While the AT&T/FirstNet partnership continues to collect state participants in their interoperable first-responder network, Verizon, which offers competing network services, is looking to remind those first responders they don't have to opt in to FirstNet if their states do.
State governors have until the end of December to decide whether to opt in to FirstNet's plan for their state--a majority have already done so.
But in a blog post, Don Brittingham, VP of public safety policy, for Verizon is telling its first responder customers they don't have to switch to AT&T if they don't want to.
"There is always a lot of buzz when a new state announces their decision to “opt-in” to FirstNet. However, first responders must understand they don’t need to change their current communications solution just because their state decides to opt-in (or opt-out) to FirstNet," he wrote.
There is no mandate that states, or public safety agencies, use FirstNet, so long as what they do use is interoperable with it.
FirstNet was created at the suggestion of the 9/11 Commission, instituted by Congress in legislation that created the broadcast incentive auction, and funded by FCC spectrum auctions. AT&T won the contract to run the network, which gives
it access to 20 MHz of spectrum and in turn makes its network available on a priority basis to first responders during emergencies.
In August, Verizon announced it, too, was offering a core public safety communications network.
Verizon has a vested interest in keeping those public safety customers since, as Brittingham points out, it is currently the largest supplier of service to public safety agencies.
Brittingham said his company has invested in hardening its network, and while it is not telling states to opt out, or in for that matter--it will work with public safety in either event--he says he wants them to know they can stick with Verizon if the state opts out and know it is a resilient, interoperable network that can also meet their needs.
"Choice, interoperability, competition and innovation will drive the best solutions for public safety today and tomorrow. Public safety agencies should not relinquish that choice because they read an opt-in news release," he wrote.
FirstNet routinely updates the media on the state count and the latest governor to sign on and endorse it.