Wyoming’s SPOC Provides Insights on the State’s FirstNet Opt-In Decision
Monday, July 17, 2017 | Comments
MissionCritical Communications interviewed Troy Babbitt, Wyoming’s single point of contact (SPOC), about the state’s decision to opt in to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet).

What process did Wyoming follow after it received its state plan to make its opt-in decision?
During the past five years, state officials have had statewide conversations with locals. A review committee was given access to the state plan. After review and recommendations, we talked through the information with our governor. We determined FirstNet would be a good partner for interoperability, financial and many other reasons.

I’ve been involved in FirstNet since the time that states were asked to participate. Gov. Matt Mead appointed me as SPOC in March 2013. Wyoming is incredibly small in terms of population. It’s to our advantage in this instance. I can call 23 counties in a day and get an agreement. It’s a benefit to us sometimes.

I am also the telecommunications program manager for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT). Our Public Safety Communications Commission (PSCC) falls under WYDOT. I previously was the broadband enterprise architect working on Gov. Mead’s broadband initiatives, and this partnership is similar to some of our other broadband partnerships.

Can you outline your coverage requirements and how FirstNet met your needs?
We submitted what we thought were reasonable coverage priorities to FirstNet. We believe FirstNet has delivered a plan that covers the majority of those. We’re not going to cover every part of the state. We don’t do that with LMR. Being a very rural state and a frontier state, we thought the FirstNet and AT&T plan was solid, and in an emergency, they will cover incidents with deployable units. We thought that was a right fit.

Currently, Wyoming is half covered on the east side of the state through AT&T’s network. With AT&T’s expansion and roaming partner agreements, they will cover the majority of the state. If a roaming partner falls through, coverage is still AT&T’s responsibility.

The state of Wyoming works well with internet service providers (ISP) through trust and an open dialogue. It’s our intent to trust those open forms of communications to figure out how to get FirstNet coverage where we need it. Gov. Mead has incredible initiatives to push broadband across the state, so this fits nicely and we can continue to assist.

We have about 16,000 units on our LMR system. We have 75 towers for LMR that cover the entire state. Long Term Evolution (LTE) takes a tower approximately every 20 miles. We hope to share infrastructure if it’s determined it’s the right fit. We look forward to those discussions. Those details haven’t been worked out yet.

Can you outline your cost and budget needs and how FirstNet met those requirements?
Nothing is free. The cost of doing business adds to any project. What we looked to is the main buildout and capitalization piece — to build out the radio access network (RAN) and the technical expertise. Those costs, as well as maintenance costs, are not absorbed by the state. We realize whoever subscribes will have to pay for end devices and monthly subscription services.

Did the state sign a contract or service level agreement (SLA) with FirstNet or AT&T as its contractor?
No, the governor’s decision to opt in is the agreement.

How will you ensure AT&T meets the objectives it included in your state plan?
AT&T has been a working partner in the state of Wyoming for years, and they’ve invested millions of dollars in the state in terms of infrastructure. As this network matures, we’ll continue to work with AT&T to enhance coverage and service where necessary.

How do you see public-safety communications evolving?
We are very excited for the opportunity to partner with FirstNet and AT&T and bring this next generation of technology to first responders. We are looking at what makes logical sense. We look at FirstNet as the future and our LMR network as the current. The modernization piece is in the middle, and we know it will take time over the years.

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