New Jersey becomes sixth state to ‘opt-in’ to FirstNet
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie today announced that his state will “opt-in” and become the sixth state to accept the FirstNet plan for deploying the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) that will be built by AT&T, FirstNet’s nationwide contractor.
“New Jersey is proud to take this important step for first responders in our state,” Christie said in a prepared statement. “The decision to join this network means FirstNet and AT&T will deliver a highly secure, next-generation solution for our public-safety community, building, maintaining and operating it at no cost and no risk to our state.”
Jared Maples, acting director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, echoed this sentiment.
“Opting in to FirstNet underscores New Jersey’s commitment to ensuring first responders are capable of meeting constantly evolving challenges,” Maples said in a prepared statement. “As one of the first states to opt-in, New Jersey continues to be a national leader of public-safety technology innovation.”
Under the law that established FirstNet, the governor of each state and territory has the option of accepting the FirstNet deployment plan built by AT&T or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which makes the state responsible for building and maintaining the LTE radio access network within its borders for the next 25 years.
Some industry observers have indicated that the most densely populated states would be among the most likely to consider the “opt-out” alternative, because the economics of such a decision likely would be more favorable than in a sparsely populated state. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. and the first among the 10 most densely populated states to “opt-in” to FirstNet.
In addition, today’s action means that New Jersey is the first of the states with an “early builder” public-safety LTE program to “opt-in” to FirstNet.
New Jersey’s JerseyNet is an early-builder project approved by FirstNet that utilizes only deployable LTE trailers—most of which are in fixed locations—that was funded primarily with federal grants from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The system has been used to provide public-safety with communications during beach concerts, Miss America events, the Atlantic City Air Show and the Pope Francis visit to the United States in 2015.
“New Jersey has been at the forefront of public-safety broadband, and with Governor Christie’s decision to join FirstNet, the state is once again leading the nation,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet and AT&T are pleased to offer a plan that surpasses the challenges that New Jersey’s bravest face every day, and we look forward to delivering the network for public safety in the Garden State.”
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. Christie’s decision today means New Jersey is the sixth state to accept the FirstNet state plan. Previously, governors in the states of Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky and Iowa 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. 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 Christie is making public safety a priority,” Chris Sambar, AT&T’s senior vice president—FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “His decision will bring an entirely new communications experience to New Jersey’s first responders. And it’s our honor to equip the state’s public safety community with the cutting-edge tools they need to help protect New Jerseyans every day and in every emergency.”