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All 50 States Greenlight First Responder Network

Buildout of dedicated emergency radio access network set for early 2018

December 29, 2017

Since the events of  2001, the public safety community has been advocating for a dedicated wireless broadband network to enhance and ensure communications during emergencies and other events.

FirstNet announced today that all 50 states, as well as Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have opted-in to the First Responder Network Authority system. FirstNet is the working arm of the First Responder Network Authority, an independent government agency created to give first responders a dedicated, interoperable communications system that spans the country.

Responders will have immediate access to the network, preempting other functions on the network. This means safety and emergency agencies will be able to communicate and coordinate during emergencies, large events or other situations where commercial networks can become congested.

Preemption will enhance priority services currently available on FirstNet. While priority services move first responders to the front of the communications line, preemption goes a step further to make sure first responders can access FirstNet immediately by shifting non-emergency traffic to another line, freeing up space for first responders to easily get through. Calls or texts to 911 will never be shifted from the network. 

Congress passed legislation to establish the network in 2012, and for the past five years, the authority worked closely with public safety to develop customized plans for building the high-speed network in each state and territory. 

These plans include transferring the responsibility for building, maintaining, and upgrading the network's facilities to AT&T for the next 25 years.

The public-private partnership with AT&T extends 25 years and includes $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the buildout. Over the life of the contract, AT&T will spend about $40 billion to build, deploy, operate and maintain the network. AT&T estimates more than 10,000 new jobs will be created.

 The statutory 90-day decision period for Governors to “opt-in” or “opt-out” of the FirstNet proposed Radio Access Network (RAN) buildout plan concluded yesterday, December 28, and every state has accepted the FirstNet deployment plan.  Similarly, two U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. have chosen the FirstNet plan while three U.S. territories have until March 12, 2018, to make their decision: American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

“This is a landmark day and monumental achievement for public safety – one that has been years in the making,” said First Responder Network Authority Board Chair Sue Swenson. “FirstNet is going to enhance the safety and security of our first responders and the people they serve.”

Key FirstNet milestones and activities planned for 2018 include:

  • Expanding the Network and Building Out Band 14: The First Responder Network Authority will issue work orders to deploy the RANs in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the two opt-in territories in early 2018.  This will give AT&T the green light to expand FirstNet’s footprint and deploy Band 14 capacity and coverage throughout the nation, providing first responders with the bandwidth and mission critical connections they need to communicate, share information, and use innovative technologies every day and in every emergency.
  • Driving Public Safety Innovation: FirstNet will also unlock a new technology marketplace for public safety, enabling first responders to benefit from advancements in innovation.  The FirstNet App store will be filling up with FirstNet-approved mobile apps that are optimized for public safety use over the first responder network.
  • Securing Emergency Communications: FirstNet’s first-of-its-kind core infrastructure will give first responders the dedicated, highly secure, non-commercial network they deserve.  On schedule to be operational in March, the FirstNet public safety core will provide full encryption of public safety data over FirstNet and provide end-to-end cyber security.  FirstNet subscribers will also have access to a dedicated Security Operations Center, offering 24/7/365 support.
  • Engaging with Public Safety: Public safety outreach and advocacy will not stop as the network is further built out.  The First Responder Network Authority will continue to engage with public safety in the states, territories, federal agencies, and tribal nations to ensure the network meets their needs and incorporate their feedback in the design of future FirstNet products and services.

“With every state saying `yes’ to the FirstNet plan, America’s first responders now have a nationwide interoperable network they can rely on 24/7/365 – like their mission,” said First Responder Network Authority CEO Mike Poth.  “I applaud these governors for their decision and congratulate public safety for its advocacy and partnership throughout the process.  With more than 50 states and territories participating in FirstNet, public safety is assured of an enduring, self-sufficient network to serve them for years to come.”

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