Vermont, Ohio Accept FirstNet State Plans
Thursday, November 30, 2017 | Comments

Two more states have opted in to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T state plans for their states, bringing the total number of opt-in states and territories to 35. An AT&T executive said this month that the payments that AT&T will receive from FirstNet are solely based on the number of states and territories that opt in to the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), and AT&T will make about $18 billion in sustainability payments to FirstNet under their contract if all states opt in.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced his decision to accept the FirstNet and AT&T plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state’s public-safety community.

“Vermont faced the choice of building its own network or using the federal solution,” said Scott. “After thoroughly considering the technological, financial and operational aspects of both options, I believe the federal plan will more quickly and sustainably provide our public-safety community with the network it needs to continue its valuable service to Vermont.”

Earlier this month, the Vermont Public Safety Broadband Network Commission recommended an opt-in decision to Scott, while Vermont legislators, including former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, sent a letter to FirstNet CEO Mike Poth with questions and concerns about the FirstNet opt-in or out process.

In October, two Vermont citizens filed a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Commerce (DOC) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The DOC oversees FirstNet and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

"Governor Scott’s decision is a win-win-win for the state, its public-safety community, and everyone who lives, works or visits in Vermont," said Jim Douglas, FirstNet board member and former governor of Vermont. “The FirstNet network will modernize our emergency communications infrastructure, help create jobs in the Green Mountain State, and ensure that our first responders have the best tools and technologies to keep our communities safe and secure.”

Vermont is the eighth state to opt in after evaluating proposals from both FirstNet/AT&T and other potential vendors through a request for proposals (RFP) for an alternative statewide plan.

A statement from AT&T said the carrier planned to “enhance network coverage across Vermont’s diverse landscape, benefitting first responders and residents throughout the state’s rural and tribal areas,” including the Northeast Kingdom. AT&T also said it would make available bring your own device (BYOD) solutions to support Vermont’s large contingent of volunteer responders and would use state and municipal infrastructure assets as necessary and appropriate.

Separately, Ohio opted in to its FirstNet state plan. A statement from AT&T said the carrier will “create an efficient communications experience for public-safety personnel in agencies and jurisdictions across the state when responding to natural disasters that occur such as severe winter snow and ice storms, tornadoes and flooding.”

FirstNet and AT&T designed Ohio's network solution with direct input from the state's public-safety community. Ohio’s needs include expanding rural coverage beyond what is currently available and offering specialized services and devices at competitive prices, the statement said.

“This technology will transform public-safety communications by providing a modern, digital and high-performance network capability to first responders across the state and the nation,” Rick Schmahl, Ohio program director, Multi-Agency Radio Communication System (MARCS), said in a statement released by Ohio. “Ohio is joining more than 30 other states in this national initiative to deploy a seamless, interoperable network to put cutting edge tools in the hands of those charged with securing and protecting our citizens and businesses.”

The opt in to FirstNet will complement MARCS, Ohio’s existing emergency communications network, which has been the essential backbone for enabling first responder communications for the past two decades. MARCS is a land mobile radio network and FirstNet adds data transfer capability.

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