Colorado encouraged to reject FirstNet, following New Hampshire’s lead | VailDaily.com

Colorado encouraged to reject FirstNet, following New Hampshire’s lead

New Hampshire became the first state Thursday to reject a federal first responder comunications system, FirstNet, to be built by AT&T. New Hampshire is encouraging Colorado and other states to also reject FirstNet, and monetize the broadband spectrum for themselves.

New Hampshire will opt out of a federal first responder system and is encouraging Colorado and other states to do the same.

On Thursday, Dec. 7, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu rejected the FirstNet plan presented by the federal government and AT&T, saying New Hampshire could build a better broadband system working with Rivada Networks LLC to serve first responders.

New Hampshire will also retain control of the spectrum and hopes to make money from it, instead of turning it over to AT&T, said Benjamin Vihstadt, Sununu's press secretary.

Like New Hampshire, Colorado has a conditional deal with Rivada and The Macquarie Group to build its own system. If Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joins Sununu and rejects the feds' FirstNet plan, then Rivada and Macquarie would build Colorado's network. Hickenlooper has not yet heard from Sununu, said Jackie Montgomery, Hickenlooper's press secretary, but he will, Vihstadt said.

"Gov. Sununu encouraged all governors to strongly consider joining New Hampshire in opting out of the FirstNet plan. Gov. Sununu will be reaching out to certain governors individually in the coming days, and that includes Gov. Hickenlooper," Vihstadt said.

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The federal government is demanding that states either join its nationwide system to be built by AT&T with $7 billion in federal money, or that states such as Colorado build their own systems that would be compatible with the AT&T system.

AT&T has said it would spend $40 billion across the country building the system, although no public documents are available to support that claim. AT&T intends to make money from this, Chris Sambar, AT&T vice president, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee during a Capital Hill hearing.

"I'm not trying to hide that fact," Sambar said at the hearing.

California, FirstNet's biggest potential prize, is still evaluating its options, said Patrick Mallon, California's FirstNet contact.

Like Colorado and New Hampshire, California requested proposals to build its own system, Mallon said. Those proposals were due by 6 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, but none of the bidders will be revealed until Gov. Jerry Brown decides whether or not California will join the federal FirstNet system. No decision has been made yet, Mallon said.

Eight more months?

California, Colorado and other states might not have to make that decision for eight more months, instead of the end of this month, as originally thought.

Brian Shepherd, Colorado's FirstNet contact, said that under their interpretation, if Hickenlooper decides not to join FirstNet, then Colorado will have eight months to submit a plan for a compatible system to the Federal Communications Commission. At that point, Colorado could join FirstNet if it wants to do so.

AT&T's contract runs 25 years through the quasi-governmental First Responder Network Authority, known as FirstNet. Congress slid the package into an unrelated bill in 2012. FirstNet is supposed to give priority to first responders, but AT&T won't reveal what it will charge emergency service agencies until after states decide to join.

Rivada and others have said AT&T would charge first responders $40 to $60 per unit, per month. Rivada, on the other hand, has said it will charge first responders 1 cent per month.

Colorado's committee members and others who will make recommendations to Hickenlooper, including Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry, have been provided access to some of that information, but said that to get it they had to sign non-disclosure agreements with AT&T.

In the meantime, Rivada is ready to get to work with global financial giant The Macquarie Group to build and finance systems for states that reject the federal FirstNet system, said Rivada Networks Chairman and CEO Declan Ganley.

"Now the real work of transforming New Hampshire's public-safety communications can begin," Ganley said. "Rivada and its partners are ready to work with FirstNet and the states to roll out state Radio Access Networks in any state that opts to follow this bottom-up approach to emergency communications."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.