South Dakota becomes 36th state to make FirstNet ‘opt-in’ announcement
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard 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 South Dakota the 35th state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.
“We deal with our fair share of severe weather and natural disasters in South Dakota. Our first responders need to have access to communication technologies that work whenever and wherever needed,” Gov. Daugaard said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet will create a single, interoperable system across our state to aid first responders in protecting citizens.”
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.
With Daugaard’s decision, governors in only five states have not announced an “opt-in” decision or had state officials issue an RFP seeking a potential alternative RAN vendor: Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New York and North Dakota.
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 on Sept. 29. Governors in 53 states and territories that received initial state plans on June 19 are required to make their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions by Dec. 28. The Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Island must make “opt-in/opt-out” decisions by March 12.
Prior to the South Dakota decision, 35 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska, Tennessee, Nebraska, Maryland, Idaho, Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Alabama, Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, North Carolina, Georgia, Vermont, Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin—had announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico territories.
Just minutes before the South Dakota announcement, Wisconsin became that 10th state to announce an “opt-in” decision after issuing a request for proposals (RFP) seeking bids from vendors willing to deploy and maintain an alternative RAN. Previously, the states of Michigan, Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, Vermont and Missouri issued RFPs but later had their governors announce “opt-in” decisions.
Last week, New Hampshire became the first state to have its governor announce plans to pursue the “opt-out” alternative.
Meanwhile, the District of Columbia and the following nine states have issued an RFP seeking an alternative RAN vendor without having their governors announce an “opt-in/opt-out” decision to date: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.
AT&T officials have stated that deployment of LTE on the 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum licensed to FirstNet 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 preemptive access across AT&T’s commercial networks immediately.
AT&T will build the FirstNet RAN in “opt-in” states or territories at no cost to each jurisdiction, although 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.