Whether an “opt-out” state or territory must utilize the FirstNet core network has been a subject of considerable debate throughout the past year. While FirstNet officials have pointed to need to use its core to ensure interoperability and cybersecurity for all public-safety subscribers, representatives of potential vendors for “opt-out” states have claimed that LTE is inherently interoperable and that security concerns can be addressed in other ways.

Such arguments were made before the FCC as the agency was trying to determine its criteria for determining whether an alternative RAN plan for a potential “opt-out” state would be interoperable with the nationwide FirstNet network. However, the FCC decided that the matter was outside of its jurisdiction, leaving the core policy to be determined by FirstNet and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Although FirstNet public-safety subscribers must use the FirstNet core, an “opt-out” state and its vendor can still sell end-user services directly to first-responder agencies, according to FirstNet.

“In an opt-out state, the state or the state’s contractor will be responsible for providing services to end users utilizing the state built-RAN, including public safety end users,” FirstNet states in its updated fact sheet. “Like FirstNet and AT&T, the opt-out state, or the opt-out state’s contractor, must compete in the marketplace to sell services to end users.

“While the Act requires opt-out states to connect their RAN with the FirstNet core and pay fees associated with the state’s use of the elements of the core network, these ‘core services’ are carrier-to-carrier services and distinct from services provided to public-safety end users.”

But Don Brittingham, Verizon’s vice president of public-safety policy, has said the FirstNet core policy would make it very difficult for vendors in “opt-out” states.

“States should not be required to use the network core deployed by FirstNet, as such a requirement would put the state in the untenable position of being driven by the interests and decisions of FirstNet’s commercial partner—a condition that would be unattractive to any prospective state commercial partner,” Brittingham said during a hearing before the Pennsylvania legislature.

Verizon representatives met with FirstNet officials to discuss interoperability concerns in September, but the carrier—currently the market leader in providing wireless broadband services to the public-safety sector—has not had a subsequent meeting with FirstNet or AT&T officials to address the matter, according to a Verizon official.

Governors in most states and territories must make their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions by Dec. 28.