Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday signed an agreement to include Puerto Rico in the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) to create a wireless broadband network on the island exclusively for emergency services.
As part of the agreement, FirstNet and telecommunications provider AT&T will deliver a wireless broadband network to the island’s public safety community and, with it, enhancements to help Puerto Rico’s first responders save lives and protect communities.
“With this new tool we reinforce the exchange of information between the security agencies and the response during an emergency,” Rosselló said.
“We’re convinced that improving the communication between the components of public safety will be for the betterment of the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.
AT&T, in a public-private partnership with FirstNet, will build, operate and maintain a highly secure wireless broadband communications network for Puerto Rico’s public safety community at no cost to the territory.
The FirstNet network will drive innovation and create an entire system of modernized devices, apps and tools for first responders.
FirstNet will transform the way Puerto Rico’s fire, police, emergency medical services (EMS) and other public safety personnel communicate and share information. Specifically, it will:
- Connect first responder subscribers to the critical information they need in a highly secure manner when handling day-to-day operations, responding to emergencies and supporting large events, like the San Sebastián Street Festival in Old San Juan that attracts more than 250,000 people annually;
- Create an efficient communications experience for public safety personnel across agencies. This will support emergency response during natural disasters, including severe storms and hurricanes that regularly threaten the territory and its smaller islands of Vieques and Culebra that are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events;
- Expand and enhance network coverage for first responders, residents and visitors alike across Puerto Rico, its islands and their coastlines; and,
- Usher in a new wave of dependable innovations for first responders. This will create an ever-evolving set of life-saving tools for public safety, including public safety apps, specialized devices and Internet of Things technologies.
FirstNet and AT&T worked with Puerto Rico to design a network solution with direct input from the territory and its public safety community. This helped to address their unique communications needs, including:
- Providing increased resiliency, so first responders can be confident that the network will be there when they need it;
- Stationing dedicated network assets on the island that can be deployed for expedited response and recovery efforts as needed; and,
- Improving coverage along critical coastal areas.
“Rosselló’s decision to join FirstNet demonstrates Puerto Rico’s strong commitment to public safety across the islands,” said FirstNet CEO Mike Poth.
“FirstNet looks forward to delivering a network that connects Puerto Rico’s emergency responders, bringing them the coverage, capacity and innovation they need to serve their communities especially when preparing for severe weather events,” Poth said.
The decision enables FirstNet and AT&T to begin creating an entirely new wireless ecosystem for public safety communications. Puerto Rico’s first responder subscribers will have immediate access to quality of service and priority to voice and data across the existing nationwide AT&T LTE network.
Preemption for primary users over the AT&T LTE network is expected by year-end. This means fire, police, EMS and other public safety workers will have dedicated access to the network when and where they need it – 24/7/365, like their mission AT&T said.
“The decision by Rosselló to opt-in to FirstNet allows us to begin offering and delivering innovative tools and state-of-the-art technologies to Puerto Rico’s fire, police and EMS services,” said Ray Flores, regional vice president, AT&T Puerto Rico.
“Delivering this one-of-a-kind solution to the people of Puerto Rico is a decision we take seriously. We’re honored to bring the FirstNet network to Puerto Rico, connecting its public safety community to the life-saving technologies they deserve,” he said.
Upon signing the opt-in agreement, Rosselló appointed Abner Gómez-Cortés — executive director of Puerto Rico’s State Agency for Emergency Management — as the island’s State Single Points of Contact, or the person responsible for working with FirstNet through the Commonwealth’s Security Affairs Office.
FirstNet and AT&T will assume full responsibility for the capital costs associated with the installation, operation and maintenance, and any other expenses including personnel, training, integration, environmental compliance and complete management of the overall program.
Through the agreement, Puerto Rico becomes the second U.S. territory in the Caribbean after the U.S. Virgin Islands to participate in the FirstNet proposal, as this media outlet reported.