Urgent Matters

Unanswered questions loom as governors prepare to make ‘opt-in/opt-out’ FirstNet choices


Most governors have until Dec. 28 to make their "opt-in/opt-out" choices regarding FirstNet. Considerable information about FirstNet is available, but several key data points that could impact a governor's decision remain unknown as the 90-day decision clock ticks.

It should be noted that the questions outlined above have not been addressed—as far as I know—based on questions asked during the past several weeks to representatives of FirstNet, AT&T, states and other stakeholders. However, it should be noted that some of these questions require answers being approved at multiple levels of the federal government and a very large corporation in AT&T.

Even when answers may be formulated conceptually, getting all the necessary approvals—particularly when a topic involves potentially stick legal ground—can be difficult and time-consuming.

In addition, it is possible that some answers could be included in the state-plan portals or during private exchanges that would not be shared with me. Frankly, I hope that is the case, because it would mean that governors have the information they need.

However, my conversations with sources involved in the FirstNet process indicate that the questions outlined here have not been addressed at any level. If so, that is unfortunate and should be corrected as quickly as possible.

Few would question that the law creating FirstNet established an “opt-out” process that promises to be extremely difficult to complete, even under ideal circumstances and with all information readily available—complicating the issue with uncertainty around key points is counterproductive to all involved. With this in mind, it is important that governors and their advisers be provided all of the data points necessary to make the kind of informed “opt-in/opt-out” decision called for repeatedly by FirstNet leaders during the past several years.



Discuss this Blog Entry 6

Wilfredo Miranda (not verified)
on Oct 4, 2017

I haven’t see a single article stating the vulnerability of FirstNet given what happened to AT&T and others in Puerto Rico in lieu of Hurricane Maria. Reciliancy was NOT there.

on Oct 4, 2017

The Opt-Out issue for Governors really boils down to two questions:
What business are they in, governance or telecom?
How much risk are they willing to take to compete with existing carriers and wireless providers?

It's pretty clear what the sane answers are.

Burch Falkner (not verified)
on Oct 7, 2017

I understand in my home state of Alabama that our Governor could announce her decision as early as next week. She has been very transparent by requesting input from committees and agencies throughout the State. That is commendable. What is questionable is how can a decision be made when all the facts are not known.

It now appears that Band 14 may never actually be used unless AT&T just needs more bandwidth in major urban areas. The rural areas will likely be served by what is available currently. So what is the benefit of FirstNet? I have a portable network radio right now that costs less than $250 for the equipment and under $20 per month with unlimited nationwide PTT, active GPS, cloud message storage, and a whole bunch of talkgroups. So what is it that FirstNet can do that isn't already commercially available and what does it cost? Who knows?
I don't!

And what business does government have in telecom? Government has yet to figure out how to manage itself, and now Government is going to succeed in private enterprise? What basis do we use to arrive at this conclusion? And whatever happened to that grand idea of building a "hardened" system that would continue to work when others fail. An now we learn that we are using the same network? Something is very wrong with this picture!

on Oct 27, 2017

Congressional intent was an interoperable, self-funding, purpose-built, hardened Band 14 public safety broadband network. Very disappointing to learn the original RFP was ditched, permitting AT&T to pitch its commercial network as "magic." With 70% market share, Verizon is already offering QPP and self-funding their own core. The more you learn, the more ridiculous the situation becomes.

on Oct 31, 2017

The unasnswered questions are:
What is the cost per device?
Does the device need to be an ATT device?
What is the reoccuring cost ?
Bandwidth limitations?
And then of course coverage is it 90% ,95% or 100%, as we all know there is nothing that will give you wall to wall coverage.
And to some on here, this is not an alternative to to an existing LMR system but as a Data delivery for First Responders. Maybe some day this will be a replacement of a full fledge LMR system but I do not think so in the near future.

on Nov 21, 2017

Wow, This is the most insightful article I have read to date concerning the FirstNet process. Nonetheless, The more I learn the more I have to believe that the current LMR Public Safety system will eventually be phased out in support of an AT&T sponsored network. However, 4G and beyond technology is not cheap. A national build-out of an exclusive FirstNet LTE network will cost billions. As an individual that has experience with commercial carriers and the dispatch network, there is a need for a consolidated platform of high speed data and clear direct voice communications if for no other reasons than to have an all in one network. There is a definite need to upgrade current systems to do more that voice dispatch. A 4G data network can provide real time critical information to First Responders in conjunction with PTT. The need to transfer and store huge amounts of data is driving this project more than anything else.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.


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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