Vermont’s Public Safety Broadband Network Commission yesterday announced that it will recommend that Gov. Phil Scott make an “opt-in” FirstNet decision prior after considering the FirstNet/AT&T proposal and the results of the state’s alternative LTE radio access network (RAN) procurement.

Vermont’s announcement followed last Friday’s publication of an AT&T blog that the Floriday FirstNet Executive Committee has recommended that Gov. Rick Scott make an “opt-in” decision about FirstNet.

Although the commissions in Vermont and Florida made “opt-in” recommendations, the final choice rests with the governors of the respective states. Both governors must make an “opt-in/opt-out” decision by Dec. 28; failure to take any action will result in the state being treated as an “opt-in” state.

Terry LaValley, chairman of the Vermont Public Safety Broadband Network Commission—established by a governor’s executive order in 2013—said the commission was aware of the results of the state’s request for proposals (RFP) process to identify a potential vendor to build and maintain an alternative RAN under an “opt-out” scenario when making the recommendation.

“It’s part of our assessment,” LaValley said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “The broadband commission did look at the offer through the RFP process, and we did consider what was being proposed, in contrast to what was being offered by AT&T and FirstNet.”

However, the Vermont commission’s “opt-in” recommendation does not mean that the state has concluded its procurement, LaValley said. The RFP process is being conducted by the state’s department of public safety, although the commission recommended soliciting the bids, he said.

“The purpose of our commission is to make a recommendation to the governor, so the RFP process is still open.” LaValley said.

The Vermont commission’s recommendation followed “opt-in” recommendations from Televate—a consulting firm that conducted a technical review of the state plan presented by FirstNet and its nationwide contractor, AT&T—and the Couer Business Group, which provided analysis of the state’s “opt-in/opt-out” choices.

“Basically, we had two groups of people looking at similar material and formulating their own conclusions, and then a comparison of those conclusions was done at the end to make the recommendation to the state,” LaValley said.

In addition, the state of Vermont’s treasurer’s office issued a financial-risk opinion supporting an “opt-in” recommendation, LaValley said.

Key factors that favored an “opt-in” recommendation included the ability for first responders to have access to FirstNet services immediately, no financial costs to the state, and AT&T’s commitment to expand coverage in Vermont.

“We would also like to thank Vermont's Congressional delegation--Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch--for their support,” LaValley said in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the letter they sent to FirstNet seeking the most comprehensive and reliable coverage possible for Vermont's first responders.”

In other FirstNet-related state news, the states of Washington and Oregon received two bids in response to their joint RFP as of the extended deadline of Nov. 15, according to a spokesperson in the office of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. A joint review of the proposals is ongoing, but the governors for the states have the option of making their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions separately, according to the spokesperson.