation’s dedicated public safety communications network, announced a $240 million budget for the 2019 fiscal year on Monday.

The $240 million is split into three categories : program and administrative operations, reserve, and network reinvestment. One $81 million chunk will be used to fund FirstNet Authority programs, staff and activities, while another $78 million allocation will be used to reinvest in the public safety network — specifically in enhancements and innovation recommended through feedback from public safety organizations and FirstNet subscribers.

Finally, an allocation of $81 million, matching the operations budget for 2019, will be put in reserve funding for the authority.

With FirstNet’s establishment in 2012 as part of the Middle Class Tax & Relief Act, the authority was allocated a portion of the initial $7 billion granted by congress to establish the network. That funded the authority for five years. In March of 2017, the authority signed a $6.5 billion contract with AT&T to serve as the sole vendor of the network — with AT&T committing roughly $40 billion to building out the network — and in 2018, the company began making annual payments in exchange for use of the network’s dedicated spectrum.

Those payments, a spokesperson for FirstNet told StateScoop, are invested in the authority’s 2019 budget, enabling the authority to be fully self-funded for the first time in its existence.

“This budget is an investment in the future of our organization and in public safety’s network,” said CEO Mike Poth in a statement. “With the network deployment in full swing, the FirstNet Authority is laser focused on driving the network build-out and innovation to advance public safety communications.”

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