Authored by: Don Brittingham, vice president, public safety policy, Verizon
There is always a lot of buzz when a new state announces their decision to “opt-in” to FirstNet. However, first responders must understand they don’t need to change their current communications solution just because their state decides to opt-in (or opt-out) to FirstNet. In fact, FirstNet does not require public safety agencies to use the FirstNet solution, even if their state opts-in to FirstNet. Police departments, local governments, fire stations can make their own choice when it comes to communications solutions and services regardless of their state’s decision. In short, if you like your provider, you can keep your provider.
And that’s important for first responders. FirstNet was never intended to mandate that states or public safety agencies use a particular network provider. That’s why the opt-out process was added. Moreover, even in states that choose to opt-in, public safety agencies should be able to pick their own commercial provider and public safety dedicated network core.
As the provider of choice for the majority of public safety agencies in the United States, Verizon remains fully committed to ensuring we are by the side of first responders as they run to a crisis – no matter what. In August, we backed that promise up even further by volunteering to collaborate with AT&T on a solution to make interoperability possible. We interconnect today with AT&T and are committed to working with them to ensure all public safety customers are fully interoperable with one another.
Additionally we invest billions of dollars in our network every year – more than $120 billion since 2000 – to grow our network, increase capacity, and introduce the latest technologies and new services. Those investments include hardening our network from top to bottom – from switching centers to cell sites – taking lessons learned from previous storms and building “super switches” in the Southeast capable of withstanding category 5 winds, and earthquake-resistant facilities in the West, and installing redundant data systems, robust backup power capabilities, rigorous security measures, and ongoing fiber deployments nationwide.
Verizon does not advocate that states opt-in or opt-out of FirstNet. We are prepared to continue to work with public safety agencies in either event. However, it is important for these agencies to know they maintain their ability to choose the network provider they prefer, even if their state chooses to opt-in to FirstNet. Choice, interoperability, competition and innovation will drive the best solutions for public safety today and tomorrow. Public safety agencies should not relinquish that choice because they read an opt-in news release.