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Broadband Commission Recommends FirstNet Opt-in with AT&T

Wednesday, November 29, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jeff Couture

The Public Safety Broadband Network Commission will recommend to Governor Phil Scott that Vermont opt-in to the federal FirstNet plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state’s public safety community. Today’s recommendation culminates a more than year-long evaluation effort by the Governor-appointed commission to evaluate the best option for the build-out of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network in Vermont.

“The commission’s focus has remained on ensuring the best service and coverage for our public safety community,” said commission 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.”

In 2012, Congress passed legislation creating FirstNet as an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet was to build the nationwide network and eventually become financially self-sufficient by selecting a commercial partner.

Following a 15-month national RFP process to secure a partner, AT&T was announced as the winning bidder. Verizon chose not to compete for the award.

As the winning bidder, AT&T receives access to dedicated Band 14 spectrum and may profit from leasing unused or underutilized portions of the spectrum to nonpublic safety subscribers. The 25-year contract requires AT&T to build in rural areas of the country, provide priority and pre-emption rights on the network for public safety subscribers, and attract public safety subscribers at prescribed numbers or face hefty financial penalties.

In recommending Vermont opt-in, the commission focused on service, coverage, and risk to the State.

In addition to its existing cellular network, AT&T will leverage funds allocated to FirstNet to increase the number of cell sites in Vermont within the next five years, many in areas where first responders currently lack good coverage.

More than 30 state governors have already decided to opt-in and accept the deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T. A state that chooses to opt-out must demonstrate it can build and maintain a system comparable to that offered by FirstNet. Since the intent of the federal program is to create a reliable nationwide interoperable network, an opt-out state must meet stringent requirements in order to receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission, NTIA and FirstNet.

The commission maintains a web site with information on the FirstNet project in Vermont. More information is available at www.PSBC.Vermont.gov.

Source: Vermont Business Magazine.


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