AT&T to build broadband network for first responders

Who is Wilbur Ross?
Who is Wilbur Ross?

More than a decade after the 9/11 Commission recommended creating a public safety network for first responders, the government is moving forward with a plan to make it happen.

The Department of Commerce has selected AT&T (T, Tech30) for a contract to build out a national broadband network to help first responders communicate and coordinate in times of crisis.

FirstNet, an independent group at the Commerce Department, will kick in $6.5 billion over the next five years and provide broadband spectrum. AT&T will invest $40 billion over the 25-year contract to build and operate the network.

"Today is a landmark day for public safety across the country and is a prime example of the incredible progress we can make through public-private partnerships," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a press event Thursday.

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The origin of this plan dates back to the attacks on September 11, 2001, when emergency responders failed to communicate with other departments using different radio frequencies.

The 9/11 Commission later called on Congress to set aside radio spectrum for public safety.

"This was the last major plank in the 9/11 Commission findings that had yet to be implemented," Congressman Greg Walden said at the event Thursday.

The new public safety network is intended to let first responders share critical information between agencies and within their own departments in all 50 states.

(AT&T has agreed to acquire Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. The deal is pending regulatory approval.)

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