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A nationwide broadband network for public safety communication between first responders will be built across the USA. Communications giant, AT&T, has been hired by the U.S. Department of Commerce to build and manage the project.
The network aims to equip police, firefighters and emergency medical services with a single network that will allow real-time communication during emergencies, such as natural disasters. All 50 states, Washington, D.C., and five U.S. territories will be included in the network.
The company was awarded a 25-year contract from FirstNet (or the First Responder Network Authority), which will pay AT&T up to $6.5 billion over the next five years. According to officer.com, AT&T will also receive 20 megahertz of telecommunications spectrum from the government to deploy for the dedicated public safety network.
FirstNet was created as an independent authority within the department of commerce as part of the Middle -Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.
FirstNet CEO Mike Poth said the project was pushed forward by public safety officials who struggle with outdated technology and congested networks. They also use thousands of different voice communications systems that do not operate with one another.
“Every single day, every single week man-made disasters continue,” he said. “The need for public safety to have better tools and technology at their hands to help quicken response and more effective response is what’s really driving this. … Our 14-year-old kids have better technology than our first responders in their hands.”
John Stephens, AT&T’s chief financial officer, said the telecom company looks forward to building a high-quality network for police, firefighters and medical teams.
“It’s a great opportunity to serve every citizen,” Stephens said. “Everybody is going to benefit from this because that is who the first responders serve.”
The network buildout will begin later this year. It is expected to create 10,000 jobs in the U.S., as AT&T builds new cell phone towers, maintains the network and helps service customers, he said.
Stephens said AT&T will invest $40 billion to build the broadband network. Once the network is completed, states and public agencies will pay AT&T to use the service.
For first responders, the announcement is long-awaited news, said Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “It’s been frustrating,” he said. “We would have liked to see it happen sooner, but the magnitude of the vision causes the difficulty of making it happen quickly.”