Governors for the states of Washington and Oregon have announced that they will issue a joint request for proposals (RFP) asking bidders to submit proposals to build and maintain an alternative radio access network (RAN) for FirstNet under a potential “opt-out” scenario.

Jointly announced on Sept. 27, the Washington-Oregon RFP is scheduled to be released on the procurement websites of both states next Friday, Oct. 13, with bids due on Nov. 13, according to Tara Lee, a spokesperson for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Based on current information, Washington and Oregon would be the 14th and 15th states to have an active procurement for an alternative-RAN vendor when the joint RFP is released next week.

“It is the intent of this RFP to explore options available to the state that will be most responsive to the needs of public safety entities and which will be sustainable over the coming 25-year period,” Inslee wrote in a letter to Washington’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC). “I believe a regional solution with our partners in Oregon is one that should be explored.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also noted the efforts of the interoperability council in her state.

“Our interoperability council members have been hard at work on this effort for years, and I thank them for their invaluable expertise and feedback,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Our first responders are eager to move forward and their ongoing feedback will be essential to making sure we make the best decision for our states.” 

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.

Governors in all 50 states are required to make the “opt-in/opt-out” decision by Dec. 28. If no decision is announced, the state will be treated as if the governor made an “opt-in” choice, and AT&T will deploy the RAN within the state in accordance with the FirstNet official state plan.

In the press release announcing the RFP plans, Inslee and Brown emphasized that conducting a joint RFP is not an indication that either has decided that their states will pursue the “opt-out” alternative.

“Issuing an RFP to solicit bids from other vendors is a critical piece of the due diligence that ensures the best service for first responders in the Northwest,” according to the press release. “Once proposals have been submitted, the states will weigh them against the merits of joining the FirstNet infrastructure.”

Bidders will submit proposals that will be designed to cover both Washington and Oregon, and the evaluation team reviewing the proposals will have representatives from both states, Lee said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.