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Virginia Becomes First State to Opt-in for FirstNet

Dan Eggleston, IAFC director-at-large and fire chief of the Albemarle County (Va.) Fire and Rescue; Kevin McGee, chair of the IAFC Terrorism & Homeland Security Committee and chief of Prince William County (Va.) Fire Rescue, and Mark Light, IAFC CEO/executive director, joined Gov. Terence R. McAuliffe today at a ceremonial letter signing declaring that the Commonwealth of Virginia will allow the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T to proceed with the deployment of the of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network in Virginia. The event took place at FirstNet headquarters in Reston, Va.

Here's the governor's announcement:

Virginia Will Become the First State to Opt-In to FirstNet’s National Public Safety Broadband Network
RICHMOND – Governor McAuliffe today signed a letter of intent declaring that the Commonwealth of Virginia will allow the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and AT&T to proceed with the deployment of the of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network in Virginia. Following today’s letter signing, Governor McAuliffe will hold a ceremonial letter signing July 11 at FirstNet Headquarters, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive Reston, Va. at 1:30 p.m.

FirstNet is the result of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that a dedicated public safety interoperable, nationwide mobile broadband network be created to enable continued communication during a disaster or other large-scale event. The Governor’s decision marks a significant step in the realization of this recommendation. 

“I am proud that Virginia is the first state in the nation to opt in to this program that will help our first responders communicate during times of emergency,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe. “While this is only the beginning of the process, I look forward to the continued coordinated efforts among Virginia, FirstNet, and AT&T to provide public safety officials with innovative new technologies that will help them keep Virginians safe.” 

“Public safety has spent years advocating for a nationwide network following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and today, Governor McAuliffe is helping to answer that call by joining the FirstNet network,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth. “FirstNet will be able to put the technology citizens use every day—like smartphones and apps—into the hands of Virginia’s first responders, modernizing how they help save lives and protect residents while creating a single, interoperable system across the Commonwealth and across the country.”

Public safety subscribers to AT&T will be able to take advantage of priority service on AT&T’s existing LTE network nationwide. Localities will have full local control to identify their responders and assign priority as needed based on the circumstances. By the end of 2017, public safety subscribers will also have preemption capability on the network, helping to further ensure their ability to communicate.

“Allowing FirstNet and AT&T to move forward with the deployment of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network in Virginia moves public safety closer to the reliable, mission critical broadband service that is needed for evolving threats,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.

“I am extremely pleased that Virginia is choosing to opt into the network,” said Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers “Access to the network will provide us with additional tools to help ensure we can do our job when the time comes.”
The Commonwealth will continue to work with FirstNet and AT&T and our local partners to provide feedback in order to ensure a viable network that will enhance public safety communications throughout Virginia.

Once completed in all states, it will be the first nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to America’s first responders.

Providing dedicated, interoperable, mission-critical data communications is a high priority for the IAFC. The IAFC believes FirstNet will enhance emergency-response operations throughout the fire and emergency service for years to come.

The IAFC has made it clear that the ability of a single communication network to dispatch EMS and fire personnel, a medical helicopter and other emergency responders from different jurisdictions all at the same time while enabling video, text and data communications at broadband speeds will save critical minutes when it matters most and save lives.

“The IAFC is fully committed to continuing to communicate the importance of FirstNet to the incoming administration, members of Congress and the states,” said John Sinclair, IAFC president and chairman of the board. “We will continue to work to ensure that everyone understands that FirstNet is a high priority of the IAFC and the entire fire and emergency service.”

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