Pennsylvania has assessed its needs by conducting extensive outreach and data-collection initiatives that have revealed several key points, including the challenges associated with providing wireless coverage in the heavily wooded areas that are commonplace in the northern part of the state, Stackhouse said. FirstNet has provided Pennsylvania with an initial coverage assessment, but state officials believe greater coverage is needed, based on data associated with calls for service, population density, critical-infrastructure locations, and transportation factors, she said.

“We have found a 16% increase using these areas of assessment over the baseline provided to us by FirstNet,” Stackhouse said. “I think that our re-baseline is definitely more appropriate to the first responders in Pennsylvania.”

Other key requirements cited by Stackhouse include the following:

  • Technical standards that do not use proprietary technology within the network and that establish quality-of-service specifications that meet the needs of first responders;
  • A quality-assurance program that explains how maintenance and repairs will be done, as well as the expected availability of the network; and
  • A system that is priced within the budgets of public-safety agencies. “Obviously, nothing is for free, but it has to be affordable for folks to jump on,” Stackhouse said.

This cost element also is important to Pennsylvania for another reason, which is related to the opt-out decision that the governor must make within 90 days of FirstNet presenting its state plan. Unless that state plan outlines the costs involved, the 90-day clock on the governor should not start, Stackhouse said.

“We definitely want details, when we present it to our governor for an opt-in/opt-out scenario and the cost to build out in Pennsylvania,” she said. “The 90-day clock, if it doesn’t include cost, I don’t think our governor would be able to make an informed, educated decision on what he should do. So, we ask that cost [information] be included.