What is FirstNet?

The First Responder Network Authority, "FirstNet", will be the first high-speed wireless, broadband data network dedicated to public safety.

FirstNet will be a single, nationwide network that facilitates communication for public safety users during emergencies and on the job every day. Think of FirstNet as a bigger, more reliable, secure and resilient “wireless pipe.” This new network will be public safety-grade, providing access to applications and coverage where public safety needs it most.

FirstNet is being designed to improve communication among local, state, regional, tribal and national emergency services personnel. The broadband data network will help save lives and protect the health and safety of all Americans. It will be built using Long Term Evolution (LTE), the most advanced wireless technology available today. FirstNet fulfills a fundamental need of the public safety community for a single, mission-critical communications system enabling force multiplier effectiveness.

Overseen by representatives of public safety, government and the wireless industry, FirstNet is an independent entity within the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

What is Purpose of FirstNet?

FirstNet exists to serve first responders and the public safety community with dedicated, highly reliable, nationwide wireless data services, applications and user devices, at the lowest possible costs.


What Role Does the First Responder Network Authority Play?

The "Spectrum Act" legislation created the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), an independent authority established within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). FirstNet is charged with establishing a nationwide public safety broadband network based on a single, national network architecture. FirstNet has the authority to take all actions necessary to ensure the design, construction, deployment, and operations of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN). FirstNet will consult with Federal, State, tribal, and local public safety entities as part of their efforts. 

FirstNet is headed by a 15-member board comprised of representatives from public safety; local, state and federal government; and the wireless industry. FirstNet will also establish network deployment phases that will include substantial rural coverage milestones for each phase of the network construction and deployment. FirstNet will look at special considerations for areas or regions with unique homeland security or national security needs. FirstNet will consult with a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) in each state, designated by the Governor of that state. 

The Spectrum Act legislation provides a $135 Million State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) to be administered through the NTIA. These funds are set aside by NTIA to assist State, regional, tribal, and local jurisdictions to identify, plan, and implement the most efficient and effective means to use and integrate infrastructure, equipment, and other architecture associated with the NPSBN to satisfy the wireless broadband and data services needs of the jurisdictions. A 20% local match will be required for any grant funds awarded by NTIA. The State of Colorado Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT) serves as the coordinating agency for implementation of the SLIGP funds.


Creation of FirstNet Timeline and Activities

  • Public Safety Priority - The passage of legislation to reallocate spectrum was top legislative priority of every public safety association in the United States growing out of the tragedies of 9/11 and Katrina. On September 11, 1996, five years before the 9/11 terrorist attack which occurred in 2001, the Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee (PSWAC) released its final report, which stated, “unless immediate measures are taken to alleviate spectrum shortfall and promote interoperability, public safety will not be able to adequately discharge their obligation to protect life and property in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective manner.”
  • Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 - Law created First Responder Network Authority or FirstNet, an independent authority under NTIA/Dept. of Commerce.
    • 700 MHz "D Block" spectrum was reallocated to public safety; License for public safety broadband given to “FirstNet."
  • FirstNet Funding - $2 billion immediately available and a total of $7 billion that will eventually be allocated to FirstNet for network construction.
  • State Planning Funds - Up to $135 million in State and Local Implementation Grant Program (SLIGP) is provided by the NTIA to help State planning efforts in support of FirstNet consultation.
  • Opt In/Opt Out Provision - States have the opportunity to opt-out of the FirstNet network deployment plan and develop their own Radio Access Network (RAN), which must connect to the FirstNet core, with with FCC and NTIA approval.

What will be possible with FirstNet?

Initially FirstNet will be used to send data, video, images and text and make cellular-quality voice calls. Users will get fast access to information they need to meet their mission. Unlike commercial wireless networks, FirstNet will allow for priority access among public safety users. FirstNet will also give incident commanders and local officials control over the network so, for example, they can assign users and talk groups and determine who can access applications. 

Why was FirstNet created?

After 9/11, the public safety community fought hard to fulfill the 9/11 Commission’s last standing recommendation and convince Congress that it needed a dedicated, reliable network to provide advanced data communications capabilities nationwide. During emergencies, public safety requires priority service and preemption.

How will FirstNet benefit public safety?

Using FirstNet will improve situational awareness and decision-making. Just as Smartphones have changed our personal lives, FirstNet devices and applications will ultimately change the way public safety operates.  FirstNet will save time during emergencies when seconds count. FirstNet will save money for states by leveraging nationwide purchasing power and scale economies. Using FirstNet can help save lives, solve crimes and keep our communities and emergency responders safer.

How will states and agencies participate in the buildout of FirstNet?

To make FirstNet a nationwide network, all states must have a local RAN that connects to the FirstNet core. FirstNet is responsible for working through the designated state SPOC to consult with states, local communities, tribal governments and first responders to gather requirements for developing its RAN deployment plan. If the FirstNet plan is accepted by a state, FirstNet will construct the RAN. If a state prefers to build its own RAN, the state must secure FCC and NTIA approval and may seek funding support from NTIA. State-built RANs must meet FirstNet security, hardening and interoperability requirements and connect to the FirstNet core.

What will users pay for FirstNet services?

FirstNet intends to offer services at a compelling and competitive cost to attract millions of public safety users and make FirstNet self-sustaining. The use of FirstNet services and applications will be voluntary. The costs for FirstNet services and devices have not yet been set.

First Responder Network Authority Singular Focus

The First Responder Network Authority shall hold the single public safety wireless license and take all actions necessary to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of the NPSBN.

What is the Purpose of SCIPs?

Statewide Communication Interoperability Plans (SCIPs) are locally-driven, multi-jurisdictional, and multi-disciplinary statewide plans to enhance emergency communications. Our SCIP will outline and define the current and future vision for communications interoperability within the municipalities, counties, local and tribal regions in the State of Colorado. In addition, the Colorado SCIP will align our emergency response agencies with the goals, objectives, and initiatives for achieving that vision.

SCIPs are living documents that will be updated on an annual basis, or as frequently as needed. The SCIP provides strategic direction and alignment for those responsible for interoperable communications at the State, regional, and local levels.