First responders across the nation now have a wireless broadband network to call their own.  With all 50 states, two U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. joining FirstNet, public safety has a groundbreaking new choice for their communications that will help them save lives and protect their communities.

“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.  “There are many who said this network would never happen, but public safety never gave up on their network.  Because of their vision and hard fought efforts, I can proudly say that this life-saving network is now a reality across America; FirstNet is going to enhance the safety and security of our first responders and the people they serve.”

FirstNet is the creation of the nation’s public safety community, who spent years advocating for their own wireless broadband network following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to enhance communications during emergencies and other events.  Congress passed legislation to establish the Network in 2012, and for the past five years, the First Responder Network Authority worked closely with public safety to develop customized plans for building the Network in each state and territory.

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.

“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 Chief Executive Officer 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.”

The First Responder Network Authority’s public-private partnership with AT&T provides first responders with immediate access to mission-critical capabilities over the FirstNet network.  This includes priority and preemption features that give first responders their own ‘fast lane’ on the public safety network to communicate and share information during emergencies, large events or other situations when commercial networks could become congested.  FirstNet is the only broadband network to provide ruthless preemption for public safety.

“As first responders, we face an incredible amount of risk every day. So, to have a network that is focused on driving innovative capabilities to improve our safety is game changing,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. “2017 was a pivotal year for public safety. And with the advancements planned for 2018, it’s only going to get better.”

“This is a day that many of us in the fire service have been looking forward to for a long time,” said Chief Richard Carrizzo of the Southern Platte (Mo.) Fire Protection District and a International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) Board Member.  “Not only will this network remedy current communications challenges, but it will also usher in a wave of innovation for public safety and allow us to communicate unthrottled with responders from other agencies, districts, regions, tribes and states.”

What’s Ahead in 2018 and Beyond

The coming year will be a game changer for public safety as FirstNet expands across the nation and more innovative technologies and applications come on line for public safety subscribers.

“Our FirstNet offering will forever change the way first responders communicate,” said Chris Sambar, senior vice president, AT&T – FirstNet. “Securing 53 opt-ins is significant for the public safety personnel that this network will serve. And we’re honored to give first responders across the country quick access to this life-saving solution.”

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 cybersecurity.  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.

“While getting to this point is a major achievement for public safety, our job is not finished,” said First Responder Network Authority CEO Poth.  “We still have much work to do to realize the full potential of FirstNet for public safety everywhere, including rural America, and we will move full speed ahead to make it happen.”