- Colorado has opted in to FirstNet, the federal nationwide emergency workers' broadband communications network, after recent consideration to opt out and use a private service provider.
- During a press conference, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper referred to the decision as an "investment" to increase resiliency and build telecom infrastructure in rural parts of the state.
- Of the 56 states and territories eligible for FirstNet service, 40 have opted in and only New Hampshire has opted out. The rest have until Dec. 28 to decide.
Though the number of states to agree to the terms of FirstNet has grown quite rapidly in recent weeks, Colorado officials had been among the few vocal states to question whether the service, which is operated by contract winner AT&T, would be the best option for emergency workers and for residents. Colorado even went so far as to award a conditional contract to private service provider Rivada Networks — which is New Hampshire's alternative provider — should the state decide to opt out.
One of the primary concerns Colorado and other states have had with FirstNet is about whether it would provide adequate coverage in rural areas and areas with difficult terrain, such as mountains. "We have some pretty significant geographic challenges," Colorado Broadband Office Chief Operating Officer Brian Shepherd recently told Smart Cities Dive. For example, officials were worried that first responders could get stranded without service while rescuing one of many outdoor enthusiasts who become injured or lost on a mountain.
AT&T reportedly has agreed to provide Colorado with an extra 35 cellular sites in addition to what had been laid out in the initial state plan. That proved to be crucial in tipping the state to favor FirstNet. It's unclear if AT&T plans to build new towers or co-locate equipment on existing infrastructure.
In early 2018, more information is expected to be made clear regarding infrastructure deployment, first responder training for the network and overall quality of use.