RALEIGH — North Carolina took a step today toward strengthening public safety and emergency preparedness by clearing the way for its first responders to join FirstNet, the first nationwide broadband network specifically built for public safety agencies.
AT&T will partner with FirstNet to build and operate the multimillion-dollar, high-speed wireless network as part of a federal program. The network will be designed to allow first responders to maintain communication during disasters and other large-scale events that could disable or disrupt other communication channels.
“We must do all we can to make sure North Carolina is ready to respond to emergencies and keep the public safe,” Governor Cooper said. “Communication is key in times of crisis and this technology can help strengthen public safety by keeping our first responders connected.”
The FirstNet program in North Carolina is housed within the Broadband Infrastructure Office of the Department of Information Technology. The office worked with public safety and information technology stakeholders at the state, county and local levels to evaluate the plan for North Carolina. The federal government will pay entirely for the construction and operation of the network, putting no financial responsibility on the state of North Carolina. FirstNet was established by Congress in 2012 based on a recommendation from the federal 9/11 Commission.
“First responders deserve a state of the art communications system, and we believe this is the first step toward building that system,” said Secretary of DIT and State Chief Information Officer Eric Boyette. “DIT has worked with public safety and IT professionals since 2014 to make sure that the people of North Carolina get the service they deserve. Ultimately, we will all be safer once this network is in place.”
“Rapid emergency response relies on the efficiency of communication among federal, state and local partners,” said Col. Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “This new technology provides state-of-the-art resources for responding to future disaster situations.”
In addition, the program will provide first responders access to modern communications devices, apps, tools and other resources that will strengthen emergency services. AT&T anticipates that within five years the network will cover 99 percent of North Carolina’s population and at least 91 percent of its geography, and has committed to on-going consultation with the public safety community to address areas of concern.
“As a former firefighter, I am excited about the opportunity that the FirstNet project brings to North Carolina’s responders,” said Red Grasso, who leads the FirstNet effort in North Carolina. “FirstNet is putting public safety in the forefront of technology innovation and though it will not replace two-way radios, it will start to bring data connectivity to the same level of service.”