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New Hampshire reverses course, opts in to FirstNet

December 28, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday the state will join a national public safety communications system being built by AT&T, reversing his earlier decision to contract with another company.

Thursday was the deadline for states and U.S. territories to decide whether to opt in to the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, or come up with its own compatible system. Mississippi and New York also opted-in on Thursday, leaving Florida and California as the only states that haven’t announced decisions.

Sununu announced three weeks ago that the state planned to contract with a company called Rivada Networks, that would allow the state to retain more control. But when it appeared that no other state would follow suit by the deadline, Sununu said the risk of going it alone was too great given the regulatory and financial hurdles.

“While Rivada’s plan remains the better option for New Hampshire, I have determined that the additional risk associated with being the only state to opt-out creates too high a barrier for New Hampshire to continue down the opt-out path alone,” he said.

FirstNet was created in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when some police and fire departments couldn’t communicate with each other over incompatible radio systems. States that use AT&T agree to let it build the network within their states at no cost. Those that opt out would get federal grants for construction.

Some first responders, including the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, joined the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire in opposing the Rivada contract. But a committee that studied the issue for two years in New Hampshire voted unanimously in October to recommend opting out of FirstNet. That approach also had the support of the state’s safety commissioner, John Barthelmes, who said Thursday that that the federal government didn’t provide other states with sufficient clarity to adequately evaluate their options.

Brian Carney, a Rivada spokesman, said New Hampshire showed courage in its initial decision.

“If more states shared the Granite State’s diligence, integrity and commitment to transforming public safety communications, New Hampshire would not have had to stand alone at the deadline,” he said. “We are proud to say that thanks to our efforts, first responders all over the country have gotten a better deal and better service than they could have hoped for without the competitive pressure we offered.”

Mike Poth, CEO of the First Responder Network Authority, praised the decision.

“Our goal has and will always be to bring each state and territory the best and most sustainable network - a solution designed for public safety, by public safety delivered by a proven partner,” he said.

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