Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf 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 Pennsylvania the 27th state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

“When an emergency strikes, Pennsylvania first responders are called upon to handle the situation and support the community,” Wolf said in a prepared statement. “As we have learned from recent events in many parts of the country, a vital component needed for coordinating a response is the ability for all responders on the scene to share information as events unfold.”

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.

Wolf made his announcement exactly two weeks after the Pennsylvania legislature conducted a high-profile hearing about FirstNet. Much of the discussion during the hearing focused on potential risks and financial responsibilities that Pennsylvania would assume, if the state were to “opt-out” of FirstNet. Key points noted during the hearing included ongoing payments to access the spectrum licensed to FirstNet and a possible fee that would be charged to the state, if its “opt-out” initiative proved to be unsuccessful.

In contrast, Diane Stackhouse, director of the Pennsylvania State Police’s Bureau of Communications and Information Services and the state’s FirstNet single point of contact (SPOC), testified during the hearing that an “opt-in” decision represents a “low-risk option” for the state.

Today, Stackhouse highlighted some of the new capabilities that first responders will have as a result of access to broadband services from FirstNet.

“The ability to share real-time images and video of the scene as well as the locations of first responders and locally relevant information improves communication and outcomes,” Stackhouse said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet will carry high-speed data, location information, images, and eventually streaming video that can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations.”

With Wolf’s announcement, Pennsylvania becomes the fifth 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 and Oklahoma issued RFPs but later saw their governors announce “opt-in” decisions.

“Governor Wolf’s decision will deliver innovation and interoperability to first responders in the Keystone State, helping them serve and protect their communities,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. “We are pleased to have delivered the network plan that best meets Pennsylvania’s needs and look forward to connecting public safety throughout the commonwealth.”

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 on Sept. 29. Governors in 53 states and territories that received initial state plans on June 19—the exceptions being the Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Island, which will have a separate timetable—are required to make their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions by Dec. 28.