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AT&T, FirstNet offer states ‘early opt in’ for first-responder LTE network

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FirstNet and AT&T are taking the next step toward a nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders. This means Florida’s police, firefighters and EMTs will soon be getting a dedicated network for public-safety communications.

FirstNet’s long-awaited first responder LTE network is finally moving forward, as FirstNet officials Monday announced more details on individual network plans for states and territories to early opt in online.

FirstNet officials say they are finishing the fee structure for states and territories wanting to use the LTE core and licensed 20 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum – as well as a possible opt-out scenario — but FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson said it there is a chance the final numbers may not be ready in time for next week’s rollout of the state plans.

“We’re trying to get it into next week, but for sure in the September one,” Swenson said in an interview with IWCE Urgent Communications. “At least they’ll have an indication of it, because that’s how they’re going to make the decision. I mean, you have to have that in there. We know how important that is.”

Under the federal law giving FirstNet responsibility for the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN), states and territories can choose the FirstNet plan — constructed by AT&T — or pursue an “opt-out” alternative.

The partners have begun presenting individual State Plans, which detail what they’ll get. Local governments will have 45 days decide to join FirstNet.

Each State plan will come fully funded and without added money from local governments, but governors could choose to opt out and build their own networks and plans. So far, eight states are considering their own alternative first responder network.

The remaining states can take the 45 days to review state plans.

As the winning bidder, AT&T will build the network for the states choosing to opt in, and maintain the network for the next 25 years.

If all goes as planned, responders in those states – including Florida — will have access to the dedicated network by the end of the year.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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