Pennsylvania and South Carolina today announced that they would opt in to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), becoming the 27th and 28th states to do so, in addition to two territories. Governors have until Dec. 28 to decide whether to opt out or not.
“When an emergency strikes, Pennsylvania first responders are called upon to handle the situation and support the community,” Gov. Tom Wolf (D.) said. “As we have learned from recent events in many parts of the country, a vital component needed for coordinating a response is the ability for all responders on the scene to share information as events unfold.”
“Governor Wolf’s decision will deliver innovation and interoperability to first responders in the Keystone State, helping them serve and protect their communities,” said FirstNet Chief Executive Officer Mike Poth. “We are pleased to have delivered the Network plan that best meets Pennsylvania’s needs and look forward to connecting public safety throughout the commonwealth.”
At a recent Pennsylvania legislative hearing on FirstNet (TR Daily, Oct. 19), lawmakers asked a number of questions about the system as well as the amount that the state could be liable for if it opted out and then failed to construct a radio access network (RAN).
Maj. Diane Stackhouse, director of the Pennsylvania State Police’s Bureau of Communications and Information Services and the state’s FirstNet single point of contact (SPOC), told the lawmakers that opting out could cost Pennsylvania almost $1 billion over the life of the 25-year contract, citing spectrum network capacity fees, user adoption disincentive fees, and a termination payment for canceling the SMLA early.
She said that the state had received three proposals in response to a request for proposals (RFPs) it issued in July, and that the assessment of the bids should be completed by December.
“At first blush, opt-in suggests that there is less risk,” Ms. Stackhouse said. “However, until I fully explore the proposals for opt-out, I’m not counting anybody out. Someone there might have a very good plan that is viable.”
In the news release issued today announcing that the state would opt in, Maj. Stackhouse said, “FirstNet will carry high-speed data, location information, images, and eventually streaming video that can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations.”
In a press release announcing South Carolina’s decision to opt in to FirstNet, Gov. Henry McMaster (R.) said, “Our public safety personnel need and deserve resources that will help keep them safe and allow them to deliver the best possible services for our communities, and that’s why I’m proud to work with FirstNet and AT&T to bring this innovative technology to our state.”
“Governor McMaster’s decision demonstrates his strong commitment to public safety,” said Mr. Poth. “We look forward to delivering a sustainable, cutting-edge network that will connect local, state, tribal, and federal first responders across the Palmetto State.”
“We appreciate the seriousness and diligence Governor McMaster and his team brought to the question of South Carolina’s opt in,” said Pamela Lackey, president of AT&T South Carolina. “It matches our own commitment to delivering this first-of-its-kind communications tool for first responders. We’re honored to bring FirstNet to South Carolina and connect its public safety community to the life-saving technologies they, and our residents, deserve.”
Also today, AT&T said that it has added “thousands of connections” to the FirstNet system in opt-in states.- Paul Kirby, firstname.lastname@example.org