Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced that he has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Colorado the 38th state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

“We are opting in to allow FirstNet to make an investment in Colorado that promises to make our state more resilient against threats to our safety,” Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement. “We, together with Colorado’s Governing Board, are confident that the investment will not only benefit public safety, but also provide much needed telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas of our state.”

Denver Fire Chief Eric Tade, chairman of the FirstNet Colorado Governing Body (FNCGB), applauded Hickenlooper’s decision, noting that FNCGB members worked hard to assess the FirstNet state plan, as well as the “opt-out” alternative. AT&T’s commitment to provide an additional 35 cell sites in the state beyond those identified in the state plan proved to be crucial, he said.

“With AT&T stepping up and committing the additional 35 sites to the state of Colorado to really ensure that we start off right and make sure that we have public-safety broadband coverage all throughout Colorado—even in our rural areas, which can be very challenging, given our topography here in the state of Colorado—I think that we have a great platform to start from,” Tade said during the signing ceremony, which was webcast. “Hopefully, working with FirstNet and AT&T, we will be able to provide public-safety broadband coverage for the entire state of Colorado in the very near future.

“And I can’t say it loudly enough: the governor’s support on this has been tremendous. If it weren’t for the governor’s office support, I don’t know that we would have been able to push back as much as we were able to and negotiate the best deal for Colorado.”

Colorado has been the hub for much of the public-safety broadband effort in the U.S., particularly from a technical standpoint. Both the FirstNet and Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) laboratories are located in Boulder, Colo., and Adams County—part of the Denver metropolitan area—is the location of the first public-safety LTE network built with the Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant funding.

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.

With Hickenlooper’s announcement, Colorado becomes the 11th state to announce an “opt-in” decision after issuing a request for proposals (RFP) seeking bids from vendors willing to deploy and maintain an alternative RAN. Previously, the states of Michigan, Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, Vermont, Missouri and Wisconsin issued RFPs but later had their governors announce “opt-in” decisions.

Colorado joins Michigan as “opt-in” states that had selected an alternative-RAN vendor through a procurement process. Colorado selected a team of Rivada Networks and Macquarie Infrastructure Developments to build and maintain the alternative LTE radio access network (RAN) in the state, if Hickenlooper had made an “opt-out” decision.

“FirstNet has worked closely with Colorado’s dedicated public safety community and the state of Colorado to ensure the best possible plan for the state, its first responders and residents,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “I want to thank Gov. Hickenlooper for his thoughtful, thorough decision. Colorado has been on the forefront of testing public-safety broadband, and FirstNet and AT&T are excited to continue this partnership to deliver innovation for the brave men and women on the front lines.”