As deadline looms, 22 states opt-in to FirstNet

Photo credit: John Roman Images / 

As of the end of September, 22 U.S. states and two territories have said they will participate in the FirstNet national wireless first responder communications network, as a deadline for governors to decide looms.

FirstNet announced that final  decisions are due from governors by Dec. 28 on whether they will use the federally backed interoperable wireless network for first responders.

In all, 56 U.S. states and territories are eligible to use the network; those who choose not to join may build their own radio access networks (RANs) that would interoperate with FirstNet.

No states have officially opted out of the proposed network. However, some states, including New Hampshire and Michigan have moved towards alternatives. In September 2016, New Hampshire signed a "no-cost, no-obligation" contract with Rivada Networks to develop a state RAN.  

Rivada said it had signed U.S. Cellular to assist it "in the development of that network, should the governor choose to opt-out of FirstNet's deployment plan for New Hampshire." Rivada said it is also a "preferred vendor" for the state of Michigan's RAN.

This past summer, Verizon said it would carve out portions of its extensive national 4G LTE network for a dedicated, private-core network developed just for states. While company officials balk at the term "rival" network, the effort targets the same local and state first responder market.

The idea of a national public safety network was recommended by the 9/11 Commission and authorized in 2012 under fiscal stimulus legislation.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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