FirstNet will conduct its first formal in-person state-consultation meeting regarding a public-safety broadband network when it convenes with representatives from the state of Maryland beginning on July 31, according to FirstNet officials.

Earlier this year, FirstNet released a consultation package to 50 states and six territories in preparation for the first in-person meetings between representatives of the jurisdiction and FirstNet officials to begin discussions about what the first-responder broadband network should look like within the state or territory. Although initial plans called for FirstNet to conduct state-consultation meetings as early as July 1, the first in-person meetings under the state-consultation program will begin with Maryland on July 31, according to FirstNet spokesman Corey Ray.

Amanda Hilliard, FirstNet’s director of outreach, has said these initial meetings are just the first of “at least five” that will be conducted with states and territories before a network plan is presented to Maryland's governor, who will have 90 days to make an opt-in/opt-out decision that must be made before deployment can begin in the state.

“This consultation process … ends with FirstNet essentially delivering a plan to the state that the governor will sign for how FirstNet will build this radio access network within the state,” Hilliard said during a session last month at the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) conference in Nashville, Tenn. “We envision that this process is going to be very iterative and collaborative. We’re thinking that there will be at least five in-person meetings in each state and territory with the SPOC (state point of contact) and a number of stakeholders coming to those meetings.”

The consultation process with each state is expected to take more than a year to complete, according to Hilliard.

Given this timetable for the state-consultation process, the earliest that a network-buildout plan would be presented to a governor likely would be August or September of next year.

According to the law passed by Congress in February 2012, FirstNet will present its network-buildout plans for a state or territory to the governor, who will have 90 days to determine whether to accept the plan or choose to “opt out” of the plan. If a state chooses to opt out of the FirstNet plan, it is still responsible for deploying a public-safety LTE network that meets FirstNet’s technical and interoperability standards.

Based on an initial reading of the law passed by Congress, many industry observers initially expected FirstNet to release a nationwide network design for governors to consider as they made opt-in/opt-out decisions, but FirstNet last year announced plans to develop separate network plans in each state. By working cooperatively with officials in each state and territory, FirstNet officials hope to address the unique needs of each jurisdiction and minimize the number of states and territories that choose the “opt-out” method for deployment.