In this year’s Annual Report to Congress, the First Responder Network Authority, or FirstNet Authority, celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Through strong advocacy from the public safety community and with the bipartisan support of our elected leaders in the executive branch and Congress, the FirstNet Authority was created in 2012. Today, the FirstNet Authority is actively fulfilling Congress’s vision of a dedicated, interoperable nationwide public safety broadband network.
The FirstNet Authority’s Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2021, “A Decade of Accomplishments,” highlights our rich history and successes during the first ten years of the FirstNet program, in addition to detailing our operations, activities, financial condition, and accomplishments over the last fiscal year.
FirstNet’s 10th Anniversary
What began as legislation with ambitious goals has, ten years later, grown into the only dedicated nationwide public safety broadband network, which serves our first responders in 19,500 public safety agencies and organizations in every state and territory in the United States. The active participation of the public safety community in every step of FirstNet’s evolution has led in a very real way to a network built for public safety by public safety.
Over the past 10 years, the FirstNet Authority has worked to fulfil Congress’ vision to create a nationwide public safety broadband network for first responders. Today, FirstNet not only solves historic communication challenges, but the network also provides reliable and adaptable tools and services to help first responders respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.
Fiscal Year 2021: A record of success
The FirstNet Authority’s ongoing commitment to public safety
Since our inception, the FirstNet Authority has worked to build trusted and productive relationships with the public safety community. Last year, the FirstNet Authority conducted 1,695 engagements with more than 40,000 first responders to learn about their experiences using FirstNet, their operational needs, and how they want to see the network evolve. This feedback serves as an ongoing, direct connection to first responders and provides additional insights on FirstNet’s priorities and future network investments.
FirstNet available where and when you need it most
Now with over 19,500 public safety subscribers using 3 million device connections, FirstNet helps first responders manage more daily operations, planned events, and emergency situations.
Last year, more public safety agencies turned to FirstNet for innovative coverage solutions to extend network use where and when they need it most. In response, the FirstNet Authority invested in the network’s deployable program, which grew from 70 assets to a fleet of over 100 ground-based and air-based solutions.
Additionally, individual agencies and states now have the option to purchase their own Compact Rapid Deployables (CRDs) for quick and reliable service. CRDs use FirstNet cellular and WiFi coverage via satellite making it an ideal solution to respond to natural disasters or use in hard-to-reach places.
Innovating FirstNet for public safety
As FirstNet continues to evolve, the FirstNet Authority collaborates with industry, public safety experts, and our partners at AT&T to foster innovative technologies and meet public safety’s changing needs.
This year, FirstNet offered public safety users more than 380 approved devices along with over 180 FirstNet Certified™ apps in the FirstNet App Catalog. As the list grows, first responders can be assured of steady access to real time information that significantly improves the safety and security of our communities.
FirstNet is also advancing Z-axis technology, which allows incident commanders to see personnel’s altitude on a map. The FirstNet Authority is proud to deliver services like Z-axis that public safety considers a key capability for effective response.
The FirstNet Authority board also approved funds to provide for initial upgrades to enable 5G network capabilities. 5G is expected to drive major increases in the quantity and types of connected devices for FirstNet users.
FirstNet oversight supports operations and growth
Part of our role at the FirstNet Authority is to ensure that our network partner AT&T delivers on the terms of the contract to create a network for public safety. In FY 2021, AT&T met all contract milestones and FirstNet remained on schedule to meet its initial five-year build-out plan. We will continue to work with AT&T to ensure the network continues to grow, expand, and meet the changing needs of public safety in the years to come.
FirstNet’s Path to Reauthorization and License Renewal
Two major events coincide with FirstNet’s 10-year anniversary, both of which impact the future of FirstNet.
First, the Government Accountability Office is required to report to Congress regarding the existing 15-year sunset provision in FirstNet’s authorizing legislation, and whether FirstNet should be reauthorized. Delivered in February of 2022, that report concluded that Congress should consider reauthorizing FirstNet and ensure that key statutory and contract responsibilities are addressed before the 2027 sunset. Legislation, H.R. 6768, has been introduced to amend the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 to reauthorize the First Responder Network Authority.
Second, FirstNet’s 10-year license for Band 14 spectrum, set aside by Congress for FirstNet in its enabling statute, must be renewed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to maintain the network.
Local, state, tribal, and federal first responders across the country depend on the FirstNet network each day. The FirstNet Authority looks forward to discussing our history and accomplishments with stakeholders in public safety, Congress, and executive branch agencies. In partnership, we can plan critical next steps in the service of the public safety community nationwide.
A look to the future
The FirstNet Authority is proud of its many accomplishments that have helped build FirstNet into an operational, interoperable network for public safety. For the past 10 years, the FirstNet Authority has been honored to serve our nation’s first responders and help build public safety’s own specialized communications network. As we look ahead to FY 2022, the FirstNet Authority is fully committed to advancing and improving FirstNet to support the millions of first responders who depend on the network to serve their communities.
Learn more about how FirstNet is transforming public safety communications — contact your local FirstNet Authority Public Safety Advisor and sign up for our discipline newsletters. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for the latest FirstNet Authority updates.
For information on FirstNet products and services or to access your subscriber account, visit FirstNet.com.