Mississippi becomes 46th state to make FirstNet ‘opt-in’ announcement
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant 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 Mississippi the 46th state—not including three territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system by today's deadline.
“I've determined this is the best deal with the least amount of risk for taxpayers,” Bryant said in a prepared statement. “It will provide our first responders with the tools they need to keep Mississippians safe.”
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.
Bryant’s announcement is expected to be the first of many today, which is the deadline for governors to make their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions. If a governor does not make a decision today, the state will be treated the same as an “opt-in” state, with AT&T deploying and maintaining the RAN for the state.
With the Mississippi announcements, California, Florida and New York—three of the four most-populous states in the U.S.—are the only states with governors that have not announced FirstNet “opt-in/opt-out” decisions. So far, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has made the only announcement that his state will pursue the “opt-out” alternative several weeks ago, but the state has not submitted its official notification, according to a FirstNet spokesperson.
California is the only remaining state that issued an RFP without having their governors announce an “opt-in/opt-out” decision. Florida and New York are the only states that have not announced an “opt-in” decision or had state officials issue an RFP seeking a potential alternative RAN vendor:
Three Pacific islands—Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands—did not receive their state plans until this month and face a March 18 deadline for “opt-in/opt-out” decisions.
Mississippi’s announcement marks the 17th time that a state or territory has announced an “opt-in” decision after
releasing a request for proposals (RFP) to solicit bids from vendors willing to deploy and maintain an alternative RAN. Previously, the District of Columbia and the states of Michigan, Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, Vermont, Missouri, Wisconsin, Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington and Oregon issued RFPs but later had their governors announce “opt-in” decisions.
“First responders deserve the most reliable and resilient network available today and Gov. Bryant's decision to join FirstNet will bring them just that,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “Public safety across the Magnolia state will gain access to the broadband network specifically built to meet the demands of their mission. They will gain access to the coverage, speed and connectivity needed to power the most advanced life-saving tools.”
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.
“Thanks to Gov. Bryant's opt-in decision, first responders in Mississippi will now have access to the pioneering communications tools made possible with FirstNet,” Mayo Flynt, president of AT&T Mississippi, said in a prepared statement. “It’s an honor to help bring FirstNet to Mississippi and to its dedicated public-safety community.”