FirstNet, Carriers Offer Updates on First Responder Service During COVID-19
Monday, March 16, 2020 | Comments

Several carriers announced plans to boost communications for first responders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

AT&T said First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) liaisons are embedded with state and federal emergency operations centers (EOC) to strengthen public safety’s command and control of their network and help ensure they have the mobile connectivity and devices they need to effectively respond to COVID-19.

The carrier reminded FirstNet subscribers that, at no additional charge, public-safety agencies have access to a fleet of 76 deployable cell sites. The deployment of these assets is led by the FirstNet Response Operations Group (ROG), a team of former first responders who manage the program in alignment with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and FEMA National Response Framework (NRF).

"COVID-19 is an unprecedented event for the country — and in times of emergency, communication is critical," said Tim Ketchie, communications unit leader, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "As we began mobilizing various quarantine locations across California, our commercial network devices were unable to handle the heavy data transmission needed to adequately communicate. We turned to FirstNet, and the quick action and network performance allowed us to support the hundreds of public-safety personnel actively engaged in response efforts. It's been a game changer."

FirstNet has deployed assets, optimized the network or provided FirstNet Ready devices to support quarantine zones, airports, EOCs and other public-safety centers in areas such as the port of Oakland, Riverside and San Diego, California; Atlanta, Fulton County, Marietta and Rutledge, Georgia; Nassau County, New York; and San Antonio.

“As men and women across the country stand on the front lines to support our nation’s response to COVID-19, they can have confidence knowing that with FirstNet they’ll have the unthrottled connectivity and priority communications they need to respond during this public health emergency,” said an AT&T statement. “It’s this type of unparalleled emergency support that distinguishes FirstNet, public safety’s network, from best-effort commercial wireless networks built for consumer use.”

T-Mobile gained special temporary authority (STA) from the FCC to use additional spectrum in the 600 MHz band to help it meet increased customer demand for broadband during the coronavirus pandemic and enabling the carrier to meet the needs of first responders. The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issued the 60-day special temporary authority to T-Mobile to use additional spectrum in the 600 MHz band to augment its ability to provide broadband service. The spectrum that T-Mobile will use was held either in FCC inventory or by other licensees that have consented to T-Mobile’s temporary use of the spectrum.

Separately, the FCC launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge, in which 69 broadband and telephone providers across the country agreed to take specific steps to help Americans stay connected for the next 60 days.

“The FCC is dedicated to helping Americans work from home, learn at home, and connect remotely to health care professionals during this crisis,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “I would like to thank all of the companies that agreed to make their spectrum available for this important effort — DISH, Comcast, NewLevel, LB License Co, Channel 51, Omega, Bluewater, and TStar License Holdings. And, of course, I would like to thank T-Mobile for launching this effort. This temporary authority will help T-Mobile better serve customers who, like all of us, are making significant adjustments to their daily lives to minimize in-person interactions and slow the spread of COVID-19. In the days ahead, I look forward to taking additional actions, in partnership with the private sector, to Keep Americans Connected.”

Last week, Verizon said it will work with and prioritize network demand in assisting the needs of many U.S. hospitals, first responders and government agencies.

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