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While the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has been around for four years now, many are not aware of what it is and what it is trying to accomplish. This blog will cover some background on FirstNet and the National Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN).

FirstNet logoWhat is FirstNet and the NPSBN?

FirstNet is a new federal authority that was created by Congress in 2012 to address several unmet recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report. This legislation was the result of years of joint lobbying by police, fire, EMS, and others that identified reliable data communications in the field as a critical need of first responders.

As a result, FirstNet is responsible for the deployment, operation, and maintenance of the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. This network (the NPSBN) will be a 4G LTE wireless broadband network operating on 20MHz of prime dedicated wireless spectrum. Once deployed, the FirstNet network promises to provide priority to public safety users, resiliency during emergencies and disasters, and reliable coverage where first responders operate.

Who is going to use the NPSBN?

First responders will be the primary users of this network, but the decision to use the network will be made separately by each public safety organization. In Massachusetts, this could include upwards of 100,000 primary users representing:

  • 360+ Local Fire Departments/Districts
  • 350+ Local Police Departments
  • 14 Sheriff’s Offices
  • 80+ University Police Departments
  • 110+ Private and Nonprofit EMS
  • 18 Trauma Centers and numerous Emergency Departments
  • 15+ State Public Safety Agencies
  • 200+ Public-Safety Answering Points (PSAPs or 911 call centers)
  • 4 MassDOT Divisions
  • 30+ Harbormasters and Ferries
  • 2 Tribal Governments

Secondary users may include organizations like municipal public works, utilities companies, and others. Excess spectrum will be available for others to use when public safety users do not need it.

Let us know your questions.

If you have topics or questions you would like us to address, email us at psbo@state.ma.us. You can find out more about FirstNet and the NPSBN on our web site at mass.gov/psbo.

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