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Out on a limb: Sununu takes chance with FirstNet

December 11. 2017 12:25AM

Gov. Chris Sununu has chosen the riskier path in opting out of the default contractor for New Hampshire’s link in a nationwide communications network for first responders.

That does not mean he’s wrong. Time will tell if the risk was worth taking.

Sununu followed the recommendation of a 30-member panel that has been studying the FirstNet issue since 2015. Under the federal program, AT&T is the default choice to use newly-acquired frequencies to link police, fire, and ambulance services across jurisdictions. Such interoperability is particularly important in areas such as New Hampshire’s North Country, where cellphone service is spotty.

And that was the problem with AT&T. The Sununu administration determined that a smaller communications company, Rivada, could better fill the gaps in AT&T’s network. So Sununu took New Hampshire down its own path.

The Rivada contract still needs approval from the Executive Council. Should the company fail to follow through, New Hampshire could be on the hook for federal penalties.

That’s the risk Sununu is taking. The easy choice would have been to give in to federal arm-twisting and go with the favored contractor.

Sununu is counting on a board panel of New Hampshire technical and law enforcement experts to know better than Washington how to meet New Hampshire’s communications needs.

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