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Next for FirstNet: Statewide Plans

AT&T has been chosen to build the first nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to America’s first responders. The next stage of the process is that FirstNet will provide the governor of each state or territory with a notice of the completion of the request for proposal process; the details of the proposed plan; and the funding level for the state or territory. Upon receipt of the plan, a governor will have 90 days to choose whether to participate in the plan provided by FirstNet or conduct its own deployment of a radio access network (RAN) which is the core within each state for the nationwide network. FirstNet has projected that the statewide plans should be sent to the governors in June 2107.

If a governor decides to opt out, he/she is required to notify FirstNet, the National Telecommunications Information Agency, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). After providing the notification, the governor has 180 days to develop and complete requests for proposals for the construction, maintenance and operation of the RAN within the state. The state will then be required to submit an alternative plan to the FCC that is interoperable with the NPSBN and complies with the minimum technical interoperability requirements under the act.

If a governor decides to opt-out and build its own RAN, this will delay the process of building out the RAN in the state. States will assume all technical, operational, political, and financial risks and responsibilities related to building their own RAN for the next 25 years.

IAFC members should be contacting their FirstNet State Points of Contact (SPOC) to get up-to-date information about their specific state plans and provide input as their governors make their decision.

Some suggestions for IAFC members in each state:

  • Reach out to their state SPOC and participate in their state’s process leading up to the governor’s decision on allowing FirstNet to build out the RAN or opt-out and build its own RAN. The list of SPOCs is on the FirstNet website: http://www.firstnet.gov/content/single-points-contact-spoc#State Single Points of Contact (SPOC)
  • Tell the governor if he/she decides to opt-out, the state will assume all technical, operational, political, and financial risks and responsibilities related to building their own RAN for the next 25 years.
  • Make sure the governor understands that if he/she allows FirstNet to buildout the RAN, one of the key benefits of the partnership will be the availability of priority services immediately after a governor makes the decision to stay in the network. This priority access will be made available over FirstNet’s existing partner AT&T’s nationwide network and on all its Long-Term Evolution (LTE) bands. This is only available to opt-in states.
  • Inform the governor that if he/she is considering building their own RAN believing they can make a profit for the state building and operating its own RAN, this is not the case. FirstNet has made it clear that under its interpretation of the statute that any profit made in a state may not be kept in the state but must be shared with the nationwide broadband network.
  • As the fire service leaders in your respective states, you need to have your voices heard and voice your views to the governors in your states as they make the decision to opt-in or opt-out. Once the governor makes the decision, stay involved in the process.

The IAFC believes that FirstNet, by providing dedicated, interoperable, mission-critical data communications, will enhance emergency response operations throughout the fire and emergency service for years to come.

Chief Gary McCarraher is chairman of the IAFC Communications Committee. Jim Goldstein is IAFC staff liaison to the Communications Committee.

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