3.4 Deploy Public Safety Broadband

Why is public safety broadband important?

The communications challenges faced by first responders on 9/11 demonstrated the need for robust public safety communications capabilities during emergencies and disasters. The 9/11 Commission recommended a nationwide network for law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel communications. This led to the creation of the First Responder Network Authority. The FirstNet network provides dedicated public safety broadband communications capabilities, including priority and preemption, to ensure emergency responders have the communications tools they need to save lives and protect communities.

Strategic Objective 3.4 Progress Update

The FirstNet network is a partnership between the Department of Commerce and private industry focused on advancing the future of emergency communication by helping public safety reduce response times, and work more efficiently. In 2019, to guide future progress, the FirstNet Authority developed a new Roadmap to help prioritize programs, resources, investments, and partnership activities. This Roadmap is structured around the following six domains, representing network capabilities that are vital to public safety operations:
  • Network Core: provides the essential intelligence for the functioning of the network. The Core is foundational to the network, and the FirstNet Authority envisions the Core evolving to remain technologically current;
  • Coverage and Capacity: enables robust and ubiquitous access to the network;
  • Situational Awareness: envisions real-time access, collection, and distribution of critical information;
  • Voice Communications: envisions high-quality, reliable voice communications nationwide working seamlessly across analog and digital platforms;
  • Secure Information Exchange: envisions the ability to access, exchange, and manage data securely and conveniently within and across public safety agencies and jurisdictions;
  • User Experience: seeks to ensure interfaces are designed for specific public safety users’ operational challenges.

During the first half of 2019, the FirstNet Authority conducted more than 600 engagements to collect feedback from the broader public safety community about first responders’ operational needs. To ensure the network evolves with new technologies, the FirstNet Authority also conducted targeted industry engagements and market research to capture industry trends, drivers, and advancements. In September 2019, the FirstNet Board gave the green light for FirstNet to pursue investments in the following areas: 1) Expansion of the FirstNet fleet of deployables to enhance network coverage and capacity for public safety during emergencies and events and 2) Initial generational upgrades to the FirstNet core to enable 5G network capabilities.
FirstNet is on track to reach planned coverage by 2023
FirstNet continues to achieve coverage milestones as network deployment remains ahead of its 2023 coverage goal. Network buildout has reached more than 65% of its planned coverage as of the end of Fiscal Year 2019. When FirstNet is fully operational, more than 60,000 public safety agencies across the Nation should have access to advanced communication capabilities.
“Rural first responders need a solution that meets their unique mission, so that they can respond in emergencies, such as wildfires, tornadoes, and floods throughout the country. FirstNet is committed to meeting the communications needs of all first responders – regardless of where they are located.”  – FirstNet Authority Chair Edward Horowitz

FirstNet has nationwide support
All 50 states, five U.S. territories, and Washington, D.C., have “opted in,” to FirstNet, meaning each has accepted its individual State Plan for the deployment of the network. FirstNet is now live, currently serving more than 9,800 public safety agencies throughout the U.S. as of October 2019 and is expanding its capabilities and scope to ensure it reaches 100% of its planned coverage by 2023. 
View this video to learn more about the capabilities that FirstNet will deliver.

Continued development of FirstNet to meet first responders' needs
Since its inception, the FirstNet Authority has connected with 1.8 million first responders and state public safety and technology executives throughout the United States. The FirstNet Authority will maintain an ongoing dialogue with these stakeholders to accommodate changing needs and provide new capabilities.
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About FirstNet
The FirstNet Authority's mission is to develop, build and operate the nationwide, broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities. Learn more about the FirstNet Authority's mission and activities on the FirstNet websiteYouTube and Twitter