Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslem today announced his decision to accept the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Tennessee the 17th state—not including the U.S. Virgin Islands territory—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

“Reliable communications are vital to public safety's life-saving mission," said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “Gov. Haslam's decision will help deliver innovation and interoperability to emergency personnel across Tennessee's diverse landscape—including its rural, mountainous and remote areas, as well as federal lands. FirstNet looks forward to continuing our partnership with Tennessee to ensure the network meets public safety's needs—now and in the future."

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.

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. Previously, 16 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska—have announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands territory.

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.

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.

“We're honored to bring FirstNet to Tennessee—to its first responders and to its residents, who will ultimately benefit from this one-of-a-kind solution,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T–FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “By opting in, Gov. Haslam is ushering in a new era of public safety for his state. We're pleased to deliver access to the innovative tools and technology that will give residents and visitors in Tennessee peace of mind knowing their safety is a top priority.”