First responders in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland are receiving a boost in their wireless communications with the addition of purpose-built cell sites and other network enhancements statewide, according to information released by the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority, an independent authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The FirstNet Authority (FA) said the new infrastructure also would improve connectivity for residents and visitors. An FA statement said the FirstNet public safety broadband wireless network supports public safety agencies’ COVID-19 disease pandemic emergency response.
Purpose-built FirstNet cell sites and other network enhancements form part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place across the three states. FA said that the FirstNet network is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. The authority is building the network with AT&T in a public-private partnership.
“That’s why AT&T has a responsibility unlike any other network provider,” the FA statement reads. “And unlike commercial networks, FirstNet provides real, dedicated mobile broadband when needed with always-on priority and preemption for first responders. This helps ensure the states’ first responders connect to the critical information they need — every day and in every emergency. Plus, it’s giving first responders unthrottled access to the nation’s fastest overall network experience.” In describing the network experience, FA cited AT&T’s analysis of Ookla Speedtest Intelligence data median download speeds for the first quarter of 2020.
Building upon AT&T’s current and planned investments in the three states, the FA said, the agency is actively extending the reach of the FirstNet network to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they need. FA said network construction is well ahead of schedule.
In Delaware, eight new FirstNet cell sites, identified by state and public safety stakeholders as priority locations, have launched in the following communities:
Kent County: A new site in Kenton provides coverage to the town and helps fill the gap between Pearsons Corner and Cheswold. A new site in Felton provides coverage in rural Delaware, covering Sandtown, Petersburg and Route 12 between Felton and the Delaware-Maryland border.
New Castle County: A new site in Newark improves coverage at the University of Delaware Science & Technology building, as well as boosting capacity at athletic facilities along S. College Avenue. A new site in Townsend improves coverage around scenic Highway 9 and Saw Mill Branch Road.
Sussex County: A new site in Milford improves coverage in and around downtown Milford. A new site in Milton (adjacent to Dogfish Head Brewery) boosts coverage for the retail business area along Main Street and residential homes in the downtown area of Milton. A new site in Dagsboro enhances coverage along Routes 113 and 26 and in downtown Dagsboro. In addition, a new site in Millsboro improves coverage along Routes 24 and 23.
“I am pleased to see FirstNet staying true to its promise of expanding coverage in our area with the new site builds,” said Jay Jones, president of the Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association. “As a third-generation firefighter, this technology and service brings us to a whole new level of fire suppression. We have been able to get reliable coverage in areas where we have previously struggled. With 60 volunteer fire companies in the state, knowing our members can easily subscribe to public safety’s network. It’s changing the game for us.”
State and local agencies in the three states on FirstNet also have continuous access to a nationwide fleet of 76 land-based and airborne deployable network assets. These portable cell sites can be deployed either for planned events or in emergencies at no additional charge. FirstNet Response Operations — led by a group of former first responders — guides the deployment of the FirstNet deployable assets based on the needs of public safety.
In its information release, FA said it has expanded the benefits of FirstNet for state and local agencies, spanning law enforcement, fire, emergency medical service (EMS), health care, hospital emergency departments, emergency management and 911 operations. According to FA, these agencies can stay up-to-date with free smartphones for life at no additional cost on their FirstNet Mobile — Unlimited plans. The federal authority said this means first responders across agencies of all sizes will have affordable access to their network for decades to come.
“Delaware’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents,” said Denis Dunn, president of AT&T Delaware. “And with FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting. We couldn’t be more pleased to support the public safety mission and bring the state’s first responders and residents greater access to the connectivity they need. Working with public safety, we’ve made FirstNet nimble, adaptable and ready to scale for even the most severe situations as we’re seeing currently with COVID-19.”
The COVID-19 health crisis illustrates precisely why public safety fought for the creation of FirstNet, according to the FA. “Where public safety goes, we go,” the agency’s statement reads. “We’ve answered the call for tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and other natural disasters. But with COVID-19, it is like experiencing a perpetual emergency in every community across the country. Public safety’s network is being tested in a completely new way, and it’s hitting the mark.”
Edward Parkinson, the FA’s CEO, said that the FirstNet network is a dedicated broadband platform for public safety, by public safety. He said the federal agency worked hand-in-hand with the three states’ public safety communities to understand their needs for the network. The network enhancements are a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality, Parkinson said.
In Pennsylvania, the FA launched new cell sites in the following communities:
Huntingdon County: This new site provides coverage around Broad Top City and along SR-913 and Broad St.
Lycoming County: A new site offers new coverage in Barbours, as well as Route 87 throughout the area.
“FirstNet has opened up a new level of data transmission service for the public safety world,” said Rich Caschera of the North Central Regional Task Force. “Loyalsock Volunteer Fire Company No.1 enjoys the data speeds and call preemption service in the regions command unit as well as our tablet used in our EMS and Fire units. We enjoy a great working relationship with the FirstNet Pennsylvania Sate Interop Team and the FirstNet support team at AT&T. We saved on costs and gained service.”
Sullivan County: This new site in Forksville enhances coverage along East Bear Mountain Road and Route 154 as well as surrounding areas.
The latest group of FirstNet sites to be publicly announced in Pennsylvania followed Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to opt into FirstNet in November 2017, to advance its public safety broadband communications with FirstNet.
“My team worked to help identify the areas of Pennsylvania where we needed more mobile broadband coverage for our first responders,” said Pennsylvania State Police Major Diane M. Stackhouse, Gov. Wolf’s appointed FirstNet single point of contact for the network. “These new sites are good news for public safety in Pennsylvania. I look forward to continued collaboration with the FA and AT&T as the buildout continues.”
In Maryland, eight new FirstNet cell sites have launched in the following communities:
Allegany County: This new site in Cumberland offers new coverage around Brown Ave. and Adelaide Ave. near the Army National Guard Recruiting Station.
Calvert County: A new site in Huntingtown provides new coverage around Wilson Road and All Day Road.
Charles County: This new site provides new coverage in Southern Charles County, including Rock Point and Cobb Island.
Dorchester County: The new site in Church Creek improves coverage around Golden Hill Road near South Dorchester Elementary School.
Garrett County: This new site in Oakland provides new coverage around Sang Sung Road and Bray School Road
Queen Anne’s County: A new site in on Romancoke Road in Stevensville provides new coverage on the south end of Kent Island.
St. Mary’s County: A new site in Hollywood improves coverage along White Elm Court and Wildewood Parkway.
Wicomico County: This new site in Salisbury boosts coverage around Firetower Road and Nanticoke Rd.
“I am excited to see FirstNet expanding coverage and tower sites in the state of Maryland,” said Pete Landon, the director of the Maryland governor’s Office of Homeland Security. “As a retired lieutenant colonel of the Maryland State Police and still an end user, I continue to work with allied law enforcement agencies and first responders across the state. Given Maryland’s diverse geography, from beaches to mountains and the vast Chesapeake Bay, FirstNet’s innovative technology brings us to a whole new level of connectivity and reliability.”
Source: FirstNet Authority