FirstNet in Vermont
FirstNet, or the First Responder Network Authority, is a federal agency formed to ensure the building, deployment and operation of the first high-speed nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety. In Vermont, the Public Safety Broadband Network Commission (PSBC) acts as a guiding group to prepare the state for the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). Key leadership on the commission represents police, fire and EMS personnel and state agency representatives. The NPSBN will provide a cellular type coverage to first responders, with priority and pre-emption features. The Department of Public Safety is hosting regional meetings in Vermont in February and March to give first responders an opportunity to speak directly with FirstNet and AT&T representatives about the coverage and services planned for specific areas.
On November 29, Governor Phil Scott announced his decision to accept the FirstNet and AT&T plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to the state’s public safety community. This decision followed a recommendation made earlier in November by the PSBC that Vermont allow FirstNet/AT&T to build the network, rather than the State working to build its own. The Governor’s decision is supported by several independent opt-in recommendations:
- Televate, a technical consultant hired by the PSBC to evaluate the federal plan
- Coeur Business Group, hired by the Agency of Digital Services to evaluate opt-in/opt-out proposals
- State Treasurer’s Office, issuing a financial risks opinion on the State of Vermont opting-in or opting-out
Commission Review Process
The PSBC has worked for the past year to evaluate options for the State of Vermont regarding the buildout of the NPSBN. In preparing to make a recommendation to the Governor, the PSBC:
- Critically reviewed the draft and final proposals submitted by FirstNet/AT&T to the State of Vermont for a statewide Radio Access Network (RAN);
- Worked with FirstNet/AT&T to improve the solution recommended for Vermont by FirstNet/AT&T – specifically improvements in coverage and deployable technology;
- Secured the services of an independent consultant (Televate) to conduct a technical review of the FirstNet/AT&T RAN offer and reviewed their findings;
- Conducted outreach with Vermont’s practitioner community to share information and request feedback on the commission’s activities;
- Issued an RFP for optional RAN proposals and evaluated the responses for suitability;
- Worked with the State Treasurer’s Office to obtain an opinion on financial risks to Vermont on the various approaches; and
- Considered the findings of the Independent Review (IR) conducted by Couer Business Group on behalf of the Agency of Digital Services.
FirstNet and AT&T will continue to work with the State of Vermont as it begins buildout of the network. Public safety users already on the AT&T network will have free access to priority calling. Call pre-emption for primary users over the AT&T LTE network is also now available. AT&T in Vermont will soon have information available for existing and new subscribers about the FirstNet options. Public safety is NOT required to use this network, but may choose to subscribe as services, coverage and competitive pricing is developed that may attract users to the network.