New Hampshire took a step closer to opting out of the nationwide public safety broadband network powered by FirstNet and AT&T.
Gov. Chris Sununu announced Monday the creation of a committee by executive order to review “the regulatory and financial risks … associated with the pursuit of an opt-out plan.” The committee is a direct result of the recommendation from the state’s Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC) that “an opt-out of FirstNet is far and away our best option,” the governor said in a press release.
The establishment of the committee, however, is not an official opt-out of the network, the governor said. So far, 27 states and territories have opted in to FirstNet’s plan. States must make a decision on whether to opt in or out of FirstNet by Dec. 28. If a state makes no decision, it is automatically opted in.
“The decision of whether to opt-in or opt-out requires, in addition to the SIEC’s technical review, a thorough review of … the regulatory and financial risks of the pursuit of an opt-out plan,” Sununu wrote in the executive order.
Earlier this year, New Hampshire entered into a no-commitment agreement with Rivada Networks — a company that was removed from consideration for the full network bid from the federal government in March. Under that agreement, if New Hampshire were to opt out, Rivada would have the exclusive right to negotiate a contract for the development, provision and implementation of an opt-out plan for the state that would be interoperable with the nationwide network powered by FirstNet.
“The state must nevertheless conduct a thorough review of the financial and regulatory viability of Rivada’s opt-out plan,” Sununu said. “As part of this review, we will seek clarification of certain proposed fees, as well as clarification of penalties that may be imposed by FirstNet if an opt-out were to fail.”
Sununu went on to say those potential FirstNet imposed fees “appeared to be arbitrary and primarily designed to deter states from opting out of FirstNet plans.”
In a comment to StateScoop, FirstNet reiterated its position that its network is the bet fit for New Hampshire.
“We are confident the FirstNet/AT&T plan provides New Hampshire with the most sustainable and financially viable network,” a FirstNet spokesperson told StateScoop.[FirstNet is] the fastest path for delivering the network to the state’s public safety community. We look forward to continuing our consultation with the state and its public safety community throughout the decision-making progress.”
New Hampshire was not the only state to explore an alternative to FirstNet prior to the delivery of the state plans from the federal agency. Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Alabama, Wisconsin, California and Virginia were all among states exploring other options. Since then, however, Alabama, Arizona, Michigan and Virginia have opted in.
Last month, Washington and Oregon announced they were jointly exploring an alternative to the network, as well.
The creation of the opt-out committee in New Hampshire comes less than a week after FirstNet’s launch of the first app developer program for public safety. Referenced earlier this year, the program is designed to “help equip first responders with state-of-the-art communications tools,” according to a release from FirstNet.