Should Your State Opt-Out Of FirstNet?

OK, I admit it, the headline is click-bait.  However, given everyone’s opinion on this, now that AT&T is about to roll out state plans, it really is appropriate to fully discuss at this time.

Right now, the proper answer is “I don’t know.”  And the reason for that non-committal response is several fold: (1) you haven’t seen your state plan, so it’s impossible to know yet if the FirstNet plan makes sense for your state, regardless of what you’ve been told by people “in the know”; (2) every state is different, there cannot be a cookie cutter answer. What works for one state may not work for another; and (3) I don’t know what you’ve done so far to research your options.

This last point is important. Since the legislation was adopted, I have recommended in every FirstNet-related speech that I’ve given that states should act immediately to prepare an opt-out plan. I urged that the plan needed to be ready to compare side-by-side with the eventual FirstNet winning bidder to ensure that the FirstNet deal was the best possible.

Those urging states to not look at anything else other than FirstNet perhaps have never made a “purchase” of this size before. When negotiating a business deal, and frankly that’s what this is, you always want to know upfront your options. And the FirstNet plan for your state might be the best thing since sliced sourdough bread (my fav). But, you don’t know that until you know what else is potentially out there. Further, without knowing your options, you’re in no position to negotiate with AT&T where your state plan falls short, or is missing a crucial consideration specific to your state. In short, by not researching options, you’ve relinquished every piece of negotiating leverage you ever had.

Fortunately, a number of stated heeded the advice, and are well down the road of having every piece of information necessary to make an informed choice. Starting that process now will certainly be difficult to accomplish, but not impossible. However, the limited amount of time to respond to the FirstNet plan mandates immediate action if options are to be reviewed. I’m aware of FirstNet knowledgeable folks such as Andy Seybold working on state reviews, and I suggest the continuation of these efforts.

The band Tower of Power has a song that is titled “A Little Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing.” When reviewing the FirstNet plan, don’t have a little knowledge, have a lot.

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