Nebraska has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making it the 18th U.S. state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system. With 20 of the 56 U.S. states and territories having made “opt-in” decisions, FirstNet has received “opt-in” notification from 35.7% of all governors.

“FirstNet will give public safety the nationwide, interoperable communications system that they’ve spent years advocating for,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “Every governor that opts in is helping to answer that call. After years fighting to achieve this mission, it’s exciting to say a third of states and territories have moved to deliver the future of public safety to their first responders.”

Under the law that established FirstNet, governors in all 56 states and territories have the choice of making an “opt-in” decision—accepting the FirstNet deployment plan and allowing AT&T to build the LTE radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders at no cost to the state—or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to be responsible for building and maintaining the RAN for the next 25 years.

AT&T will build the FirstNet RAN in “opt-in” states or territories at no cost to each jurisdiction, but local public-safety entities will be responsible for paying subscription costs and end-user device expenses. However, the law that established FirstNet stipulates that individual public-safety agencies and potential first-responder users are not required to subscribe to the FirstNet service.

FirstNet released its initial state plans on June 19 and made them actionable, so governors would have the opportunity to “opt-in” to FirstNet prior to the final state plans being released in September. Prior to today’s acknowledgement of Nebraska’s decision, 17 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska and Tennessee—had announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico territories.

AT&T officials have stated that deployment of LTE on FirstNet’s 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum could begin as early as this year in certain parts of the country. Public-safety agencies in “opt-in” states are eligible to sign FirstNet contracts that give first responders priority access across AT&T’s commercial networks immediately and preemptive access by the end of the year.

“FirstNet is by public safety, for all of public safety,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T–FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “We’re honored to see the strong response by states and territories. It brings us one step closer to getting first responders the tools they need to transform how they communicate and respond to emergencies.”