Warren County, N.C., Gets Public Safety Broadband Cell Sites

Warren County received two cell sites, which will be placed in Warrenton and near Lake Gaston, that give first responders “increased coverage, capacity and capability” when handling emergencies.

by Charlotte Wray, Henderson Daily Dispatch / August 12, 2019

(TNS) — Thanks to a new, nationwide broadband initiative to bolster public safety communications, Warren County, N.C., first responders will now have access to a more reliable wireless network when carrying out emergency operations.

Warren County received two cell sites, which will be placed in Warrenton, N.C., and near Lake Gaston, that give first responders “increased coverage, capacity and capability” when handling emergencies.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield joined state Rep. Terry Garrison, Warren County officials and first responders, and FirstNet representatives to celebrate the new sites in a news conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Warrenton Rural Fire Department Chief and Mayor Walter Gardner opened the meeting, thanking Butterfield for helping bring broadband access to the rural parts of the state by supporting the legislation behind FirstNet.

Butterfield represents North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, made up of 14 counties, but has ties to Warren County from working in the area for his first job out of law school.

“Warren County is a classic example of a rural community that has the desire to increase its infrastructure and economic vitality,” Butterfield told the Dispatch after the meeting. “What we see today is the beginning, I believe, of substantial innovative investment, not only in Warren County, but the region.”

Broadband access is imperative for law enforcement and public safety officials monitoring crowded events, responding to emergencies or preparing for hazardous weather, like the hurricanes that hit last fall.

This network is designed with “super security” to resist physical and cyber threats, and withstand power outages.

“When disaster strikes and networks can be congested, first responders remain first in line — with priority and preemption across our network at no additional charge,” a news release from AT&T said.

This allows first responders to more easily work with other agencies, states, or local rescue teams.

“Backed by Congress, it’s designed to strengthen and modernize public safety communications, helping first responders connect to the critical information they need — every day and in every emergency,” the release stated. “FirstNet is being built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority, an independent agency within the federal government.”

The Warrenton cell site will be located on Community Lane, and was selected to resolve a longstanding coverage gap. The other will be placed along N.C. 903 near Lake Gaston, providing coverage to public safety officials out and near the lake, as well as visitors.

The network is intended for public-safety responders, but the expanded coverage will enhance the current availability for AT&T customers, according to the news release.

Though these sites are fixed, there is a nationwide fleet of 75 portable sites, a FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT), that can be distributed for added support during planned events or emergencies. This means broadband internet can be deployed to the most remote parts of the state that may not have permanent coverage in place.

On Wednesday, officials celebrated the occasion with a ceremonial ribbon cutting in front of a SatCOLT, a symbolic representation of the new sites.

©2019 Henderson Daily Dispatch, N.C. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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