Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan today announced that he has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Maryland the 19th U.S. state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

“Keeping Marylanders safe is our top priority, and our first responders need to be equipped with every tool possible to protect our citizens,” Gov. Hogan said in a prepared statement. “By adopting this plan, our first responders will now have the ability to efficiently and effectively work together not just within the state, but across the region and at the national level.

“This innovative initiative will also spur investment into Maryland’s economy, helping to create jobs and enhance mobile broadband coverage in rural parts of the state.”

In the summer of 2014, Maryland was the first state to have a state-consultation meeting with FirstNet officials—a fact noted today by FirstNet CEO Mike Poth.

“FirstNet is honored to serve the state of Maryland—where we launched our nationwide consultation program in 2014,” Poth said in a prepared statement. “Gov. Hogan's decision will help deliver game-changing technology to first responders throughout Maryland, making communities safer and more secure. FirstNet will continue our partnership with the state to make sure the network delivers the coverage, services and innovation that public safety expects and needs.”

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 Maryland’s decision, 18 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska, Tennessee and Nebraska—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.

"Governor Hogan's decision to opt-in to FirstNet demonstrates his continued commitment to support public safety at all levels,” said Denis Dunn, president, AT&T Maryland. “With his decision, we're now able to launch our efforts to deliver a public safety broadband network in Maryland. We look forward to working with first responders statewide to give them access to the life-saving technologies they've asked for."

Maryland’s 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.