Arkansas, Kentucky governors make FirstNet ‘opt-in’ decisions
Governors for Arkansas and Kentucky today announced that their states would accept the FirstNet deployment plans, increasing the total of “opt-in” states to four for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) that will be built and maintained by AT&T.
“After an in-depth review of the FirstNet and AT&T plan by the appropriate state agencies and stakeholders, I have decided to approve their recommendation to opt in to the program,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said today in a prepared statement. “As a former Undersecretary of Homeland Security after 9/11, I understand the necessity of a reliable, standalone emergency communications system.
“FirstNet has received wide support among our community of first responders, because it will enable us to respond more quickly during crises, when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.”
This sentiment was echoed by A.J. Gary, director of the Arkansas department of emergency management.
“In 2015, Governor Hutchinson directed the state to develop a robust process to review whether opting in to FirstNet was the right decision for the state,” Gary said in a prepared statement. “Since that time, we have been hard at work researching and collaborating with our emergency responders to arrive at the best decision for Arkansas … FirstNet will be a great asset to our first responders and the citizens they serve.”
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s “opt-in” decision was announced today via Twitter.
“Kentucky's first responders are on the front lines every day – their ability to communicate is critical to serving and protecting communities across the Commonwealth,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “Gov. Bevin's decision to join the FirstNet Network will deliver the next-generation tools that public safety needs to better respond to emergencies, natural disasters, and during special events. FirstNet looks forward to serving Kentucky’s public-safety communities.”
Under the law that created FirstNet, governors can “opt-in,” or accept the FirstNet state plan—either with formal action or by taking no action at all—or decide to pursue the “opt-out” alternative, which would make the state responsible for deploying the LTE radio access network (RAN) within its borders.
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. On Monday, Virginia became the first state to “opt-in” to FirstNet, and Wyoming did the same on Tuesday.
As part of its nationwide FirstNet contract, AT&T has agreed that public-safety agencies in an “opt-in” state that subscribe to FirstNet immediately will receive prioritized access across AT&T’s commercial network that leverages multiple spectrum bands. Public-safety users are slated to receive preemptive access on AT&T’s commercial network by the end of the year.
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.