The first group of states have announced their intention to join FirstNet. FirstNet, a joint project of the federal government and AT&T, will be a high capacity voice and data network specifically designed for first responders. States will be allowed to opt-in or out of the network. Network costs will be covered by the federal government for the first 25 years.
Virginia was the first state to announce it was opting-in early last week. That announcement was followed by similar ones from Arkansas, Kentucky, and Wyoming.
FirstNet says the network will benefit the states that opt-in by giving them better voice and data communication during major events as well as natural disasters. Rural residents of the states that opt-in will also get the benefit of improved network coverage.
First responders in states that opt in are being given access to AT&T’s existing LTE network in the interim while the FirstNet network is being completed. AT&T will give priority access to first responders in participating states by the end of the year. FirstNet’s support for individual state opt-in is happening approximately three months ahead of schedule. The agency announced its networkwide public-private partnership with AT&T in March and has since been moving forward on state-by-state opt-in plans.
“FirstNet will put modern technologies that citizens use every day – like smartphones and apps – into the hands of Virginia’s first responders, helping them help save lives and protect residents while creating a single, interoperable system across the Commonwealth and across the country,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth in a statement on the announcement of the first state plans.