The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) today delivered final, updated state plans to states and most territories, while Texas today became the largest state yet to announce that it will opt in, and Idaho also announced such a decision. Initial state plans were delivered in June via an online portal (TR Daily, June 19). Since then, 23 states or territories have announced their decision to opt in and have AT&T, Inc., FirstNet’s network partner, build their radio access network (RANs).
FirstNet provided the updated state plans to the states and territories today, except for Guam, American Samoa, and the Mariana Islands, which did not get their initial plans in June. A FirstNet spokesman said today that FirstNet is “still working with those territories on their plans.”
“In the near future, FirstNet expects to deliver the required official notification to Governors in the 53 states and territories that have received updated state plans today,” FirstNet said in a news release. “This notification will start the 90-day period for governors to decide whether to participate in the deployment of the network in the state or territory as proposed in the FirstNet-AT&T plan (‘opt in’) or elect to have their state or territory initiate the process to take on the responsibility for building the network in the state or territory (‘opt out’).” FirstNet said it will also notify the single points of contact (SPOCs) when it sends the official notice.
The reason the 90-day clock can’t start yet is because states and territories have not yet been told the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s construction funding level that they could expect to receive if they meet the opt-out criteria. Under the law that created FirstNet, that information must be provided before the 90-day clock can start. Those funding levels are expected to be provided in the “near term,” according to a Commerce Department source.
Texas is the second largest state in the U.S. by population and land mass, and its activities leading up to today’s opt-in decision have been closely watched by the public safety community. AT&T is based in Dallas. “The safety and security of Texas communities is my number one priority, and I want to provide our first responders with the best technology possible,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R.). “As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, our first responders are often the last and only hope for safety in rapidly-changing and life-threatening situations, but this partnership with FirstNet and AT&T, allows Texas’s fire, police, EMS and other public safety personnel to be better equipped when responding in these emergencies.”
“When Harvey hit, first responders were the first in to help rescue and support those in need,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president-FirstNet for AT&T. “No matter the emergency – big or small – we can count on public safety to be there when we need them most. We’re honored to continue our close collaboration with Texas and its public safety community to give these everyday heroes the game-changing tools and technologies they need to carry out their life-saving mission.”
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R.) also emphasized the benefits of opting in to FirstNet. “Timely, reliable and accurate information is critically important to ensuring that our first responders can most effectively protect our citizens,” he said. “This plan provides us with the opportunity to utilize the best technology available to help maximize public safety in Idaho and across the nation.”
“We’re pleased to welcome Idaho and Texas to the FirstNet Network today. As Governors continue to announce their decisions to opt-in, they stress the need for FirstNet and the value that the network will bring to public safety,” said FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth. “Also today, FirstNet provided updated state plans based on each state’s/territory’s feedback – ensuring that FirstNet will offer the best communications solutions for each state’s/territory’s unique public safety needs.”
“Governor Otter and the Idaho Public Safety Communications Commission have worked hand in hand with us so that the FirstNet network that’s built in Idaho delivers on our promise,” said Tara Thue, director of AT&T Idaho. —Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org