Western states group expands to 11 states for FirstNet efforts
LAS VEGAS — A group of 11 states in the western half of the U.S. have decided to coordinate their resources and efforts associated with the much-anticipated 700 MHz nationwide broadband network that will be built by FirstNet, according to an official for the State of Nevada Network (SONNet).
In Nevada, public safety has shared an LMR network with utilities for years — a partnership that has attracted significant attention as a public-private partnership model. When the FirstNet board was established last year and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) conducted a proceeding to gather input, Nevada again looked for partners, according to Chris Magenheimer, battalion chief for North Lake Tahoe Fire Department and SONNet program manager.
“We got together at SONNet and said, ‘Nevada’s this very huge state, but we don’t have a lot of people,'” Magenheimer said during an IWCE workshop on Tuesday afternoon. “‘Nobody’s going to listen to us, unless we can really work together and try to build a region."’
For the NTIA proceeding, Nevada submitted a response with five other states in the western U.S. — Idaho, Montana, Utah, South Dakota and Wyoming — Magenheimer said. Since then, the group has become known as the Western States Alliance and has added five other states: Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and — most recently — Nebraska, he said.
Of particular interest to the group is the development of a sustainable business model that will deliver an effective broadband network at a price that user groups can afford, Magenheimer said. Public-private partnerships with entities such as utilities will be critical, he said.
“I think that’s the biggest key, and we really have to look at how this thing is going to pan out,” Magenheimer said. “What I can guarantee you is that, in this state and in the Western region, public safety is not going to be able to pay for the thing [by itself]. So, we need those partnerships.”