Richmond Officials First in Virginia to Test FirstNet Services
Thursday, January 18, 2018 | Comments

Public-safety officials in Richmond, Virginia, are testing the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) public-safety wireless broadband network and expect to have it in use throughout the city by the end of 2018.

“The decision to go with FirstNet was a no-brainer for us,” said Stephen Willoughby, director and chief of Richmond’s Department of Emergency Communications. “Here we had a federally subsidized program offering us an efficient, reliable system for our first responders to share mobile data with priority and pre-emption.”

Virginia was the first state in the country to opt in to FirstNet when Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a letter accepting the FirstNet and AT&T plan last July 10. Since then, all 50 states, four territories and the District of Columbia have joined.

Richmond and Fairfax County are the first localities in Virginia to begin using the network. Richmond police officers and Department of Emergency Communications executive team members are testing FirstNet during daily operations with phone and mobile data devices, said Jackie Crotts, the deputy director of technology for Richmond’s Department of Emergency Communications.

“We must have a robust, reliable system that has to be up all the time,” Crotts said. “During the 2011 earthquake, all cellphone service went down because the system was saturated. That won’t happen with FirstNet. There was no upfront cost for the city, because we were able to use our existing mobile data devices. The transition is very smooth,” he said.

Public-safety officials in Wyoming, Texas, Louisiana and Maryland are also negotiating pricing plans with AT&T and moving to the FirstNet network.

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