Arkansas and Kentucky became the latest states today to announce that they would allow AT&T, Inc., the First Responder Network Authority’s (FirstNet) network partner, to build a radio access network (RAN) in their states rather than attempting to contract to build them. Virginia and Wyoming became the first two opt-in states earlier this week (TR Daily, July 10 and 11). “After an in-depth review of the FirstNet and AT&T plan by the appropriate state agencies and stakeholders, I have decided to approve their recommendation to opt in to the program,” Ark. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R.) said. “As a former Undersecretary of Homeland Security after 9/11, I understand the necessity of a reliable stand-alone emergency communications system. FirstNet has received wide support among our community of first responders because it will enable us to respond more quickly during crises when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.”
Mr. Hutchinson sent FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth a letter dated July 11 notifying him of the state’s opt-in decision. But the governor issued a news release and released the letter today during the National Governors Association’s Summer Meeting in Providence, R.I.
“Arkansas has been a tremendous partner to work with to plan and design this network,” said Mr. Poth. “With today’s decision, Governor Hutchinson realizes public safety’s efforts and sets this life-saving network into motion. We look forward to delivering the technology and communication tools that first responders need to serve and protect the residents of Arkansas.”
“It is our honor to provide advanced communications capabilities to ensure Arkansas’ first responder community has a network they can rely upon when needed most,” said Ed Drilling, president of AT&T Arkansas. “AT&T has a long history with the public safety community, and together we know we will create a first-of-its-kind network that will help first responders operate faster, safer and more effectively when lives are on the line. We will bring first responders the coverage, value and experience they expect.”
FirstNet also issued a statement on the decision by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R.) to opt in as well, news that was announced via tweet by KYFirstNet.
“Kentucky’s first responders are on the front lines every day – their ability to communicate is critical to serving and protecting communities across the Commonwealth,” said Mr. Poth. “Governor Bevin’s decision to join the FirstNet Network will deliver the next-generation tools that public safety needs to better respond to emergencies, natural disasters, and during special events. FirstNet looks forward to serving Kentucky’s public safety communities.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee announced today that it plans to hold a FirstNet hearing July 20 at 10 a.m. in room 253 of the Russell Senate Office Building.
In addition to Mr. Poth, the scheduled witnesses are Curtis Brown, deputy secretary of public safety and homeland security for Virginia; Damon Darsey, assistant professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center; Mark Goldstein, physical issues director for the Government Accountability Office; and Chris Sambar, senior vice president-FirstNet for AT&T.
GAO is expected to release another report on FirstNet in conjunction with the hearing. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org