On June 19, FirstNet released its plans to the states. These plans will include a notice of completion of the request for proposal process, the details of the proposed deployment plan, and the funding level for each state and territory. This is a major milestone for FirstNet. More importantly, now is the time for you to get involved in what’s happening in your state.
Now that FirstNet and its commercial partner, AT&T, have submitted their state plans, your governor can decide to opt-in to FirstNet and commence work on the network. If the governor has questions about the plan, the governor will have 47 days to propose changes. FirstNet then will be able to respond to these requests and revise the plan within approximately 45 days. Upon receipt of FirstNet’s final plan, a governor will have 90 days to choose whether to opt in, or opt out and be responsible for building and maintaining the state’s public safety broadband network.
Let’s be clear: If the governor opts out of the network, the state still will have to build a public safety broadband network to FirstNet’s ramifications. However, the state will assume the technical, operational, political and financial risks and responsibilities of the state broadband network for the next 25 years. In addition, the decision to opt out probably will delay the deployment of the broadband network in your state, and also delay the rollout of an interoperable public safety broadband network nationwide.
As a fire chief, here’s what you can do now:
- Reach out to your state’s Single Point of Contact (SPoC). Get informed on what’s in the statewide plan and examine how it affects your department’s operational needs.
- Talk to your elected officials, including your governor. Let them know why it’s important that public safety agencies have their own dedicated public safety broadband network. Explain how you can use data and video to improve your operations.
- Explain the importance of having a nationwide public safety interoperable broadband network, especially in the case of national emergencies caused by wildland fires, hurricanes, tornadoes or acts of terrorism.
- Make sure that your governor and political leadership is aware of the financial and management commitments that will result from opting-out of the First Net state plans. Explain that a statewide interoperable broadband network requires a dedicated multi-year effort and cannot be used as a cash cow for other state spending priorities.
- Provide comments to your SPoC to make sure that the FirstNet state plan meets your operational needs. Make sure that you are considering future uses of broadband data, not just how things operate today.
This is a historic opportunity to develop a resilient nationwide broadband network that will allow fire, law enforcement and EMS to share data, video files, and email during both every-day operations and during major emergencies. The IAFC urges all its members to contact the SPoCs and provide input with their state governments, so that you are helping to make this decision.
Chief Gary McCarraher is chairman of the IAFC Communications Committee. Jim Goldstein, IAFC staff liaison to the Communications Committee, contributed to this post.