Despite expressing some concerns, California Gov. Jerry Brown today announced that he accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T, meaning all 50 states and three territories facing today’s deadline made an “opt-in” decision for FirstNet.

“While California remains concerned that the proposed plan does not meet all our state’s needs, California is opting into the plan with the expectation that our concerns will be addressed throughout our partnership,” Brown stated in his letter notifying FirstNet of the “opt-in” decision.

“California looks forward to working with FirstNet to address the gaps in the proposed plan throughout the 25-year deployment and implementation period.”

Under the law that established FirstNet in 2012, 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.

California was the fifth state to announce its “opt-in” decision today, which was the deadline for governors in all states to make their FirstNet “opt-in/opt-out” decisions. Three Pacific territories—Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands—did not receive their state plans until this month and have a March 12 deadline for their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions.

With Brown’s decision, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two territories—Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—have made “opt-in” decisions. As a result, AT&T will build and maintain the FirstNet LTE network and gain access to the 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum licensed to FirstNet in all of these states and territories, which includes the entire continental United States.

“Today's decision by Gov. Brown puts reliable communications and cutting-edge technology in the hands of California's first responders,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet in California will help deliver innovation and interoperability across the Golden State's diverse landscape—including its rural, urban and coastal areas. FirstNet looks forward to our continued partnership with the state's public-safety community.”

Although Brown made an “opt-in” decision, his letter referenced concerns about the FirstNet state plan for California that were detailed in another letter authored by Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES).

“During our negotiations with AT&T over the past several months, the state identified a number of concerns with the proposed for California,” according to Ghilarducci’s letter. “While AT&T was able to address some of these issue, they could not ensure each of the state’s needs were adequately addressed.

“California is hopeful that AT&T and FirstNet will meaningfully partner with Cal OES and will continue to engage with state officials during the buildout of the public-safety network in California to address the needs of our emergency responders.”

Specifically, Ghilarducci’s letter citesd three key areas that AT&T needs to address:

  • Interoperability—“While AT&T has agreed that all applications it develops will be interoperable across carriers, FirstNet has not made a similar commitment … To successfully employ mutual aid, FirstNet should require that all applications be interopable across systems and carriers.”
  • Security—AT&T’s core network currently does not comply with standards for the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) and the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems (CLETS) and plans to charge users for connectivity to these applications, according to the letter. “To remedy this deficiency in their system, AT&T should provide the NetMotion solution at no charge to all CLETS and CJIS subscribers until AT&T obtains CLETS and CJIS certification of the FirstNet core through the Department of Justice.”
  • Site hardening—AT&T should commit to backup microwave connections sites, seven days of generator backup for all sites, eight hours of battery backup at all sites, and “quarterly inspections to ensure adequate defensible space is established and maintained for all sites.”