Northern Mariana Islands ‘opt-in’ decision gives FirstNet clean sweep of states and territories
Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph DeLeon Guerrero Torres today announced that he has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T, meaning all 56 states and territories in the U.S. have made an “opt-in” decision.
“Today, Gov. Torres made history,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “With his decision to join FirstNet, we are proud to have every U.S. state and territory on the nationwide public safety broadband network.
“Gov. Torres’s decision will help enhance emergency communications across the territory’s rural and remote areas by bringing coverage and capacity to the islands. We look forward to continuing to work with public safety in the Northern Mariana Islands to help ensure that emergency first responders will have access to the most modern and innovative tools available today.”
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 today’s Northern Mariana Islands announcement, governors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories have made “opt-in” decisions. As a result, all processes associated with the “opt-out” alternative—reviews by the FCC, the National Information and Telecommunications Administration (NTIA), as well as spectrum-lease negotiations with FirstNet—will not be needed.
“Opting in to FirstNet is a clear sign of Gov. Torres’s commitment to public safety in the Northern Mariana Islands,” said Stephanie Tyler, president, AT&T Pacific Northwest. “First responders deserve the best possible communications platform, and we’re honored to help deliver it for them.”
Governors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands all announced “opt-in” decisions by their Dec. 28 deadline. The Northern Mariana Islands and two other Pacific territories—Guam and American Samoa—had until March 12 to make their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions, because they did not receive FirstNet deployment plans until December. Governors for Guam and American Samoa made their “opt-in” announcements earlier this month.
With their early “opt-in” decisions, all three Pacific territories are expected to be included in the initial FirstNet task order to build out the network. Although AT&T has been able to do engineering and preparatory work to deploy new FirstNet sites and begin operations on the 20 MHz of 700 MHz Band 14 spectrum, the carrier must receive a task order from FirstNet before installing infrastructure.
Public-safety agencies in “opt-in” states and territories 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.