Verizon Communications, Inc., urged the National Telecommunications and Information Administration today to permit opt-out states to build their own core networks rather than having to connect to the core of the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) network partner, AT&T, Inc.
“While the law does not require states to participate in the FirstNet network at all, the opt-out provisions do guarantee that states have a meaningful opportunity to participate in the network while taking on specific responsibilities for its deployment,” Don Brittingham, vice president-public safety policy for Verizon, said during a joint hearing today held by three Pennsylvania state legislative committees. “In order for such an option to be meaningful, however, it must allow states to pick their own commercial partner to establish their own private partnership in a manner that’s comparable to the partnership established by FirstNet. It must also allow states to develop network and service arrangements that are both viable and sustainable over the long term. And critical to the viability of such an option is the ability for a state to use its own network core, or one deployed by its commercial partner.
“States should not be required to use the network core deployed by FirstNet, as such a requirement would put the state in the untenable position of being driven by the interests and decisions of FirstNet’s commercial partner – a condition that would certainly be unattractive to any prospective state commercial partner,” he added. “Unfortunately, based on recent press reports, it doesn’t appear that either FirstNet or AT&T will allow a state to use its own network core if it decides to opt out and would actually require the state’s public safety users to purchase their services from AT&T.”
Mr. Brittingham noted that the FCC in the summer released an order saying that it wouldn’t reject on interoperability grounds an alternative state plan that relied on a separate network core, but the agency saying that such a decision was outside its statutory scope of authority (TR Daily, June 22). “Verizon respects the FCC’s decision, but we hope that NTIA answers that question affirmatively in the near future, as we believe it’s important to any state considering an opt-out choice,” he added.
A summary of a draft spectrum manager lease agreement (SMLA) for Vermont, which was obtained by TR Daily, says that the state must integrate its radio access network (RAN) with the FirstNet core and must pay all costs to do so (TR Daily, Oct. 18).
During today’s hearing, which was held by the Pennsylvania state Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, the Senate Communications & Technology Committee, and the House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, lawmakers asked a myriad of questions about the FirstNet system and the Dec. 28 deadline that governors face to seek to opt out and have their states build their own RANs. A number of questions showed lawmakers’ confusion about the process being used. So far, 25 states and two territories have opted in. Continue reading