FirstNet, the separate cellular and radio network made specifically for first responders, has officially garnered opt-in agreements from 20 different states and US territories. The full list now includes over one third of the total states and territories that belong to the United States of America. As of now, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands are all on board with FirstNet. This does not necessarily mean that FirstNet is ready to go in these places; deployment is not as simple as flipping a switch, and will require significant monetary and manpower investment from all involved.
FirstNet CEO Mike Poth called the news "exciting," saying that every new signup was helping to further the overall mission of FirstNet. The unique thing about FirstNet is that FirstNet and AT&T jointly assume any financial liabilities and risks stemming from deployment and maintenance, which means that those two companies foot the bill up front, with no help from the state or territory that they're servicing. The plan for each deployment starts out generic, as determined by AT&T and FirstNet, and will be customized over time by state and territorial governments. These individual plans for each signee will reportedly go live some time in the middle of September.
FirstNet is, as the name implies, a network made for first responders and emergency personnel. The kicker is that its features were designed in coordination with the same kind of personnel who will be using it. FirstNet's penetration is growing by leaps and bounds. Signups for the program began back in July, with Virginia being the first state to sign up. From there, it took less than two months for opt-ins to skyrocket to their existing level. AT&T has the initial contract for FirstNet, and is planning to serve that contract in a rather unique way; by cordoning off a portion of its network specifically for FirstNet use. This approach has multiple benefits, including keeping civilian traffic from plugging up the lines, and being able to implement features like walkie-talkie system-wide without any impact to users of its commercial network.