Idaho becomes 20th state to “opt-in” to FirstNet
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today announced that he has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Idaho the 20th U.S. state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.
“Idaho is pleased to be joining with other states in participating in FirstNet’s deployment of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network,” Otter said in a prepared statement. “Timely, reliable and accurate information is critically important to ensuring that our first responders can most effectively protect our citizens. This plan provides us with the opportunity to utilize the best technology available to help maximize public safety in Idaho and across the nation.”
David Gates, fire chief for the city of Pocatello, Idaho, echoed this statement, noting the potential value of an interoperable communications network like FirstNet when first responders face the kind of wildfires that are active in the state today.
“Advanced communications are critical to first-responder safety and help make us more efficient and effective when we respond to calls for assistance from our communities in their times of need,” Gates said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet will deliver that advanced communications capability every day. Natural disasters—like the fires we’re fighting right now—know no boundaries. With FirstNet, we can be nimble and adaptable thanks to interoperable communications tools that will give us improved information, coordination and collaboration in emergencies.”
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.
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 remains focused on delivering the coverage and reliability that emergency responders need across America, including in rural communities,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “Gov. Otter’s decision to join FirstNet shows his strong commitment to public safety, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and the public safety community to deliver the network that Idaho’s first responders 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 being released in September. Prior to Idaho’s decision, 19 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska, Tennessee, Nebraska and Maryland—had announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico territories.
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.
“Gov. Otter and the Idaho Public Safety Communications Commission have worked hand in hand with us so that the FirstNet network that’s built in Idaho delivers on our promise,” Tara Thue, director of AT&T Idaho, said in a prepared statement. “I commend General Brad Richy and his team for all of their leadership in this process and collaboration with our team as we make FirstNet a reality for Idaho’s public-safety community.”
Idaho’s announcement comes as FirstNet is expected to release its official state plans to most states and territories this week, which would mark the beginning of a 90-day period for governors to make an “opt-in” or “opt-out” decision. Governors cannot make an “opt-out” decision until they have received the official state plan from FirstNet.