Virginia, Wyoming Opt in to FirstNet
Monday, July 10, 2017 | Comments

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a letter of intent July 10 declaring that the commonwealth of Virginia will allow the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T to proceed with the deployment of the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) in Virginia. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead announced a day later that Wyoming will also join FirstNet.

In a statement, FirstNet said it has met with Virginia officials and public-safety personnel more than 90 times since 2013 to address their communications needs. This includes understanding the importance of maritime coverage and increasing coverage in rural areas of the commonwealth, as well as coordination with military and federal government users.

“I am proud that Virginia is the first state in the nation to opt in to this program that will help our first responders communicate during times of emergency,” said McAuliffe. “While this is only the beginning of the process, I look forward to the continued coordinated efforts among Virginia, FirstNet and AT&T to provide public-safety officials with innovative new technologies that will help them keep Virginians safe.”

Public-safety subscribers to AT&T will be able to take advantage of priority service on AT&T’s existing Long Term Evolution (LTE) network nationwide. Localities will have full local control to identify their responders and assign priority as needed based on the circumstances. By the end of 2017, public-safety subscribers will also have pre-emption capability on the network.

FirstNet also said the network will securely connect first responder subscribers to critical information, create an efficient communications experience for public-safety personnel during natural disasters, enhance network coverage in rural areas, and drive infrastructure investments and create jobs across the state.

“This will create an ever-evolving set of life-saving tools for public safety, including public-safety apps, specialized devices and internet of things (IoT) technologies,” the FirstNet statement said. “It also carries the potential for future integration with next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) networks and smart cities infrastructure.”

Virginia will continue to work with FirstNet and AT&T and local partners to provide feedback to ensure a viable network that will enhance public-safety communications throughout Virginia, the state said in a statement.

“Public safety has spent years advocating for a nationwide network following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and today, Gov. McAuliffe is helping to answer that call by joining the FirstNet network,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. “FirstNet will be able to put the technology citizens use every day — like smartphones and apps — into the hands of Virginia’s first responders, modernizing how they help save lives and protect residents while creating a single, interoperable system across the Commonwealth and across the country.”

An official signing ceremony was held in Fairfax, Virginia, July 11.

In its statement, Wyoming said the FirstNet network satisfies the priorities identified by the Wyoming public-safety community, rapidly provides access to public-safety features and delivers extensive population and geographic coverage.

“The state of Wyoming has participated in FirstNet consultation and outreach activities throughout the planning of the network and reviewed the details of the FirstNet state plan,” said Gov. Mead. “I have determined that it is in the best interest of Wyoming to participate in the FirstNet deployment of the nationwide public-safety broadband network.”

The Wyoming statement also said that with the opt-in decision, FirstNet and AT&T take on all the risks, costs and responsibilities associated with deploying the network in Wyoming for 25 years. Wyoming is not responsible for any costs for the FirstNet network. FirstNet and AT&T will build, maintain and operate the network but Wyoming subscribers would pay for service on the network.

“FirstNet will be an asset for emergency personnel across Wyoming," Gov. Mead said. "This is a tool that allows for better communication and faster response."

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Comments
On 7/21/17, Stephen Platt said:
Public safety has spent years advocating for a nationwide network following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and today Gov. McAuliffe is helping to answer that call by joining the FirstNet network.

While it's always good to have redundant backup communications, Virginia's Statewide Agencies Radio System (STARS) interoperability talkgroups are vastly underutilized. Many state agencies including Virginia State Police apparently use old procedures relaying by phone still rather than these interop talkgroups. Why no training?

What happens if an AT&T site goes off line during an emergency?

All personnel from dispatchers to first responders need to be trained in all interop tools available to them. I am not saying this AT&T system is a waste. What I am saying is Virginia needs to use the interop capabilites of STARS to its fullest ability and use the AT&T capabilities in parallel to STARS to augment its situational awareness.


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