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No one is required to use the network. FirstNet’s goal is to make the network cost-competitive with commercial networks and to add many public safety features that are not generally available on commercial networks. That said, if a chief of a department is happy with his or her current wireless data provider, there is no obligation to switch to use the FirstNet network. Further, that decision can be made at any time, as it best suits the needs of the public safety organization or aligns with the end of existing wireless data contracts.

Should a public safety organization decide to use FirstNet, it would be similar to switching wireless data carriers today. To switch to FirstNet, you will need new Band 14-enabled devices, like smartphones, issued from FirstNet and its partner. Your contract manager will then sign up for a data plan (similar to today). You will pay them instead of your current carrier going forward.

There are no rules or requirements on when or if public safety agencies can switch to use the network. Our office will communicate planned coverage and costs when FirstNet selects a vendor and issues draft State Plans for review. That is likely to be sometime in the first half of 2017. Your department or city/town hall will then make a decision on whether to switch to the new service once there is sufficient coverage in your operating areas.

Many departments may do this slowly over several years as part of the annual refresh of aging equipment or as service contracts expire. It does not have to be done all at once, and a department may decide to only switch over certain types of devices (e.g., making sure vehicular modems or mobile data terminals are on the National Public Safety Broadband Network first and then making decisions about replacing smartphones later). It will be up to you to make those decisions. Our office will work to make sure you have the information you need to make the best decision for your department.

For more information on how this is planned to work, please feel free to reach out to us at psbo@state.ma.us.

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