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FBI Switches Remaining Operations from Verizon to FirstNet

A $92-million, five-year agreement is the largest commitment to FirstNet by a law enforcement agency to date, and the latest development in the competition between two first-responder networks.

FBI Jacket
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced today a $92 million commitment for wireless service to the designated first responder network FirstNet, moving away from Verizon.

According to a news release today, the FBI’s new contract is the largest agreement with FirstNet by a law enforcement or first responder agency in the U.S. Created in 2012 through a public-private partnership between AT&T and the federal government, FirstNet was intended to be a nationwide, high-speed broadband network exclusively for first responders — one that wouldn’t become overwhelmed with traffic in a large-scale crisis, such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster.

Verizon has been competing with FirstNet to serve public safety customers.

AT&T Vice President of Public Safety Stacy Schwartz told IWCE’s Urgent Communications that the FBI has been using FirstNet already in some capacity, but the new five-year agreement will move the remainder of its enterprise from Verizon to FirstNet starting in 2021.

As of Sept. 30, FirstNet counted more than 14,000 federal, state and local public safety agencies as subscribers. Besides the FBI, some others in the U.S. Department of Justice include the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Antitrust Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives use FirstNet.

In competition, both FirstNet and Verizon have invested heavily in recent years to boost the profiles of their designated first-responder networks, which launched within days of each other in 2018. Verizon started a maker space for first-responder tech in Washington, D.C., in 2018 and formed a First Responder Advisory Council the following year, which has since started hosting informational events. In June this year, the First Responder Network Authority Board approved $218 million for FirstNet communication network upgrades, including 5G capabilities.