Hawaii becomes 15th state to ‘opt-in’ to FirstNet
Hawaii Gov. David Ige has decided to accept the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Hawaii the 15th state—not including the U.S. Virgin Islands territory—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.
The Hawaii governor’s office posted the news on its website on Friday, noting in a press release that Ige “signed the letter of intent last week.”
“The FirstNet network will transform the way fire, police, EMS, emergency management and other public safety personnel communicate and share information, enabling them to better serve their communities during emergencies and day-to-day operations,” Ige said in a prepared statement.
Maj. Gen. Arthur “Joe” Logan—Hawaii’s state adjutant general, state Homeland Security Advisor and state single point of contact (SPOC) for FirstNet—echoed this sentiment, noting that FirstNet is designed to address the final unfulfilled recommendation of the 9-11 Commission..
“I believe this is long overdue,” Logan said in a prepared statement. “The 9-11 Commission required that first responders should have interoperable communications. That’s what FirstNet will provide to Hawaii.”
Hawaii is the first state that is not on continental U.S. to have its governor choose to “opt-in” to FirstNet, although the U.S. Virgin Islands territory previously made the same decision.
“FirstNet leverages nationwide resources and a robust, interoperable system that is particularly important to a state like Hawaii, given the inherent challenges of our island geography. FirstNet also provides expanded statewide coverage and leading edge technologies for first responders and law enforcement to help save lives and protect residents,” Hawaii Chief Information Officer Todd Nacapuy said in a prepared statement.
Under the law that established FirstNet, governors in all 56 states and territories have the choice of making an “opt-in” decision—accepting the FirstNet deployment plan and allowing AT&T to build the LTE radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders at no cost to the state—or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to be responsible for building and maintaining the RAN for the next 25 years.
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 being released in September. Previously, 13 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas and Nevada—have announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands territory.
With the announcement by Hawaii, 30% of all U.S. state governors have decided to “opt-in” to the FirstNet nationwide plan. These decisions obligate AT&T—FirstNet’s nationwide contractor—to deploy the FirstNet RAN in these states, with AT&T getting access to FirstNet’s 20 MHz of 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum that can be leveraged to provide public-safety and secondary commercial wireless services.
AT&T will build the FirstNet RAN in “opt-in” states or territories at no cost to each jurisdiction, but local public-safety entities will be responsible for paying subscription costs and end-user device expenses. However, the law that established FirstNet stipulates that individual public-safety agencies and potential first-responder users are not required to subscribe to the FirstNet service.
“FirstNet will give Hawaii’s first responders access to the critical communications capabilities they need when seconds count and lives hang in the balance,” AT&T Hawaii President Bob Bass said in a prepared statement. “AT&T has invested nearly $109 million in our Hawaii network infrastructure over the past 3 years. With Governor Ige’s decision to opt-in to FirstNet, Hawaii is paving the way for expanded and enhanced communications capabilities for its first responders and for the increased availability of reliable, high-speed wireless connections in areas with little or no connectivity today.”