So far, seven states have opted-in to the FirstNet network. It is my hope that Governor Rick Scott will soon have Florida join them and give the members of the public safety community access to advanced tools available to protect our cities and towns.
FirstNet is the long overdue result of the communications barrier first responders experienced September 11, 2001. Following the attacks, Congress observed — as we all did — that public safety needed a network dedicated to their communications. This need continues today. For the past 16 years, public safety has continued to face the same communication issues as they did on 9/11.
When a tragedy strikes, public networks are often overworked with the high volume of calls, texts and data from people trying to contact their loved ones or emergency services. This increase of traffic can overwhelm wireless networks and disrupt communications to and from emergency responders. In a worst-case scenario, this could result in a delay in emergency responders receiving important information from other public safety operatives.
FirstNet’s high-speed network will allow public safety responders to send and receive critical voice, text, data and video information during a crisis. It addresses the communications barrier our emergency responders face all too often and gives them a much-needed reliable, interoperable network that is dedicated to their use when they need it. And, public safety officials will be able to avoid bandwidth shortages on consumer wireless networks to more effectively and efficiently coordinate across different agencies and jurisdictions. This network will truly transform public safety communications across the state.
For 35 years, I served as a member of the law enforcement community. From 2006 until 2013, I was the Police Commissioner of the City of Boston, and during that time Boston suffered its most tragic incident in recent memory. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, it was my duty to lead my department’s response to an attack that injured many and took lives. As a first responder, it is times like that when you make decisions knowing lives are at stake. You can only hope that you will have the tools you need at your disposal. This is why I believe that acceptance of the FirstNet state plan is the best decision for Florida and our public safety community. FirstNet will help our first responders be better prepared by giving them access to the necessary tools and the ability to connect with other emergency responders when needed.
If Governor Scott elects to opt-in, I am confident that FirstNet will be welcomed by first responders across Florida. With the FirstNet network, Florida can pave the way for our law enforcement, firefighters, EMS and other emergency responders to have the modern technology they need to effectively do their jobs and better protect our communities.
Ed Davis is the former Police Commissioner of the City of Boston. Ed. Note: Davis is a paid adviser to AT&T.