FirstNet looks to transform public safety

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A high-speed broadband network designed to give first responders first priority may soon come to Pennsylvania.

Following the September 11 attacks, officials say it became apparent that first responders were having a difficult time communicating with one another. Those problems led the federal government to develop the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet, a public safety system that provides police, fire and medical personnel with high-speed data.

Less than a month ago, FirstNet and AT&T sent out customized state plans with details on operations and potential infrastructure. First responders who subscribe would use a special SIM card in their phones that would put them ahead of the line when accessing the cell network.

Pennsylvania State Police spokesperson Cpl. Adam Reed says it’s no longer just the walkie-talkie type of communication.

“It’s the data the system is focusing on,” Reed said. “That data can include valuable information at the scene of an incident, whether it’s a photograph or even video.”

States have the choice of joining FirstNet. So far, only Virginia has opted in.

Reed says one way or another, an upgrade is needed.

“Anytime that we can embrace technology that’s going to keep the men and women of State Police safe and the men and women of Pennsylvania safe, it’s a win,” he said.

Pennsylvania State Police says it will review information that has been provided to them by FirstNet. It will then submit its recommendation to Gov. Tom Wolf who will make a final decision.

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