What you need to know about FirstNet

SLED, FirstNet, law enforcement, public safetyHalf of all states have officially signed up to be part of a nationwide broadband network to connect law enforcement and public safety officials. The network is called FirstNet and it’s an important topic we’ll cover at immixGroup’s 4th Annual Government IT Sales Summit on Nov. 16.

Once built, the network promises to improve many aspects of community safety, including connecting responders in rural communities, enhancing situational awareness during emergencies and ensuring coordinated responses to human-made disasters. Getting the network built is the first step and then it will eventually require technologies to improve the situational awareness and responses of those first responders.

So what is FirstNet and what can you expect going forward?

Authorized by Congress in 2012, FirstNet is an independent authority within the Department of Commerce to develop and deploy a common, interoperable public safety broadband network to connect law enforcement and public safety personnel across the country. Considering the state of today’s disparate law enforcement radio networks and the unfortunate need for increased cross-jurisdiction collaboration during disasters, this type of inter-operable broadband network is extremely important.

Earlier this year, the contract with AT&T was finalized and the drafting of state plans for the build-out of the FirstNet network began. AT&T presented each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five territories with their plans for how AT&T and FirstNet would build-out the FirstNet broadband network in their individual states at no cost to the jurisdiction. Each of the states provided their feedback with the goal to release the final plans in the fall. Once states receive their final plan, they will have 90 days to “opt-in” or “opt-out” of FirstNet.

If a state opts-in, then the FirstNet authority and AT&T will handle the build-out of the network. However, if a state opts-out, then it’s obligated to pay for and complete the build-out of its own broadband network, which would need approval by the FirstNet authority to ensure interoperability. Each state will have its own motivation for opting-in or opting-out and at this point, 25 states have officially opted-in, with the first being Virginia in July.

We’ll keep an eye on this important initiative and provide more updates as they come. You can learn more about FirstNet during my panel at the Summit. We’ll discuss practical approaches to pursuing FirstNet opportunities, including how to source partnerships, track grant money and overcome regulatory hurdles. Sign up before Oct. 31 to get the early-bird rate.

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