LAS VEGAS—Each state and territory will have to make its own decision whether to opt in to FirstNet or opt out of the system and build its own public-safety LTE network, but all should engage in the activities necessary to make an informed decision when the time comes, according to IWCE 2014 panelists examining the subject.

After FirstNet presents a network plan to a state, the governor has 90 days to evaluate whether to opt in or opt out of the FirstNet system, according to Anna Gomez, a partner at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Wiley Rein. If the governor chooses to opt in, then FirstNet executes its deployment plans. If the governor chooses to have the state opt out, the state has 180 days to choose a vendor and deliver a plan to the FCC that demonstrates the state’s deployment will interoperate with the FirstNet system, according to the law that established FirstNet.

If the FCC approves the state’s opt-out plan then the plan is submitted to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) which will decide whether the state will be allowed to use the FirstNet spectrum in the 700 MHz band, based on an evaluation of the interoperability and sustainability of the state’s proposal, Gomez said. Both the FCC and the NTIA likely will take at least six months to make their evaluations, meaning the winning vendor in an opt-out scenario could wait more than a year to begin work, she said.

“If these very aggressive timelines are met, you would see the state move forward sometime in mid- to late-2017, and the same with FirstNet with deployments, if the timelines are met in this very aggressive time schedule,” Gomez said.

Robert LeGrande, owner of the The Digital Decision consultant firm and moderator of the panel, said it is important the state points of contact thoroughly investigate the opt-out scenario, so they can provide their governors with an informed evaluation of all options.

“Do this, because—if you don’t—the conversation is going to be very difficult,” LeGrande said. “The easiest conversation that you can have with a governor is one in which you have all of the answers. The worst conversation you can have with a governor is when he asks you a question and you don’t know the answer.”

And this conversation will not be limited to the governor—local public-safety agencies will ask similar questions before making their decision whether to subscribe to the network, regardless of the state’s opt-in/opt-out decision, according to LeGrande.