FirstNet, AT&T Deliver State Plans, Starting Clock on Review, Opt-in/Opt-out Decisions

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T, Inc., today delivered to states plans for AT&T to build and maintain their radio access networks (RANs) as part of a nationwide interoperable public safety communications network envisioned by 2012 federal legislation. The individual plans were made available on a restricted access basis through an online portal, and states will be notified when and if their plans are updated, as it is expected they will be, FirstNet and AT&T officials told reporters during a conference call today. They emphasized that delivery of the state plans comes three months ahead of schedule.

They did not provide details on pricing, but Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president for FirstNet matters, predicted that “states will find the pricing very compelling” and that they “will be paying very close to if not less than what they’re paying now, but will have [at that price] access to priority on our network,” which currently they would have to pay extra to obtain.

AT&T expects to deliver preemption on its network to public safety communications in states that opt-in by year-end, Mr. Sambar said, calling the feature a “tremendous value proposition to first-responders.” FirstNet awarded a 25-year contract to AT&T to build and maintain a nationwide public safety broadband network earlier this year (TR Daily, March 30).

FirstNet Chief Customer Officer Rich Reed said that states have been given until Aug. 4, or 47 days — rather than the 45 days previously indicated — to review the state plans and make any comments. FirstNet will then take approximately 45 days, or until mid-September, to review those comments and respond to them, following which governors would have another 90 days to decide whether to opt in or opt out.  However, if states have no questions about the plans released today, they can notify FirstNet immediately, starting the 90-day period that governors have to officially review their plans and notify FirstNet if they plan to opt out. States do not have to wait for the end of the 90-day period to notify FirstNet if they want AT&T to build their radio access networks.

Forty-nine states have already asked for follow-up meetings to discuss the state plans released today, and 30 of those meetings have been scheduled during the next two weeks, Mr. Reed said. He added that FirstNet would be available to “support” states as they discuss the plans with their own stakeholders.

He also said that FirstNet and AT&T are still in discussions with the territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Mariana Islands, and that those plans were not released today.

Once a state governor opts in, “network deployment will happen very quickly,” FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said.

Mr. Sambar said that the 10,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in network investment that AT&T has said would result from the FirstNet contract “starts as soon as the award is made but even more so when a state accepts the plan.”

Asked how FirstNet and AT&T had addressed concerns expressed recently by states about the “terms of use” for using the online portal (TR Daily, June 8), Mr. Reed said that “the legal teams from AT&T and FirstNet went back and did a complete rewrite of terms of use” so that they are now in “very plain, simple language.” He said they have received positive feedback from states about the changes.

Asked to comment on the FCC vote scheduled later this week on procedures for reviewing alternative plans filed by states that want to “opt out” and contract to build their own RANs rather than have AT&T build them, Mr. Kennedy called the FCC a “critical” partner of FirstNet and said that FirstNet has “full faith they will be good partners.” —Lynn Stanton,

Courtesy TRDaily