AT&T plans to give local and state jurisdictions considerable discretion in determining who should have access to the FirstNet system and at what level, Rivenbark said.

“We try to put the control in the hands of the customers for that capability,” Rivenbark said. “That’s up to each state, city or county jurisdiction, based on the eligibility guidelines. If they’re eligible, however that state, city or county manages those users [would determine their FirstNet prioritization level].”

While significant local control on FirstNet is a welcome concept to most public-safety representatives, some IWCE attendees expressed concern that such an approach could result in unwise policies, and that the system could be abused by some account administrators.

For example, audience member stated that many cities were telling employees that all of them would be eligible for FirstNet service, including those with little, if any, role in public safety. Another attendee said that a fire chief who is the administrator of a FirstNet account theoretically could deem all family members to be primary FirstNet users, so they could have access to the best service.

Rivenbark did not discount the possibility.

“We’re not going to police every single agency out there,” he said. “We’re going to provide the guideline and then let the entities manage themselves, based on the terms we provide in the contracts. So, if they violate the terms of the contracts, then we reserve the right to cancel their service.”

Another policy concern that was expressed revolved around the fact that FirstNet users initially will have priority/preemption rights at all times—even when they are not doing public-safety work.

“You’re saying all the time, no matter what application, in a bring-your-own-device scenario?” one attendee asked during the IWCE session. “So, if I have a volunteer firefighter who is watching Netflix or YouTube at home, he’s getting priority and preemption? That’s a bad idea.”

Rivenbark acknowledged that is the case today but said AT&T plans to make network changes that will allow greater granularity in controlling the prioritization features.

“We’re enabling APIs for our priority and preemption capabilities, so that applications can take advantage of that,” Rivenbark said. “Once we release that and let people take advantage of that, then we’ll make [priority and preemption decisions] at the application layer. That’s our roadmap for that.

“We obviously have the same concerns [about network health]. But we’re moving fast and trying to get this [FirstNet service] out here as fast for the first-responder community, so we wanted to make available what we could make available, as fast as possible.”

One sector that has been the subject of considerable discussion regarding FirstNet prioritization is the utility industry. Electric and water utilities certainly fit the extended-primary definition, but some have argued that certain applications—particularly those that monitor the health of power grid—should be treated on a “primary” basis, so the critical functionality is never subject to preemption.

Sambar said that the prioritization of utilities has not been finalized yet.

 “A lot of power companies actually have their own networks that they’ve built,” he said. “We’re still determining the disposition when it comes to power companies. That’s a little tougher one to answer, honestly.”