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The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) is an independent organization within the US Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Created by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, FirstNet is charged with building and maintaining a dedicated public safety broadband network that will resolve communications challenges faced by emergency responders, as recommended by the 911 Commission.
Built on a single reliable and interoperable platform, the network will provide first responders with mission-critical, high-speed data services (location information, images, video and maps) to supplement the voice capabilities of land mobile radio (LMR) networks. Utilizing the most advanced long-term evolution (LTE) wireless technology as well as existing infrastructure when possible, the network will support faster, better-coordinated emergency response across local jurisdictions; state, territory and tribal lines; and US borders.
With an authorized budget of $7 billion, FirstNet will build and maintain the core broadband network plus the radio access network (RAN) of each state that opts to participate in the federal program, realizing costs through sales of radio spectrum, subscriber fees, and fees from excess network capacity leases. States that opt out of the program must seek FirstNet approval to build their own RAN, paying for network construction, access to the core, and ongoing maintenance.
National Timeline Update:
"An AT&T executive said that the company expects to reach 60% completion of the FirstNet broadband network by the end of 2019. That 60% completion is the next milestone laid out in AT&T’s contract with FirstNet and would trigger a second reimbursement payment of more than $1 billion, said AT&T Chief Financial Officer (CFO) John Stephens at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference." Read more about this milestone here.
Following an estimated 10-year buildout, the network will potentially connect over 5 million public safety users nationwide. Although use of the network will be voluntary, FirstNet plans to offer subscriptions at a compelling, competitive cost, establishing the network as self-sustaining.
To launch the program, FirstNet has awarded $135 million in funding to states through the State and Local Implementation Program (SLIGP), $1.04 million of which has be awarded to Maine. These initial grants are to be used to determine state network coverage and user requirements, and to develop a state network plan based on these requirements. During this state, FirstNet collaborates with each to create a plan that ensures the state proposed network meets national public safety standards, and submits the final plan to the state governor for the pivotal opt-in opt-out decision. Once planning is completed nationwide, FirstNet will move forward with implementation (expected by mid-2018).