The states of Oregon and Washington will jointly issue a request for proposals (RFP) to operate a high-speed, wireless broadband data network dedicated to public safety. The network will not replace existing public safety radio networks, but will be another tool to ensure that first responders can communicate in times of disasters that tend to overwhelm existing networks.

The states expect to release their RFP within two weeks and close it approximately five weeks later. There will then be a period of evaluation and possible selection of one or more vendors to advance to the next phase of the process.

Congress has mandated that states participate in FirstNet, a nationwide broadband network dedicated to public safety. More than $6 billion has been allocated to build the network, however states have the option to “opt-out” of the federal network construction and build their own infrastructure. By joining together to issue the RFP, officials in Washington and Oregon say they’ll then be able to make a more informed choice about the best option for building a network that serves the unique needs of the Northwest, especially in rural communities.

Govs. Kate Brown and Jay Inslee made clear they have not yet decided to opt-out of participation with FirstNet. In a letter to Washington’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee, Inslee wrote, “It is the intent of this RFP to explore options available to the State that will be most responsive to the needs of public safety entities and which will be sustainable over the coming 25-year period. I believe a regional solution with our partners in Oregon is one that should be explored.”

Issuing an RFP to solicit bids from other vendors is a critical piece of the due diligence that must performed to ensure the best service for first responders in the Northwest. Once proposals have been submitted, the states will weigh them against the merits of joining the FirstNet infrastructure.

Each state convened a state interoperability council to help develop strategies for enabling interoperable public safety communications, and have played a central advisory role in evaluating the FirstNet proposal.

“Our interoperability council members have been hard at work on this effort for years, and I thank them for their invaluable expertise and feedback,” Brown said. “Our first responders are eager to move forward and their ongoing feedback will be essential to making sure we make the best decision for our states.”