U.S. Virgin Islands becomes first territory to ‘opt-in’ to FirstNet
U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp today announced his decision to accept the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T, making the group of Caribbean islands the first territory to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.
“The United States Virgin Islands participated in FirstNet consultation and outreach activities throughout the planning of the network and reviewed the details of the FirstNet State Plan,” Gov. Mapp said in a prepared statement. “I have determined that it is in the best interest of the United States Virgin Islands and the country to participate in the FirstNet deployment of the national public-safety broadband network.”
Delroy Richards, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ commissioner of police, expressed optimism at the prospect of first responders having access to broadband.
“This is consistent with the policy of this administration to provide not only the training our first responders require, but the tools each agency needs to more efficiently respond to public safety issues by coordinating the use of available resources,” Richards said in a prepared statement.
While most public attention regarding FirstNet has been focused on providing reliable broadband service to the 50 U.S. states, the nationwide system also is designed to serve six other entities: the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) and five island territories—Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were the only island territories to receive FirstNet state plans on June 19. FirstNet has conducted consultations with the island territories in the South Pacific—Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands—but they have not yet received initial state plans, according to FirstNet.
The U.S. Virgin Islands consists of three main islands—Saint Croix, Saint John and Saint Thomas—and dozens of smaller islands, most of which were purchased 100 years ago by the United States from Denmark during World War I. Residents of the islands were granted U.S. citizenship in 1927.
“Gov. Mapp’s decision to join FirstNet demonstrates the Virgin Islands’ strong commitment to public safety," said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. "The FirstNet network will connect first responders across the territory’s diverse landscape—including waterways, coastlines and island terrain. FirstNet and AT&T are pleased to have delivered a plan that meets Virgin Islands’ unique needs, and we look forward to equipping first responders with the communications tools they need every day and in every emergency.”
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. Gov. Justice’s decision today means West Virginia is the seventh state to accept the FirstNet state plan. Previously, governors in seven states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey and West Virginia—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.
“We’re honored to bring FirstNet to the U.S. Virgin Islands and continue our more than 70-year work with the territory,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president of AT&T-FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “This is a major step forward for the territory’s public-safety community. By opting in, Governor Mapp is giving first responders access to the innovative tools and technologies they need to keep themselves as well as the residents and visitors they serve safer.”