Rockford's Independent Newspaper

State joins FirstNet broadband network for first responders

Illinois has opted-in to a federal program that is pulling the state’s public safety phone traffic onto a separate broadband network.

FirstNet, an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce, develops broadband networks across the U.S. for first responders.

Chrissie Coon, public safety liaison with FirstNet, said an example of a separate network’s importance came after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

“When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and [had] a parade in downtown Chicago, there was almost 5 million people in one concentrated area,” Coon said. “That can overwhelm commercial cellular networks.”

Coon said FirstNet can help first responders to keep receiving calls during high call-volume situations, such as victory parades or natural disasters.

“When those commercial networks are overwhelmed, and text messages and phone calls cannot get through, your police, fire and medical personnel will be able to communicate,” Coon said.

FirstNet’s networks will place no additional taxes on residents, Coon said. FirstNet and its private/public partner, AT&T, will bear the cost of developing the network throughout Illinois.

Coon said the program also can make it easier for first responders to communicate at longer distances and between different disciplines.

“This network will also give them the ability to communicate across geographical jurisdictions and different disciplines within those jurisdictions,” Coon said.

Although Coon said residents might not notice a difference, first responders and public safety officials should be able to operate more efficiently behind-the-scenes.

“Hopefully it becomes a seamless solution that residents do not even realize it is kind of happening behind the scenes, but their public safety will be able to operate more efficiently and safer,” Coon said.

–Illinois News Network

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