FirstNet communications network to be topic at W. Pa. Firemen’s Convention |
Valley News Dispatch

FirstNet communications network to be topic at W. Pa. Firemen’s Convention

Chuck Biedka

Volunteer firefighters attending the Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Convention business meeting Tuesday, Aug. 13 in Arnold will hear about the nation’s first special communications network for police, fire and emergency services crews.

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) overseeing the communications network selected AT&T to provide the broadband network.

Michael Varney, FirstNet director of field operations for the Northeast, said the network “won’t replace regular radio communications,” but will make it easier for participating public safety crews to communicate during major manmade or natural disasters.

Jim Pena, who works with AT&T’s legislative affairs, said emergency crews would communicate by cellphones or tablets.

Varney said FirstNet subscribers will be able to install a subscriber identification module, better known as a SIM card, in one of more than 100 types of communications devices, including smartphones and tablets.

The network was established by Congress. In November 2017, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said the state was joining 25 others that had signed up for the system. All states and territories have signed on since then, according to AT&T.

Wolf pointed out that FirstNet and AT&T “do not need any additional state or federal funding to build and operate the network. It is a fully funded, self-sustaining network. With it, Pennsylvania’s public safety responders will receive specialized services above and beyond what they have today with the commercial carrier network.”

FirstNet spokeswoman Candice Appiakorang said Wednesday that the company is “a year-and-a-half out from a five-year buildout based on state plans that were approved by the federal government.”

She said the buildout “will increase coverage and capacity for first responders by either building new towers or expanding existing services.”

FirstNet announced Wednesday in Warrenton, N.C., that two new cell sites will “bring increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders throughout this rural community. We expect network expansion as we continue to buildout the network in Pennsylvania and across the United States.”

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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