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FirstNet Milestone Draws Crowd of Fans, Including White House

Emergency net was proposed following 9/11 communications failures

The Commerce Department’s announcement that AT&T had been awarded the contract to build and maintain FirstNet, the interoperable broadband communications network suggested after first responder communications failures on 9/11, drew praise from various quarters last week.

“This step was part of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations on improving the ability of our police, fire, and emergency medical personnel to communicate seamlessly across jurisdictions, which is critical to their missions,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “It’s also a sign of the incredible ability of public-private partnerships to drive innovation and solve some of our biggest problems while also creating jobs and growing the economy.”

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, called it a “major step forward in bringing 21st century communications technology to first responders.”

The announcement “is a tribute to the long-time work of former Senator Jay Rockefeller and former Congressman Henry Waxman [the chairs, respectively of the Senate Commerce and House Energy & Commerce Committees], who pushed for one of the last recommendations of the 9/11 Commission—a first-of-its kind, nationwide interoperable wireless broadband network for first responders. Since passage of the landmark bipartisan law that created FirstNet, it has been working tirelessly to bring their vision to reality.”

Waxman was in the audience for the March 30 award announcement and got a shout-out from current E&C chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who, as chair of the Communications Subcommittee, was also instrumental in pushing the spectrum auction legislation that created the network over the finish line.

“I congratulate FirstNet and AT&T. The award of the nationwide contract is a significant step forward in FirstNet’s mission to deliver an advanced network for first responders,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. “This unique public-private partnership has the potential to bring the next generation of public safety communications to all Americans. NTCA members live and work in the rural communities they serve, and are committed to helping to ensure their communities’ first responders are part of an interoperable national communications system.”

“FirstNet today took a major leap forward in delivering a dedicated national network that will give first responders the bandwidth, speed, security, and reliability they clearly need,” said Telecommunications Industry Association senior VP Cinnamon Rogers. “We applaud FirstNet for its expeditious work to finalize this decision, and we believe AT&T understands the challenges of this project and has the experience and leadership needed to drive it forward.”