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.

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.

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. Prior to the Texas decision, 20 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska, Tennessee, Nebraska, Maryland and Idaho—had announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico territories.

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.

“When Harvey hit, first responders were the first in to help rescue and support those in need,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T–FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “No matter the emergency—big or small—we can count on public safety to be there when we need them most. We’re honored to continue our close collaboration with Texas and its public-safety community to give these everyday heroes the game-changing tools and technologies they need to carry out their life-saving mission.” 

The Texas “opt-in” announcement comes as FirstNet is expected to release its official state plans to most states and territories this week, which would mark the beginning of a 90-day period for governors to make an “opt-in” or “opt-out” decision. Governors cannot make an “opt-out” decision until they have received the official state plan from FirstNet.