With a Dec. 28 deadline to make FirstNet “opt-in/opt-out” decisions less than a week away, Rivada Networks is encouraging governors to pursue the “opt-out” alternative while advocating for a new 90-day decision period, and Verizon has raised questions about AT&T’s motivation for building the FirstNet nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN).

On Tuesday, FirstNet announced changes to two portions of the draft spectrum-management lease agreement (SMLA) that had been criticized by many state officials: “termination fees” and public-safety adoption targets that would apply to “opt-out” states. In both cases, the revised draft SMLA maintains the financial liabilities, but many sources believe new language greatly reduces the potential amount of money a state might pay.

FirstNet said it made the changes after listening to state concerns, and the SMLA revisions generally were welcomed by state officials. However, many representatives of states and vendors interested in building alternative-radio access networks (RANs) for “opt-out” states expressed frustration that FirstNet altered the draft SMLA language after all alternative-RAN procurements were closed and barely more than a week before state governors have to make their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions.

Rivada Networks—the company that has been the most active participant in alternative-RAN procurements—on Thursday launched dual initiatives to address FirstNet’s “last-minute rule change” that “radically changed the terms of ‘opt out’” decisions for states.

“This dramatic change makes opting out much less risky and more attractive to states, and that is to be applauded,” according to a Rivada Networks press release. ” But the manner in which it was done and the timing of the change leaves states with no opportunity to fully weigh its ramifications.

“It also seriously harms states that had earlier expressed an intention to opt in under the threat of ‘draconian’ penalties for opting out. In some cases, those states canceled legally required RFPs or ended them without award, based on threats that FirstNet now seeks quietly to disown.”

Rivada Networks called on governors to make “opt-out” decisions by the Dec. 28 deadline, so they can “carefully consider the benefits of opting-out in light of the very manageable risks that will actually be imposed by FirstNet under the SMLAs.” Rivada Networks officials have stated that governors can make “opt-out” decisions initially with little risk, because AT&T is obligated to deploy the RAN in accordance with the FirstNet state plan at least until the FCC approves an alternative-RAN plan for the state.

“We urge all governors to obtain this updated information from FirstNet and to carefully consider the benefits of opting-out in light of the very manageable risks that will actually be imposed by FirstNet under the SMLAs,” according to the Rivada Networks press release. 

“Governors must make their states’ opt-out elections by December 28, 2017, and governors should do so with the most current and accurate information available. Given the timing of this change, it would be prudent for all governors to opt out now, and fully review the changed circumstances in the post-opt-out period provided for under the law.”

Although states could have AT&T implement the basic state plan after an “opt-out” announcement by Dec. 28, many governors are worried that such a move would jeopardize the state’s ability to realize “incentive” offerings that would provide enhanced coverage or other items of value.