Deals Deals Deals
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is expected to announce a 25-year, $6.5 billion contract with AT&T to build a nationwide wireless network for first responders, The Wall Street Journal reports. The project, called FirstNet, was first proposed following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but the Trump administration's deal marks the first major step toward it becoming a reality.
First responders use the same wireless networks that regular people do, meaning police channels can get clogged by heavy usage from civilians. This was a problem during 9/11, and many experts believe it was a major reason why so many first responders died. The proposed wireless broadband network would instead allow police, firefighters, and other officials to have their own space for communications during emergencies.
"Public safety has no priority right now," said Nebraska's Buffalo County sheriff, Neil Miller. "We are just another user. We look the same in the network as everybody else."
But others are critical of FirstNet, including the Fraternal Order of Police, which worries that AT&T will neglect rural areas where there is a more limited use of the network. "AT&T is a reputable company. But they're a reputable company doing what reputable companies do: They're trying to make a profit," said Fraternal Order of Police senior adviser Jim Pasco.
"Do you want to be line item 1? Or line item 4,363?" asked Declan Ganley, the chief of Rivada, an upstart that lost the federal contract to build the network to AT&T. "That's where public safety is for the budgets of these carriers."