POLICE Magazine

FEB 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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18 POLICE FEBRUARY 2019 you look back at some of the issues of this magazine from the last decade, you'll see a lot of discussion about com- munications interoperability. e primary concern at the time was finding a way for different public safety agencies to commu- nicate over the radio with each other at critical incidents such as active shooters and terror attacks. Such concerns about public safety communications during critical incidents and especially during the 9/11 attacks led to proposals for establishing a ded- icated public safety communications network. e radio frequencies for a public safety net- work became available about 10 years ago when all American TV channels were transitioned to digital signals from analog signals. Much of that spectrum went to other uses, but one band was set aside for public safety use. In 2012 the First Responder Network Au- thority (FirstNet) was established to oversee the 20MHz of ra- dio spectrum that Congress has allocated to a dedicated public safety network. As part of its management of the network, First- Net held an auction to find a major cellular provider to build the network. AT&T won that auction and FirstNet went online in 2017. Since then 50 states, five territories, and the District of Co- lumbia have authorized their agencies to sign on with FirstNet. And FirstNet is not the only option for dedicated public safe- ty communications. Last year another major player entered the first responder broadband cellular market. Verizon is now offering an al- ternative network for agencies and officers that want priority high-speed cellular. FIRSTNET T he FirstNet core went online early last year. Since then, more than 5,000 first respond- er agencies have signed up for the service for a total of more than 425,000 connections (users). Individual officers can sign up for FirstNet at their local AT&T stores or online. Harry Markley, law enforcement senior ad- visor for the First Responder Network Author- ity, says agencies and officers are still asking one overriding question about the network: "What is it?" he says with a laugh. "We are still trying to get the message out of what it is and how it works." First responder networks provide security and priority, so officers can connect and access data even when congestion means others can't. First Responder Networks In an emergency when the cellular systems are overwhelmed, public safety priority networks can provide you with voice communications and high-speed data transfer. H David Griffith If PHOTOS: FIRST RESPONDER NET WORK AUTHORIT Y

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