By Tracy G. Trott, Colonel (Ret)
I have to admit that when I was first exposed to D Block, or what would become the FirstNet network, as the Colonel of the Tennessee Highway Patrol (2010-2018) I was skeptical at best. There would never have been enough money to fund the task, the commitment would change, or priorities would move onto the next “best” thing. In other words, it would never happen in my lifetime. Then I was appointed Tennessee’s point of contact and planning moved forward. State plans developed and momentum increased. FirstNet became a reality to the surprise of many of us. All states opted in, the RFP was created and the contract was awarded to AT&T. First responders were going to get their own broadband network as detailed and requested in the 9/11 Report.
Most police leaders do not come from an IT background. I was no different spending most of my career in field operations. Administration and technology were a necessary evil. One of my biggest fears as a Colonel was spending large amounts of money on technology that did not work or fulfill the promises made on the front end of a project. I held my breath as the THP and Motorola built a 125 million dollar radio system from 2011-2014 that came in under budget and on time. Thankfully, it worked flawlessly and fulfilled our needs at that time.
I was not that confident about D Block and FirstNet. But here we are in 2019 and so much progress has been made with over 60% of the network completed by AT&T with over 700,000 users. It is an honor to represent something that you know will save lives and protect first responders from the communication horrors of 9/11.
I have heard it said and I use this phrase now myself that “you may not be a FirstNet customer now but you will be in the future.” The product and the services are that good providing critical broadband communications to first responders with priority and preemption. I will also make this declaration. It is the only guarantee in town! No other wireless company can offer you the guaranteed services of FirstNet built by AT&T.
First and foremost, the FirstNet network is your network governed by the FirstNet Authority and subject to the requirements of the RFP contract between AT&T and the FirstNet Authority. First responders are not part of a commercial network and are guaranteed priority and preemption on the network. FirstNet is a separate network from AT&T’s commercial network with its own core and customer service. You will never be limited or throttled down with your usage for financial gain of the company.
No other wireless company can make these claims. No other company has the responsibility to live up to the RFP with the FirstNet Authority or to face huge financial penalties.
The 25 year partnership between AT&T and the FirstNet Authority is off to a great start. Building of the network is ahead of schedule and AT&T has certainly demonstrated their willingness to go above and beyond to make this special endeavor a success. There are 72 deployable assets stationed around the country to provide emergency communications, with a guaranteed 14 hour response time upon request, at no cost for FirstNet customers. Parts of the country that have recently suffered from natural disasters such as hurricanes in the southeast, have greatly benefited from this service.
I thought it would never happen but it is here and a reality for first responders. For police leaders around the country who hesitate to spend technology money, FirstNet built by AT&T is “the only guarantee in town” when it comes to broadband communications. When It means the difference between life and death for your first responders and citizens, you will want FirstNet built by AT&T on your side.
About the author: Colonel Trott is a 40 year state trooper and lead the Tennessee Highway Patrol from 2010-2018. At the time of his retirement, he was the General Chair of the IACP State and Provincial Division and a member of the IACP Executive Board.