Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo today announced that she has accepted the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) deployment plan offered by FirstNet and AT&T on behalf of her state, making Rhode Island the 39th state—not including two territories—to “opt-in” to the FirstNet system.

“The safety of Rhode Island first responders is of the utmost importance—and state-of-the-art interoperable communications is a major component of that,” Peter Gaynor, Director, Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA), said in a prepared statement. “After carefully examining the findings, we concluded and made the recommendation to the governor that the plan put forth by FirstNet and its partner AT&T offered the lowest-risk, highest-value option for Rhode Island first responders.”   

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 Raimondo’s announcement, Rhode Island becomes the 12th 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, Missouri, Wisconsin and Colorado issued RFPs but later had their governors announce “opt-in” decisions.

Rivada Networks Chairman and CEO Declan Ganley has said that his company, Verizon and the Macquarie Group submitted alternative-RAN proposals in the Rhode Island procurement.

“Gov. Raimondo's decision today delivers FirstNet's cutting-edge, prioritized broadband communications to first responders who serve across local, state and federal levels in the Ocean State,” FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said in a prepared statement. “FirstNet will help make Rhode Island's communities and first responders safer with advanced communication technologies, devices and applications.”

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—the exceptions being the Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Island, which have a separate timetable—are required to make their “opt-in/opt-out” decisions by Dec. 28.

Prior to the Rhode Island decision, 38 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, South Dakota, Illinois and Colorado—had announced their “opt-in” decisions, as did the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico territories.

To date, New Hampshire is the only state that has had its governor announce plans to pursue the “opt-out” alternative. However, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has not yet filed official notification of an “opt-out” decision with FirstNet, according to a FirstNet spokesperson.