New Hampshire Becomes First State to Opt Out of FirstNet
Thursday, December 07, 2017 | Comments
New Hampshire became the first state to opt out of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). Gov. Chris Sununu announced his decision to opt out at the New Hampshire State Police Troop F facility in Twin Mountain Dec. 7.

New Hampshire will now pursue a contract with Rivada Networks to develop an alternative plan to build out a high-speed wireless broadband network for first responders in the state. Rivada and New Hampshire signed a no-cost agreement to develop an alternative radio access network (RAN) plan contingent on the state’s FirstNet decision last year.

“Rivada is honored to have the opportunity to build a world-class public-safety RAN for the Granite State,” Rivada Chairman and CEO Declan Ganley said in a statement. “New Hampshire ran the longest and most thorough opt-out review process in the country. Now the real work of transforming New Hampshire’s public-safety communications can begin.”

Sununu’s decision comes after a unanimous opt-out recommendation from the Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee and the receipt of a financial and regulatory due diligence report from the state’s FirstNet Opt-Out Review Committee, which Sununu established in October.

“New Hampshire’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee determined from a technical standpoint that an opt out of FirstNet is far and away our best option as evidenced by their unanimous 15-0 vote,” said Sununu. “After reviewing the report from the FirstNet Opt-Out Review Committee, it is clear that while an opt-out decision comes with regulatory and financial risks, those risks can be mitigated through the safeguards and contractual provisions that the committee has recommended.

“Rivada has proposed a plan that has the potential to provide immense value to our state, including unparalleled public-safety infrastructure investments that will lead to unmatched and near universal coverage for the new public-safety network. If we successfully navigate the opt-out path, New Hampshire will retain a level of control that it would not have enjoyed in an opt-in scenario.”

Rivada will now begin the opt-out process. Once the state’s RAN plan is finalized, it will submit it to the FCC for a review to determine that it meets the technical requirements to interoperate with the FirstNet nationwide network.

If the FCC approves the plan, the state will then apply to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the right to execute a spectrum manager lease agreement (SMLA) with FirstNet. That process will involve an independent review by at least three subject matter experts to determine that the plan meets the requirements laid out in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which created FirstNet.

Once the plan is approved by NTIA, the state can begin negotiating an SMLA with FirstNet. Sununu and public-safety officials across the nation have been critical of the draft SMLAs provided to them by FirstNet.

Once a plan is approved by the NTIA, a state can also apply for grant funding under the State Alternative Plan Program (SAPP) to assist with the buildout. NTIA released the requirements for opt-out grants and SMLA execution last month.

So far, 35 states have opted in to FirstNet. Governors have until Dec. 28 to make their decisions. If a governor does not make a decision by that date, the state will automatically opt in.

In a statement, AT&T Senior Vice President FirstNet Chris Sambar highlighted the number of states that have opted into FirstNet.

"To date, all other states and territories that have made a decision have chosen to opt in to FirstNet — reflecting a belief across the nation that it is the best option for the public-safety community and the residents they serve," Sambar said. "Today, Gov. Sununu has expressed his decision to go down a path not chosen by any of the 35 states and territories before him. We remain hopeful New Hampshire will continue to assess the substantial risks associated with an opt-out proposal of an unproven vendor."

In a statement of its own, FirstNet said it would continue to work with New Hampshire as the process moves forward.

“FirstNet has worked closely with all of the states and territories to help them make the most informed decision for their public-safety communities and supported their right to choose whether to opt in to the FirstNet network or take on the responsibility of deploying the state RAN portion of the network,” a FirstNet spokesman said. “With New Hampshire's announcement to opt out and deploy their state RAN, FirstNet looks forward to continuing to work with the state following the successful completion of the opt-out process to deliver an interoperable, nationwide network to public safety.”

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