Urgent Matters

IWCE panel reveals steep hill to climb for states choosing opt-out route

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IWCE panel details various steps involved in the FirstNet opt-in/opt-out decision that each governor will have to make, including some factors that may have been overlooked before.

A few months ago, I wrote a column expressing my belief that states and territories would not consider opting out of FirstNet, if FirstNet does its job properly and designs a network buildout tailored to the needs of the jurisdiction, which is the approach that General Manager Bill D’Agostino and other FirstNet officials say they intend to follow.

My reasoning behind this assertion was that most state governments are facing very tight budgets in a difficult economy, so just about the last thing any of them want to do is to risk assuming any additional financial burdens, particularly uncapped expenses.

By opting into FirstNet, the state or territory lets FirstNet fund the network deployment, all operating costs and any network upgrades. But opting out of FirstNet (a bit of a misnomer, because the state can only opt out of the FirstNet plan; the broadband network will be built one way or another), the state or territory has to build the broadband system in the state itself—with no guarantee of any federal funding—pay all operating costs and pay for any future network upgrades.

In other words, a decision to opt out of FirstNet would expose a state to a lot of potentially uncapped costs—the kind most states are trying to avoid. Now, most states that would consider opting out of FirstNet believe they can develop partnerships that would allow them to generate enough revenue to at least cover these expenditures, but any forecast includes some level of uncertainty.

During IWCE last week, one of the most entertaining and informative sessions examined the opt-in/opt-out decision that states and territories will face. The panelists went out of their way to avoid advocating either an opt-in or an opt-out decision—moderator Robert LeGrande, owner of The Digital Decision consulting firm, stated this intention at the beginning of the session—but the information provided during the session revealed just how difficult the opt-out process could be.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Lima Echo Sierra (not verified)
on Apr 1, 2014

There is no way I'll ever trust this project and looking at your link to the article "With friends in government, Motorola beats a path to telecom supremacy" I think provides the logic behind my beliefs.

radioNY (not verified)
on Apr 1, 2014

It is plain out legalized extortion, enough is enough.

Radio Randy (not verified)
on Apr 1, 2014

Sounds like ObamaCare for radios.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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