Symposium on FirstNet: America’s Public Safety Broadband Network
The Policy Forum at AT&T hosted an in-person, in-depth discussion on FirstNet and the efforts currently underway to build, deploy, and operate the first-ever nationwide public safety broadband network. Chris Sambar, Senior Vice President, AT&T, FirstNet provided the keynote address.
A fireside chat followed where FirstNet participants in public safety and other governmental users discussed their recent interactions and experiences with FirstNet. The fireside chat was moderated by Stacy Schwartz, Vice President, Public Safety, AT&T Business Solutions – Global Public Sector. Panelists included Chris Algiere, Director – Federal and National Programs, First Responder Network Authority; Mike Newburn, Communications Technology Manager – Wireless Director, Fairfax County; Eddie Reyes, Director of the Office of Public Safety, Prince William County, VA, and Chair for the IACP Communications Committee; and Joseph M. Wassel, Director, C4 Resilience & Mission Assurance, U.S. Department of Defense.
A presentation followed the panel on a new FirstNet initiative on emergency response and emergency operations centers. The presentation featured Fred Scalera, Director, Public Safety Strategies, FirstNet, AT&T; and Ryan Fields-Spack, Director, Public Safety Strategies, FirstNet Program, AT&T.
From a dream inspired by the sad losses of our darkest day and recommended by the 9/11 Commission, FirstNet – the nationwide public safety broadband network – is now a reality, as attendees to a July 10th AT&T Policy Forum event learned. FirstNet is already delivering seamless interoperability between first responders across agencies and jurisdictions, feature-rich services, increased coverage, and new broadband-enabled technologies to public safety agencies all over the country.
Since the formation of the FirstNet public-private partnership a little over a year ago, governors from all 50 states, five territories and D.C. recognized the value of FirstNet, joining in its mission to strengthen and modernize public safety’s communications capabilities. A keynote address from Chris Sambar, Senior Vice President, AT&T-FirstNet, highlighted just how far FirstNet has come in a year of significant progress.
The FirstNet Authority specified aggressive timelines for deliverables, and AT&T has thus far met or exceeded every milestone. Perhaps most important, with FirstNet, public safety has now realized its desire for its own core network, its own dedicated hardware and software, delivered in March of this year. Having a physically (and not just virtually) separate core network offers enhanced security capabilities. There’s also a separate, dedicated Security Operations Center watching for threats to the network.
The Band 14 spectrum given by the FCC to the FirstNet Authority and now leased by AT&T to build out FirstNet’s coverage and capacity is currently being rolled out, becoming available in more and more localities. FirstNet Ready devices with Band 14 antennas also continue to come to market. And over 1,000 public safety agencies have already subscribed to FirstNet, with nearly 100,000 connections on the network. FirstNet has also brought a dedicated applications ecosystem to public safety, giving first responders secure and reliable applications designed to work with FirstNet.
Network deployables – trucks with satellite dishes and antennas that can restore vital communications capabilities – are also an important part of FirstNet’s work. There have been 11 deployments in the last six weeks alone to meet the specific needs of first responders.
Fred Scalera, Director of Strategy and Policy, AT&T-FirstNet, illustrated FirstNet’s game-changing impacts with some real-life examples of recent deployments. He discussed multiple emergencies last fall with the California wildfires and hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico. The number of emergency deployments has risen rapidly and will only grow as FirstNet gains more public safety users. FirstNet will continue to represent a nimble response to public safety’s requests for support.
But these advances, important as they are, represent only the beginning of FirstNet’s potential. Think of the ability to use FirstNet with NextGen 911 to create an efficient flow of communications from the caller to the 911 dispatcher to the first responder. Those in emergencies will be able to send photos or videos to 911, and through FirstNet, those images or videos can be sent from 911 operators to the emergency responder being dispatched for help. This will help public safety respond with a greater understanding of the emergency before they arrive, helping to save time and lives.
The FirstNet core will also continue to deliver a range of future, next-generation public safety capabilities like Mission-Critical Push-to-Talk. This will bring forward higher performance PTT capabilities for first responders.
The goal is simple: for FirstNet to be public safety’s choice for all of their communications needs, giving them access to their network whenever and wherever they need it.
FirstNet is different than any commercial network available to first responders. It is inspired by public safety and built with public safety. It offers a highly secure solution that public safety can use with confidence. The important work of FirstNet is only beginning, and everyone at AT&T is keenly aware that we are building a network that is the critical link for all of public safety as first responders nationwide protect and serve their communities. Our support for public safety is no longer merely an opportunity for a partnership – it is an imperative obligation. And AT&T is honored to be public safety’s partner in this effort to save lives.