Preston County, West Virginia’s first responders will soon be receiving a major boost in their access to broadband communications with the addition of a new, purpose-built cell site. The site, located in Fellowsville, is part of the FirstNet network expansion taking place in West Virginia, which is bringing increased coverage, capacity and capability to first responders across the state. The new FirstNet site will give Preston County’s first responders access to the fastest overall network experience.
The FirstNet network is the nationwide, wireless communications platform dedicated to America’s first responders and public safety community. 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. FirstNet is being built with AT&T in a public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority), an independent agency within the federal government.
To ensure AT&T is bringing coverage where first responders need it most, the FirstNet platform is being built with direct feedback from state and public safety officials. Based along Route 50, the Preston County site location was identified as a top spot where rural connectivity challenges exist in West Virginia. This critical infrastructure is being built to increase network coverage and capacity to better support first responders as they serve and protect residents and visitors in the area.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and the representatives of the FirstNet Authority joined AT&T at the Preston County 911 Center to celebrate the new FirstNet cell site groundbreaking.
“I have long advocated for rural broadband expansion to support our communities and first responders,” Capito said. “This and other sites still in the works will help further extend rural coverage in a way that benefits both public safety and the broader community. When emergencies happen, it is critical that our firefighters, law enforcement officers, paramedics, 911 telecommunicators and emergency managers all have the communications tools they need to achieve their mission: keeping themselves, West Virginians and our communities safe.”
Preston County Commission President Dave Price said that he is pleased to see FirstNet staying true to its promise of expanding coverage in our area with the new site build. “As an early adopter of FirstNet, we’ve already experienced the early benefits that this dedicated system is bringing to West Virginia’s first responders,” said. “Plus, it’s paving the way for new capabilities and innovations in the way we handle emergencies and serve our community. It’s a true game-changer, and this site will help bring us the reliable connectivity needed to take advantage of it.”
This is the first new FirstNet site to be publicly announced in West Virginia following the governor’s decision to advance the state’s public safety broadband communications with FirstNet. The site is being constructed using the FirstNet Band 14 spectrum and other spectrum bands in the AT&T commercial spectrum portfolio. Additional new FirstNet sites are underway, and Band 14 has been and is actively being added to existing sites across West Virginia.
FirstNet Authority’s board chair, Edward Horowitz, said that FirstNet is a dedicated broadband network for public safety, by public safety. “The FirstNet Authority worked hand-in-hand with West Virginia’s public safety community to understand their needs for the network,” he said. “This cell site is a prime example of how that input and feedback is becoming reality. We look forward to supporting Preston County first responders’ use of FirstNet to help them save lives and protect their community.”
In addition to further elevating Public Safety’s connected experience in support of their emergency response, the new site will also help improve the overall coverage experience for AT&T wireless customers in Preston County. Communities can take advantage of the AT&T spectrum bands and Band 14 when additional capacity is available.
Andy Feeney, president of AT&T West Virginia, said that West Virginia’s first responders deserve reliable coverage across the state to help them effectively and efficiently address incidents. “With FirstNet, that’s exactly what they’re getting,” he said. “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.”
The cell site isn’t the only connectivity enhancement Preston County’s Public Safety community will benefit from if they subscribe to FirstNet. A FirstNet Satellite Cell on Light Truck (SatCOLT) was also on display during the cell site’s groundbreaking celebration.
The SatCOLT is a large, heavy-duty portable cell site that connects via satellite, not fiber. It’s part of the nationwide fleet of 75 deployable network assets available to FirstNet subscribers at no additional charge. Public safety agencies on FirstNet can request the equipment for added support during planned events or emergencies. The deployable network asset is designed to keep FirstNet subscribers connected to the information they need, no matter where their mission takes them, allowing first responders to make rescues, communicate and coordinate their emergency response or aid in recovery, even in the most remote parts of the state.
April Ward is senior media relations advisor at the First Responder Network Authority.