State and territories want greater input into the FirstNet deployment plans for their jurisdictions, especially because the opt-out alternative is a “false choice” for most states, a representative from the National Governors Association (NGA) testified today during a hearing before a Senate subcommittee.

Jeffrey McLeod, director of the NGA homeland-security and public-safety division, said that FirstNet has conducted effective outreach during the past year to inform state officials about plans to deploy a nationwide public-safety broadband network, but some states want more of a partnership arrangement with FirstNet.

“Some [states] have expressed concern about the tone of the engagement,” McLeod said during the hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. “During the consultation process, FirstNet has referred to states as ‘constituents.’ While this may appear to be a mere word choice, it alters the tenor of the engagement and lessens the focus on partnership.

“FirstNet must view states as full partners in this endeavor. States have key information, processes and expertise that must be brought to bear on the full range of FirstNet activities.”

FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said officials in his organization perceive states as “critical partners,” not constituents.

“The states and the people who are leading those efforts in the states for public safety are a critical component,” Poth said during the hearing. “They truly are the tip of the spear of what we are trying to enable, and the partnership is very, very important to us.

“We spend a lot of time trying overcommunicate to the states. We don’t view them as constituents, but they are critical partners, just like public safety and just like our federal partners.”

FirstNet received multiple bids by the May 31 deadline from offeror teams vying for the right to build the nationwide public-safety system. As expected, Poth did not provide any updates regarding the status of the FirstNet RFP evaluation, other than to note its ongoing nature.

During this period, state can take some steps to make FirstNet preparations, but these efforts are limited by the fact that there are many unknowns about what the final offering will be, according to Major General Arthur Logan, the single point of contact for Hawaii.

“I think it was kind of obvious to [Hawaii’s governor] that opting in was the best solutions, although we have not made a final decision,” Logan said during the hearing. “We wanted to wait to see what our state plan is.

“Some of the anxiety that states are having is we don’t know what the state plan is, so we can only guess at what we think is going to happen. Without all of the knowledge, it creates some anxiety. So, states are somewhat unprepared for what may happen. But I think we’re a lot better off with all of the communications that are going on.”