Report Highlights FirstNet’s Three-Year Progress

April 7, 2020
A new report finds FirstNet significantly expanded access to innovations in public safety communications with 11,000 agencies and organizations subscribed.

WASHINGTON -- Today, First Responder Voice, a leading source for information, news and analysis about FirstNet and public safety communications, released a three-year progress report detailing the expansion of FirstNet. The public-private partnership between AT&T and the First Responder Network Authority has allowed subscribed first responders access to the most advanced innovations in public safety communications technology, some of which were nonexistent prior to FirstNet’s launch. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, FirstNet’s mission to deliver the U.S.’s first nationwide interoperable broadband network for first responders is more timely and critical than ever.

FirstNet is being built, operated and maintained by AT&T, the country’s only union wireless carrier. The Communications Workers of America (CWA), which is leading the First Responder Voice project, represents nearly 100,000 technicians, retail associates and customer care agents at AT&T wireline and Mobility across the country. First Responder Voice works to identify areas for improvement in FirstNet’s communications and execution to best serve first responders.

“The current pandemic is magnifying the need for our country’s first responders to have access to an interoperable broadband network, and FirstNet provides that solution,” said Bianca Garcia, CWA’s FirstNet Program Coordinator. “As an active member of the Public Safety Alliance, CWA was instrumental in supporting the creation of FirstNet. AT&T, the country’s only union wireless carrier, has the resources to lead this network into the future and provide a tool for our country’s first responders that, upon completion, will be unmatched by any other network.”

According to the report, FirstNet’s innovations include unthrottled connectivity; a separate, purpose-built network core with end-to-end encryption; priority and preemption capabilities; local control of users and applications; and more than seventy-five deployable solutions like land-based Satellite Cell on Light Trucks and Flying Cells on Wheels. In less than two years, the number of public safety agencies and organizations subscribed to FirstNet has increased tenfold. As of February 2020, 11,000 public safety agencies and organizations have subscribed and 1.2 million devices have been connected to the network, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the United States Coast Guard and the United States Department of the Navy.

AT&T also added over 170,000 square miles to its LTE network coverage in 2018 and 2019. As of March 2020, FirstNet network deployment is 80% complete, one year ahead of the contractually obligated schedule.

The report finds that AT&T could provide greater transparency about its progress on state-specific build-out commitments and detail the states that are seeing lower than target level FirstNet subscribership. First Responder Voice encourages AT&T to deliver the past-due state-specific commitment report to the First Responder Network Authority and FirstNet as soon as practically feasible and deliver the contractually obligated semi-annual reports promptly going forward.

A significant portion of the network is still in the design and construction phase. Looking forward, the public-private partnership model that the First Responder Network Authority established with AT&T guarantees that financial resources are invested to advance the FirstNet network.

About First Responder Voice

First Responder Voice is a leading source for information, news and analysis about FirstNet, America’s first nationwide public safety broadband network, and public safety communications more generally. 

About CWA

The Communications Workers of America represents 700,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, working in telecommunications and IT, the airline industry, news media, broadcast and cable television, education, health care and public service, law enforcement, manufacturing and other fields.  

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