Iowa becomes fifth state to announce FirstNet ‘opt-in’ decision
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds today announced that she has accepted the FirstNet deployment plan for her state, making Iowa the fifth state to “opt-in” to the plan for a nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), which will be built, maintained and upgraded by AT&T during the next 25 years.
During a press conference today, Reynolds noted that the Iowa Statewide Interoperability Communications Systems Board (ISICSB) unanimously recommended acceptance of the FirstNet state plan after conducting outreach efforts in all 99 counties in Iowa.
“I appreciate the due diligence that was put into place. I appreciate the outreach to meet the expectations of Iowa,” Reynolds said during the press conference, which was webcast. “Now, these are state-specific recommendations—so … it’s different in the different states. I appreciate the specifics applied to Iowa and feel very comfortable in my decision to opt-in.”
Reynolds has been Iowa’s governor for two months, assuming the position when former Gov. Terry Branstad was named U.S. Ambassador to China on May 24. Prior to becoming governor, Reynolds served as Iowa’s lieutenant governor for six years.
FirstNet President TJ Kennedy said that existing LMR mission-critical-voice systems and FirstNet’s wireless broadband system “will work synergistically together” for first responders.
In addition, Kennedy reiterated that Iowa public-safety personnel subscribing to FirstNet would be given priority access across AT&T’s commercial network immediately in comparison to typical consumer access, with preemptive access to be implemented by the end of the year. Kennedy noted that one exception to these preferred access models would be that citizen calls to 911 also would be prioritized.
A press release issued by the state of Iowa notes that Reynolds’ “opt-in” decision is expected to help accelerate the deployment of broadband coverage for both public-safety users and consumers in rural areas of the state.
“The FirstNet network will not only strengthen and modernize public safety communications in our state, but also bring much needed investment to our communications infrastructure,” Gov. Reynolds said in a prepared statement. “The network builds on AT&T’s existing footprint to expand coverage and capacity. AT&T has invested nearly $150 million in its Iowa network infrastructure over the past three years.
“By partnering with FirstNet, we will be able to expand coverage for first responders. As a result, this will also help expand coverage for rural Iowans, providing access to a reliable, high speed wireless connection in areas with little or no connectivity today.”
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. Reynolds’ decision today means Iowa is the fifth state to accept the FirstNet state plan. Last week, governors in the states of Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas and Kentucky announced their “opt-in” decisions.
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.