Vermont Broadband Commission Recommends State Opt in to FirstNet
Monday, November 20, 2017 | Comments

The Vermont Public Safety Broadband Network Commission will recommend to Governor Phil Scott that Vermont opt in to the state plan supplied by the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and industry partner AT&T.

"The commission's focus has remained on ensuring the best service and coverage for our public-safety community," said Chair Terry LaValley. "Creation of this network was one of the final recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. The establishment of a single, interoperable network for public safety nationwide means Vermont's first responders will have access to a reliable, highly secure and technologically robust cellular network. The commission believes taking full advantage of the federal solution, rather than partnering to build our own network, will best serve the long-term needs of Vermont public safety."

The recommendation culminates a more than yearlong evaluation effort by the commission, which was appointed by the governor, to evaluate the best option for the buildout of the nationwide public-safety broadband network in Vermont.

In recommending the state opt in, the commission focused on service, coverage and risk to the state. Key reasons cited for the opt-in recommendation included:
• Immediate service. Because of AT&T’s all-bands approach to the network, first responders will have immediate access to all bandwidth owned and operated by AT&T in Vermont and immediate access to priority calling. In an opt-out scenario, Vermont first responders would have to wait fro the band 14 network to be built before having access to FirstNet service.
• Pricing. No first responder is required to use the FirstNet/AT&T network but must be persuaded to subscribe to the service. The commission anticipates that an opt-in decision will spur competition among cellphone providers and drive down costs for first responders while enhancing services.
• Commitment to expanded coverage. In addition to its existing cellular network, AT&T will leverage funds allocated to FirstNet to increase the number of cell sites within the next five years, many in areas where first responders currently lack good coverage.
• No financial cost to Vermont for the network. The financial cost of building, maintaining and operating the network will be born by FirstNet and AT&T. AT&T would be liable for paying any federal financial penalties for failure to attract public-safety subscribers in prescribed numbers.
The commission was formed by an executive order in 2013 to guide and prepare for FirstNet in Vermont. Key leadership on the commission represents police, fire and EMS personnel and state agency representatives. Governors have until December 28 to communicate their decision to FirstNet. No response will automatically trigger an opt-in for the network.

"This recommendation comes after a lot of careful work on the part of the commission," said LaValley. "The commission critically reviewed the draft and final proposals submitted by FirstNet/AT&T and worked with their representatives for specific coverage improvements. The commission also secured the services of an independent consultant, Televate, to conduct a technical review of the plan and considered opt-out proposals submitted through a competitive RFP process. Our ongoing contact with the first responder community helped shape the commission's coverage objectives outlined in Vermont's formal data submissions to FirstNet."

In addition to the opt-in recommendation from Televate, the commission also reviewed the opt-in recommendation with an independent review by the Coeur Business Group, which was contracted by the Agency of Digital Services to analyze the opt-in/opt-out options. Commission members also received a financial risks opinion from the state treasurer's office that concluded that opt in was in the best interest of Vermont and an endorsement for opt-in by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), which represent 12,000 fire and emergency services leaders across the country.

"We would also like to thank Vermont's Congressional delegation — Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch — for their support. We appreciate the letter they sent to FirstNet seeking the most comprehensive and reliable coverage possible for Vermont's first responders," said LaValley.

The commission maintains a website with information on the FirstNet project in Vermont.

Two Vermont residents also recently sued the Department of Commerce (DOC), which houses FirstNet, alleging that their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for documents related to FirstNet had been illegally denied. That case has not been decided yet but has been expedited because of the upcoming opt-in/out deadline. Would you like to comment on this story? Find our comments system below.




 
 
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