Alaska becomes 16th state to ‘opt-in’ to FirstNet
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker today announced his decision to accept the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Alaska the 16th state—not including the U.S. Virgin Islands territory—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.
“Opting in to FirstNet is an important step to ensure that Alaska’s first responders can communicate when seconds can mean the difference between life and death,” said Governor Bill Walker. “Putting this technology in the hands of our public-safety personnel brings us closer to building a safer Alaska.”
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, 15 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and Hawaii—have announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands territory.
“Gov. Walker’s decision to join FirstNet strengthens emergency communications across Alaska,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. “FirstNet will deliver a state-of-the-art network to address the challenges of communicating where first responders need it the most, like mountainous, coastal, rural and tribal areas—every day, and in every emergency.”
With today’s decision from Alaska, states and territories outside of the continental U.S. have chosen to “opt-in” to FirstNet at a significant rate.
Both Hawaii and Alaska have announced “opt-in” decisions, as has the U.S. Virgin Islands. The South Pacific territories—Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands—have not received actionable state plans, so their governors have not had an opportunity to make an “opt-in” decision. At the moment, Puerto Rico is the only state or territory outside the continental U.S. with an actionable state plan that has not announced an “opt-in” decision.
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.
“By opting in to FirstNet, Gov. Walker is making the safety of his residents and first responders a top priority,” Chris Sambar, senior vice president AT&T – FirstNet, said in a prepared statement. “We’re honored to deliver access to the innovative life-saving technologies that public safety needs, providing Alaska the solution with the greatest possible value and the least amount of risk.”