(TNS) — Connecticut has joined 34 other states that have agreed to opt into a national plan to deliver a broadband communication network designed exclusively for first responders.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced his decision Friday to have the state become part of the FirstNet wireless broadband network. Federal law requires each state to determine whether it wanted to opt into the network, which is being developed by AT&T, or build a network of its own.
Malloy said his decision was based upon the idea that “when disaster strikes, communication is critical to the safety of Connecticut residents.”
“After careful analysis and consideration of the FirstNet proposal, it became clear that opting in was in the best interests of our state and our first responders,” Malloy said in a statement. “This network will enhance communications for Connecticut’s first responders by providing priority access during disasters or emergencies.”
John Emra, president of AT&T’s Connecticut operations, said the genesis of FirstNet came out of the lessons learned during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“Cops and firemen couldn’t talk to each other because their communication systems weren’t interoperable,” Emra said. “And during the Sandy Hook shootings, the cellphone networks got jammed up. What were doing here is revolutionary; there isn’t a wireless broadband network for first responders right now.”
AT&T is using its existing wireless network as a starting point and beefing it up to meet the needs of first responders, he said.
“Each first responder will have a wireless device that will have priority and preemption capability,” Emra said. “The devices will have special chip that will enable them to kick calls of the network if necessary. First responders will never be unable to access the network ever again.”
Over the next five years, AT&T will be adding additional wireless spectrum to its network that will be dedicated for the use of first responders, he said. It will also work on developing specialized wireless broadband applications for first responders.
“We have a 25-year contract to operate this, so we will continue to enhance it over the life of the contract,” Emra said.
©2017 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.