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FirstNet, AT&T to Allow Early Opt-In

AT&T will deliver state plans later this month

The First Responders Network Authority and AT&T, the contractor for FirstNet’s national network, expect to deliver individual state plans for public safety coverage this month.

The targeted date for the plans is June 19, and all of them are expected to be released at the same time through an online portal. However, FirstNet is no longer calling those plans “drafts” — and if a state is satisfied with the proposed network plan it gets later this month, it can opt in right away.

 FirstNet is “no longer using the term ‘draft plan.’ We’re just delivering the most complete, actionable state plans possible,” said Rich Reed, chief customer officer for FirstNet, during a call with the media on Thursday. “We heard from many states that they have the desire to move more quickly than we had originally envisioned, and we wanted to build in that flexibility.”

Once plans are submitted for review, “any time after that, when their comfort level is achieved, they’ll be able to opt in. They will not have to wait that full 180-day period. We’ve heard that that is very important to states,” Reed said.

The FirstNet and AT&T leadership spent most of the week in an extended kick-off meeting with state public safety representatives during which they answered questions and explained the information that states will receive in their plans — which will include the first glimpse at long-awaited pricing information for using the FirstNet network. Officials declined to give any details on what that pricing will look like but said it would be in states’ plans.

States that wish to take the full amount of allowable time to examine the proposed network plans will have 45 days in which to submit feedback, and FirstNet and AT&T will then have 45 days to respond and submit any changes; at which point the plan will be made “official” and a 90-day opt-in/opt-out period will begin. The Federal Communications Commission recently released a draft of opt out guidelines for states which choose to opt out of the nationwide build by AT&T.

There are, however, some disagreements over the terms of use for the portal and who will have access to the details of the network plans for each state. FirstNet wants to ensure that AT&T’s proprietary information is protected as well as limit knowledge of the details of the public safety network in order to avoid vulnerabilities being created, and so the terms of use for the portal are still being negotiated.

Chris Sambar, senior VP of AT&T–FirstNet, said that public safety officials were “a little bit stiff” on the first day of the meeting, but that they warmed up over the course of the days, which included break-out meetings for different regions of the country with specific sessions on network design and coverage; network services; the state plan program; and apps, devices, control and customer support, as well as one-on-one outreach meetings for each state. By the end, Sambar said, “the reaction that I got when I walked out after the last session was, ‘This is great. This is everything we’ve been asking for … we’re feeling really good about it.’

“I’m feeling really good about what I’m hearing in the states I’ve been visiting, which is a number of them,” Sambar added. “We feel good that the states like the solution.”

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