AT&T is building out and managing the network, getting access to spectrum in exchange for letting first responders have priority use of the net in times of emergency.
States are free to adopt their own emergency networks so long as they are interoperable with FirstNet, which was created by Congress at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and funded through FCC spectrum auction proceeds.
“FirstNet will give Montana’s first responders access to the critical communications capabilities they need when seconds count and lives hang in the balance,” said Tara Thue, director, AT&T Montana, in a statement. “AT&T has invested nearly $150 million in our Montana network infrastructure over the past 3 years. With Governor [Steve] Bullock’s decision to opt-in to FirstNet, Montana will not only be able to expand and enhance communications capabilities for first responders, but the State will also be able to drive additional investment to deliver reliable, high speed wireless connections in areas with little or no connectivity today.”
Back in March, the Department of Commerce (FirstNet is an independent authority within Commerce) announced AT&T had been awarded the multi-billion-dollar, 25-year contract to build and maintain FirstNet, which was proposed well over a decade ago following communication failures during the attack's tragic aftermath.
Virginia was the first state to opt-in to the FirstNet plan.
(Photo viaFirst Responder Network Authority’s Flickr. Image uploaded on Feb. 16, 2017 and used perCreative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio.)