Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner today announced that he has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of his state, making Illinois the 37th state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

“Opting in to the FirstNet emergency responder network is an important advance for public safety in Illinois,” Gov. Rauner said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet’s technology will help us keep important lines of communication open when we most need them.”

Under the law that established FirstNet, governors in all 56 states and territories have the choice of making an “opt-in” decision—accepting the FirstNet deployment plan and allowing AT&T to build the LTE radio access network (RAN) within the state’s borders at no cost to the state—or pursuing the “opt-out” alternative, which would require the state to be responsible for building and maintaining the RAN for the next 25 years.

With Rauner’s decision, governors in only four states have not announced an “opt-in” decision or had state officials issue an RFP seeking a potential alternative RAN vendor: Delaware, Florida, New York and North Dakota.

"Gov. Rauner's decision to join FirstNet demonstrates his strong support and dedication to public safety throughout the state," FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. "We are honored to serve Illinois' first responders and deliver to them a reliable, broadband communications network that will help them save lives and protect communities.”   

FirstNet released its initial state plans on June 19 and made them actionable, so governors would have the opportunity to “opt-in” to FirstNet prior to the final state plans being released on Sept. 29. Governors in 53 states and territories that received initial state plans on June 19 are required to make their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions by Dec. 28. The Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Island must make “opt-in/opt-out” decisions by March 12.

Prior to the Illinois decision, 36 other states—Virginia, Wyoming, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, New Jersey, West Virginia, New Mexico, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, Hawaii, Alaska, Tennessee, Nebraska, Maryland, Idaho, Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Alabama, Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, North Carolina, Georgia, Vermont, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin and South Dakota—had announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico territories.

Earlier this month, New Hampshire became the first state to have its governor announce plans to pursue the “opt-out” alternative.

Last week, Wisconsin became the 10th state to announce an “opt-in” decision after issuing a request for proposals (RFP) seeking bids from vendors willing to deploy and maintain an alternative RAN. Previously, the states of Michigan, Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, Vermont and Missouri issued RFPs but later had their governors announce “opt-in” decisions.