Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback yesterday 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 Kansas the 13th state to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

 “This initiative positions Kansas to provide state-of-the-art emergency communication services to the benefit of our residents, businesses and visitors,” Brownback said in a prepared statement. “Our first responders need to quickly and securely coordinate efforts during an emergency, and FirstNet will help ensure that they have the tools they need to safeguard our state.

“This effort will also bring welcome broadband service enhancements to many rural parts of our state, including tribal lands and those areas most recently affected by wildfires this spring.”

In April, Kansas announced the selection of AT&T as the provider of its statewide ESInet, which will provide the network platform to enable the deployment of next-generation 911 (NG911) throughout the state.

 “FirstNet is a game-changer for Kansas’ public-safety community,” Mike Scott, president, AT&T Kansas, added. “With AT&T ESInet Service and Kansas’ NextGen 911 network, Kansas will have the ‘triple crown’ of public safety communications systems all in one state.” 

Dick Heitschmidt, chairman of the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council and Hutchinson chief of police, echoed this sentiment.

 “Gov. Brownback’s decision to opt-in to FirstNet is great for Kansas and will help ensure that our state’s first responders continue to stay on the cutting-edge of public safety,” Heitschmidt said in a prepared statement.

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. Previously, 12 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana and Arizona—have announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands territory.

“Today is a great day for the more than 1,400 public-safety entities in Kansas. By opting in to FirstNet, Kansas’ first responders will have access to communications tools and resources they need,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet will not only offer innovative technology to public safety subscribers, but interoperability across state and jurisdictional boundaries—an important issue for many Kansas communities.” 

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.